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Case Summaries

Attorney's Fees

[06/21] Monster, LLC v. Beats Electronics, LLC
In a petition for writ of mandate in an underlying tort action in which Monster alleged that Beats Electronics engaged in fraud to deprive them of interest in the company, and the headphone manufacturer filed cross-claims for breach of contract and argued that the court, rather than a jury, could determine the amount of damages, the petition is granted where defendant is entitled to a jury trial on the issue of attorney's fees.

[06/13] Webb v. Webb
In a dissolution of marriage appeal, the trial court's judgment granting attorney fees is reversed where Family Code section 271 does not authorize the court to award sanctions to non-parties, but rather is intended to promote settlement of family law litigation through shifting fees between the parties to the litigation.

[06/08] Snyder v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In a petition for review of a precedential opinion of the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) General Counsel, which concerned attorney's fees, the petition is denied over petitioner's argument that 38 C.F.R. section 20.1302 requires dismissal of a veteran?s pending appeal upon his death, a pending dispute over attorney fees under section 5904 terminates upon the veteran?s death.

[06/05] Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations, Inc. v. Guardian Protection Servs., Inc.
In an attorney's fees portion of an underlying patent infringement suit, the district court's denial of fees, on grounds that plaintiff had not engaged in conduct sufficient to make the litigation 'exceptional,' such that defendant did not merit attorney fees pursuant to 35 U.S.C. section 285, is reversed where the district court erred as a matter of law when, as part of its analysis, it stated that an attorney fee award under section 285 would contravene the aims of Rule 11's safe-harbor provision.

[06/05] Checkpoint Sys., Inc. v. All-Tag Security S.A.
In an attorney fee appeal arising from a patent infringement suit, the district court's decision deeming the case 'exceptional' and award of attorney fees to defendant is reversed where the court erred in its application of fee-shifting principles.

[05/31] Heimlich v. Shivji
In an appeal involving the recoverability of costs available under Code of Civil Procedure section 998 following an American Arbitration Association (AAA) award that denied requests by both sides for damages, costs, and attorney fees, in an underlying action filed by an attorney seeking unpaid fees from his client, the trial court's order confirming the arbitration award is reversed where Client timely presented his section 998 claim for costs to the arbitrator, the arbitrator should have reached the merits of that claim, and the arbitrator's refusal to hear evidence of the section 998 offer warranted partially vacating the arbitration award.

[05/17] Kinney v. Clark
In a vexatious litigant-plaintiff's appeal from a post-judgment award for attorney fees and costs defendant incurred in a prior appeal while attempting to enforce an earlier award for attorney fees and costs against plaintiff, in underlying residential real estate litigation, the defendant's motion to dismiss is granted where the appeal is frivolous. Monetary sanctions are imposed on plaintiff for filing of frivolous appeal.

[05/16] Denault v. Ahern
In an action alleging a common law conversion claim against a police officer, arising out of the seizure and search of plaintiffs' car which produced no evidence but accumulated towing and storage fees owed to the city's towing vendor that exceeded the value of the seized property, the district court's judgment is affirmed over plaintiffs' attempts to revive a civil rights claim that might serve as a basis for an award of attorneys' fees.

[05/11] NOVA Chemicals Corp. v. Dow Chemical Co.
In an appeal of attorney's fees awarded under 35 U.S.C. section 235 in an underlying action in equity, seeking relief from a prior judgment that plaintiff had infringed certain patents owned by defendant, the attorney's fee award is affirmed where the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding this case exceptional for purposes of section 285.

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Evidence

[06/22] Turner v. US
In a case involving multiple defendants charged with kidnapping, robbery, and murder, it was alleged that the Government had withheld evidence from defense at the time of trial, but the court upheld the finding that the evidence withheld was not material.

[06/21] US v. Hall
In a case where the defendant was convicted of drug crimes following the search of a home where they resided with three other people, and their constructive possession of the guns and marijuana at issue was established through the admission of their criminal record, the court found that the failure to establish the admissibility of the prior convictions by proffering any connection between the prior convictions and the charges at issue was an abuse of discretion. The decision was reversed, and the case was vacated and remanded.

[06/21] Tucker Ellis v. Evan Nelson
In a writ proceeding to determine whether attorney work conduct privilege attaches to documents created by an attorney employee during their employment with an employer law firm, the lower court's judgment is vacated where the privilege attaches to the firm, rather than the employee.

[06/12] US v. Gorman
In a civil forfeiture action, the district court's order granting claimant's motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a traffic stop and order granting attorney's fees are affirmed where: 1) the first stop of claimant's vehicle was unreasonably prolonged in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and 2) none of the exceptions to the 'fruit of the poisonous tree' doctrine applied.

[06/09] People v. Smith
On remand from the California Supreme Court and in light of its recent decision in People v. Grimes (2016) 1 Cal.5th 698, defendants' convictions of murder are: 1) affirmed as to defendant-Mitchell's conviction; and 2) reversed as to defendant-Smith's conviction where there is no error in the admission of evidence of statements Smith made which inculpate Mitchell.

[06/08] US v. Dion
Conviction by conditional guilty plea to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, 21 U.S.C. section 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(vii) and 846, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, 21 U.S.C. section 841(a)(1), and aiding and abetting, 18 U.S.C. section 2, is affirmed where the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence taken from a warrantless search of his truck.

[06/07] People v. Nguyen
In a possession of child pornography case concerning the scope of a warrant to search a property based on probable cause that a computer on the property was used in a crime, the trial court's grant of defendant's motion to quash is affirmed where: 1) police lacked probable cause to search defendant's residence because they had no basis to believe the suspect network was accessed from defendant?s residence; and 2) the warrant did not expressly authorize the search, and the police lacked good faith reliance on the warrant.

[06/06] US v. Cummings
Convictions of conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. sections 841(b)(1)(A) and 846, using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime,18 U.S.C. section 924(c), killing a person during and in relation to a conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. section 848(e)(1)(A), brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. section 924(c), and causing the death of a person through the use of a firearm during and in relation to the crack cocaine conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. section 924(j), are vacated and remanded for a new trial where: 1) the district court erred by admitting hearsay evidence of a death threat he allegedly made against a government witness; and 2) the error was not harmless.

[06/06] People v. Fortin
Convictions of child molestation, Pen. Code sections 288 and 288.7, and false imprisonment by violence, sections 236 and 237, are affirmed over defendant's evidentiary challenges, where the trial court did not err in: 1) excluding defendant's results of the 'Abel Assessment for Sexual Interest' (Abel test) for want of acceptance by the relevant scientific community; and 2) permitting the introduction evidence of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) to explain why child victims of sexual abuse may delay in making a report.

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Injury & Tort Law

[06/22] Arnone v. Aetna Life Ins. Co.
In a case involving the denial of long-term disability benefits, the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant is reversed where on appeal the court applied a NY law that raises the conclusive presumption that settlements do not include costs paid by an insurer and that neither ERISA nor a choice of law provision on the insurance plan blocked the application of the law.

[06/21] Monster, LLC v. Beats Electronics, LLC
In a petition for writ of mandate in an underlying tort action in which Monster alleged that Beats Electronics engaged in fraud to deprive them of interest in the company, and the headphone manufacturer filed cross-claims for breach of contract and argued that the court, rather than a jury, could determine the amount of damages, the petition is granted where defendant is entitled to a jury trial on the issue of attorney's fees.

[06/20] Zhu v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd.
In a case involving an in-home caretaker injured while traveling between worksites, the court annulled an earlier appeal dismissing the action and remanded for a new decision, where the facts of the case qualified for the required vehicle exception to the going and coming rule.

[06/19] Zubillaga v. Allstate Indemnity Co.
In a first party insurance bad faith action arising out of an automobile accident brought against an insurer alleging breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the trial court's grant of summary judgment is reversed where plaintiff demonstrated triable issues of material fact regarding whether defendant's decision she did not need expensive epidural steroid injections, was made without a good faith investigation and without a reasonable basis for a genuine dispute.

[06/16] Hilliard v. Harbour
In an elder's suit alleging defendants took or assisted in taking his property for wrongful use, with intent to defraud, or by undue influence, in violation of Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.30(a)(1)(2), a provision of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, the trial court's judgment sustaining defendant's demurrer without leave to amend is affirmed where plaintiff lacked standing to bring this individual action.

[06/13] BPP Illinois v. Royal Bank of Scotland Grp. PLC
In a suit brought by a group of hotel-related businesses, along with their investor and guarantors, alleging fraud claims against a bank and its subsidiaries, the district court's dismissal of the fraud claims is affirmed where the because plaintiffs failed to list their cause of action in a schedule of assets in their now-concluded bankruptcy proceeding, they are barred on judicial estoppel and timeliness grounds.

[06/13] Norman v. Elkin
In a communications company's partnership dispute, arising out of the transfer of partnership assets without compensation, the district court's judgment is: 1) affirmed on alternative grounds the decision to enter summary judgment in defendant's favor on the claim of fraud; and 2) vacated as to judgment in defendant's favor on plaintiff's remaining claims where the District Court erred in concluding that tolling of the statute of limitations is categorically inappropriate when a plaintiff has inquiry notice before initiating a books and records action in the Delaware courts.

[06/12] Microsoft Corp. v. Baker
In a putative class action alleging a design defect in defendant's Xbox 360 video game console, in which the District Court struck plaintiffs' class allegations from the complaint and denied permission to appeal that order under Rule 23(f), the Ninth Circuit's judgment, holding that it had jurisdiction and that the District Court's rationale for striking plaintiffs' class allegations was an impermissible one, is reversed where Federal courts of appeals lack jurisdiction under section 1291 to review an order denying class certification (or, as here, an order striking class allegations) after the named plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed their claims with prejudice.

[06/12] In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) Products Liability Litigation
In consolidated multi-district litigation arising from contamination of groundwater in Orange County, California from various oil companies' use of the gasoline additive MTBE, the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on res judicata grounds as a consequence of earlier consent judgments entered in California state court resolving similar suits against defendants brought by the Orange County District Attorney, is vacated and remanded where the record does not sufficiently establish that the Orange County District Attorney and the Orange County Water District-plaintiff were in privity.

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Insurance Law

[06/22] Arnone v. Aetna Life Ins. Co.
In a case involving the denial of long-term disability benefits, the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant is reversed where on appeal the court applied a NY law that raises the conclusive presumption that settlements do not include costs paid by an insurer and that neither ERISA nor a choice of law provision on the insurance plan blocked the application of the law.

[06/19] Zubillaga v. Allstate Indemnity Co.
In a first party insurance bad faith action arising out of an automobile accident brought against an insurer alleging breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the trial court's grant of summary judgment is reversed where plaintiff demonstrated triable issues of material fact regarding whether defendant's decision she did not need expensive epidural steroid injections, was made without a good faith investigation and without a reasonable basis for a genuine dispute.

[05/31] Pacific Bay Recovery v. Cal. Physicians' Services
In an action by an out-of-network provider of medical services against Blue Cross-defendant to recover the additional unpaid amount it claimed to be owed for services rendered to a patient insured by defendant, the trial court's judgment sustaining defendant's demurrer is affirmed where, on the record, Blue Shield is not obligated to pay plaintiff, an out-of-network nonemergency provider, a usual, customary, and reasonable rate for services plaintiff provided to a Blue Shield subscriber.

[05/26] CA FAIR Plan Assn. v. Garnes
In an insurance dispute between the owner of a fire-damaged home and the insurer regarding the amount of coverage to which plaintiff is entitled under the policy, the trial court's judgment is reversed where Insurance Code section 2051, coupled with sections 2070 and 2071, sets a minimum standard of coverage that requires defendant to indemnify plaintiff for the actual cost of the repair to her home, minus depreciation, even if this amount exceeds the fair market value of her home.

[05/22] Southern Ins. Co. v. WCAB
In an action involving a workers' compensation insurance policy that was issued based on the express representation that the covered employer's employees did not travel out of state, and after an employee was injured out of state, the insurer notified the employer that it was rescinding the policy because of the employer's misrepresentation and returned the premium, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board's decision affirming an arbitrator's decision that, as a matter of law, the insurer could not rescind the policy and that the policy was in effect, is annulled where: 1) contrary to the arbitrator's ruling, a workers' compensation insurance policy may be rescinded; and 2) the arbitrator and the appeals board did not address and determine whether rescission was a meritorious defense to the employee's claim.

[05/03] Friedman v. AARP, Inc.
In an action brought by a plaintiff Medicare beneficiary who purchased private supplemental health insurance through a group Medigap policy, alleging that AARP Insurance Plan transacted insurance without a license in violation of the California Insurance Code, the district court's Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal of the complaint is reversed where plaintiff stated a plausible claim at the motion to dismiss stage that AARP 'solicits' insurance without a license, and, as a consequence, committed an 'unlawful' act in violation of the California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL),Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200.

[05/02] People v. International Fidelity Ins. Co.
In a bail bond forfeiture case, the trial court's denial of surety-defendant's motion to vacate the forfeiture under Penal Code section 1305 and grant of summary judgment against defendant are affirmed over defendant's contention that, without its knowledge or consent, the trial court added conditions to defendant's bail that materially increased its risk under the bond.

[05/02] In re: The Trustees of Conneaut Lake PArk, Inc.
In a bankruptcy case involving 40 Pa. Stat. section 638, which prohibits insurance companies from paying fire insurance proceeds to a 'named insured' unless the local municipality certifies that no delinquent taxes are owed on the property where the insured structure was located, the District Court's judgment reversing the Bankruptcy Court grant of summary judgment to the Taxing Authorities and holding that 'named insured' as used in Section 638 includes only those who own the structure at issue and are responsible for the delinquent taxes, is reversed where this interpretation contravenes the text of the statute.

[05/01] Gerasimos Petratos v. Genentech Inc.
In a qui tam action under the False Claims Act involving a multi-billion dollar cancer drug, Avastin, which was developed by defendant, flied by the former head of healthcare data analytics for defendant, alleging that defendant suppressed data that caused doctors to certify incorrectly that Avastin was 'reasonable and necessary' for certain at-risk Medicare patients, the district court's dismissal of the suit for failure to state a claim is affirmed on alternate grounds where plaintiff failed to satisfy the False Claims Act's materiality requirement.

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