Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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In the context of a demurrer by defendant Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London Subscribing To Policy Number 11EPL-20208, the trial court interpreted the term “wage and hour or overtime law(s)” to encompass all provisions of the Labor Code. Plaintiff owned and operated over 250 Pizza Hut and Wing Street restaurants. Defendant provided to plaintiff Southern California Pizza Company, LLC, an employment practices liability insurance policy, which covered certain losses arising from specified employment-related claims brought against plaintiff. The trial court sustained defendant’s demurrer, concluding all causes of action in the underlying employment lawsuit against plaintiff fell within the scope of the Policy exclusion. Using well-established insurance policy interpretation principles, the Court of Appeal found the wage and hour law language of the exclusion was more narrow in scope than stated by the trial court: it concerned laws regarding duration worked and/or remuneration received in exchange for work. Applying that interpretation, and taking into account the Policy’s general coverage, the Court concluded many of the disputed underlying lawsuit claims were potentially subject to coverage. Thus, the trial court erred in sustaining defendant’s demurrer. View "Southern Cal. Pizza Co., LLC v. Certain Underwriters, etc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal and cross appeal of a the trial court's ruling on a petition for writ of administrative mandate James and Karla Lindstrom (the Lindstroms) filed against the California Coastal Commission (the Commission) was a challenge to certain special conditions the Commission placed on its approval of the Lindstroms' plan to build a house on a vacant oceanfront lot on a bluff in Encinitas. The Commission appealed the trial court's disapproval of the special conditions requiring: (1) the home to be set back 60 to 62 feet from the edge of the bluff, instead of the 40-foot setback approved by the City of Encinitas (the City); and (2) a waiver by the Lindstroms of any right to construct a shoreline protective device, such as a seawall, to protect the home from damage or destruction from natural hazards at any time in the future. The Lindstroms cross-appealed the trial court's approval of the special conditions requiring: (1) removal of the home from the parcel if any government agency ordered it not be occupied due to a natural hazard; and (2) performance of remediation or removal of any threatened portion of the home if a geotechnical report prepared in the event the edge of the bluff recedes to within 10 feet of the home concludes that the home is unsafe for occupancy. The Court of Appeal concluded that with one exception, the Commission's imposition of the special conditions identified by the parties was within its discretion. Specifically, the condition requiring removal of the home from the parcel if any government agency orders that it not be occupied due to a natural hazard, including erosion or a landslide, as currently drafted, was overbroad, unreasonable and did not achieve the Commission's stated purpose in drafting it. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment and directed the trial court to enter a new judgment ordering the Commission to either delete the special condition or to revise it to more narrowly focus on its intended purpose. View "Lindstrom v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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B.A. (Mother) and D.V. (Father) were the parents of six-year-old I.A.-V. (I.) and eight-year-old Is.A.-V. (Is.). Mother and Father had a history with child protective services due to ongoing domestic violence and neglect issues, resulting in the removal of their children from their care. I. and Is. were first removed from Mother in 2015. At the close of the first dependency, Mother’s reunification services were terminated, and Father received legal and physical custody. In 2017, I. and Is. were removed from Father’s custody and placed with Mother as a previously noncustodial parent. The second dependency resulted in Mother receiving legal and physical custody of the children and termination of Father’s reunification services. The third and current dependency commenced in 2018 after I., Is., and A.A. were removed from Mother’s care for the same reasons as previously. At the dispositional hearing, the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) recommended to bypass reunification services pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(10) as to all three children. The juvenile court agreed to bypass Mother’s services as to A.A. However, the court interpreted I. and Is. to be “the same child” under the statute and granted Mother reunification services as to I. and Is. Counsel for I. and Is. subsequently appealed, arguing the juvenile court erred in ordering reunification services for the parents in I. and Is.’s case after it found the bypass provision under section 361.5(b)(10) did not apply. The Court of Appeal agreed: the juvenile court’s finding that section 361.5(b)(10) did not apply to this case was reversed and the matter remanded to the juvenile court to enter an order denying reunification services to the parents in I. and Is.’s case, and to set a permanency planning hearing pursuant to section 366.26. View "In re I.A." on Justia Law

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Ten small telephone companies sought review of a California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) resolution and decision declining to issue certain funding to Siskiyou Telephone Company (Siskiyou) and Volcano Telephone Company (Volcano). The telephone companies claimed the resolution and decision departed from well-established requirements governing the issuance of funding from the California High Cost Fund A (CHCF-A). Although the Court of Appeal rejected the telephone companies’ assertion that certain adjustments were mandatory, it agreed with them that the Commission’s resolution and decision did not conform to applicable rules. Accordingly, the Court annulled portions of the resolution and decision denying Siskiyou and Volcano’s adjustment requests for 2016 nonrecurring revenue impacts, and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Calaveras Telephone Company v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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The Department of Water Resources (DWR) applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) to extend its federal license to operate Oroville Dam and its facilities as a hydroelectric dam, the “Oroville Facilities Project.” A Settlement Agreement (SA)) by which the affected parties agreed to conditions for extending the license. “ DWR filed a programmatic (informational) Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as the lead agency in support of the application pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Plaintiffs challenged the sufficiency of the EIR, and the failure to consider the import of climate change, in the state courts and sought to enjoin the issuance of an extended license until their environmental claims were reviewed. The trial court denied the petition on grounds the environmental claims were speculative. In an earlier opinion the Court of Appeal held that the authority to review the EIR was preempted by the Federal Power Act (FPA), that the superior court lacked subject matter jurisdiction of the matter, and ordered that the case be dismissed. Plaintiffs petitioned for review in the Supreme Court, review was granted, and the matter was transferred back to the Court of Appeal with directions to reconsider the case in light of Friends of the Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority, 3 Cal.5th 677 (2017). The Court determined the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), at issue in Eel River, was materially distinguishable from the FPA. Therefore, the Court concluded Eel River did not apply in this case. The plaintiffs could not challenge the environmental sufficiency of the program because review of that program lied with FERC and they did not seek review as required by 18 Code of Federal Regulations part 4.34(i)(6)(vii) (2003). The plaintiffs could not challenge the environmental predicate to the Certificate contained in the CEQA document because that was subject to review by FERC. The plaintiffs could not challenge the Certificate because it did not exist when this action was filed, and they could not challenge the physical changes made by the SWRCB in the Certificate until they were implemented. For these reasons the parties did not tender a federal issue over which the Court of Appeal had state CEQA jurisdiction. Accordingly, it dismissed the appeal with directions to the trial court to vacate its judgment and dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "County of Butte v. Dept. of Water Resources" on Justia Law

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Shirli Weiss, as trustee for her trust, applied under a local scenic view ordinance to compel a neighboring property owner to trim and maintain its landscaping. After the city denied her application, Weiss petitioned for an administrative writ of mandate in the superior court. The court dismissed the action because Weiss served the summons on the city more than 90 days after it denied her application. On appeal, Weiss challenged the applicability of Gov. Code section 65009. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Weiss v. City of Del Mar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-relator Matthew Omlansky, by virtue of knowledge gleaned as a state employee involved with the Medi-Cal program, brought this qui tam action in the name of the State of California alleging that defendant Save Mart Supermarkets (Save Mart) had violated the False Claims Act in its billings to Medi-Cal for prescription and nonprescription medications, charging a higher price than cash customers paid in violation of 2009 statutory provisions capping Medi-Cal charges at a provider’s usual and customary price (“statutory cap”). Per the trial court, the gist of the alleged fraud upon Medi-Cal, Save Mart generally offered a lower price for medications to cash customers, and would also match a lower price that a competitor was offering (although it appears from an exhibit to the complaint that the latter applied only to prescriptions), but did not apply these discounts from its list prices in the billings it submitted to Medi-Cal. The State declined to intervene. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the original complaint because all of the alleged violations occurred during a period when the 2009 statutory cap was subject to a federal injunction. Plaintiff then filed an essentially identical amended complaint. The only significant change was an allegation in paragraph 45 that Save Mart’s billing practices favoring cash customers continued from December 2016 to March 2017 after the expiration of the injunction, specifying six examples of “illegal pricing.” The court sustained Save Mart’s demurrer to this pleading as to two of the six grounds raised, and denied leave to amend. It entered a judgment of dismissal. Plaintiff timely appealed, but the Court of Appeal concurred with the grounds for the trial court’s ruling, thereby affirming dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. View "Omlansky v. Save Mart Supermarkets" on Justia Law

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Churchman alleged she bought a train ticket at a station operated by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, passed through turnstiles, and went to the boarding platform. She claims she was confused by the “opening and closing of doors on opposite side [sic] of the cars,” partially inaudible and confusing instructions broadcast over the public address system, and “abrupt turns and moves” by other passengers. Churchman lost her balance and fall. Churchman sued the District for violating its duty of care as a common carrier (Civ. Code, 2100). The District successfully argued it has no common law negligence liability and its liability as a common carrier applies only to passengers in transit, i.e., aboard the BART train. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal. Civil Code section 2100, which imposes on common carriers a duty to “use the utmost care and diligence for [passengers’] safe carriage,” does not apply to minor, commonplace hazards in a train station. Because the District is a public agency, it is not liable for personal injuries in the absence of a statute providing for liability (Gov. Code, 815), so there is no statutory basis for liability. View "Churchman v. Bay Area Rapid Transit District" on Justia Law

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Rodriguez, a Gulf War veteran, served as a Santa Cruz police officer. 1995-2007. He applied for industrial disability retirement in 2011 with the California Public Employee’s Retirement System based on his PTSD diagnosis that was caused in part by his work for the city. After litigation, the city granted Rodriguez disability retirement but denied his claim of industrial causation. He began receiving benefits in December 2016. Rodriguez requested a finding that his disability was industrial from the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in April 2017. The Board concluded that Rodriguez’s disability was industrial, but that he was barred from receiving industrial disability retirement benefits because his claim for a finding of industrial causation was untimely under the five-year time limitation in Government Code section 21171. The court of appeal reversed. Section 21171 applies only to rescind, alter or amend an earlier industrial determination. Section 21174 applies to initial determinations and states that a retiree claiming an industrial disability that is disputed will not receive the additional benefits “unless the application for that determination is filed with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board... within two years after the effective date of the member’s retirement.” If a claimant applies for a determination of industrial causation within two years of retirement but more than five years after the injury, the Board cannot modify its determination that an injury is industrial or not; nothing precludes the Board from making the initial determination of industrial causation. View "Rodriguez v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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In 2016 the California Legislature passed, and the Governor signed Senate Bill No. 1107, amending Government Code section 85300, a part of the Political Reform Act of 1974. Section 85300 was added by Proposition 73, an initiative measure in 1988 prohibiting public funding of political campaigns. Senate Bill No. 1107 reversed this ban and permitted public funding of political campaigns under certain circumstances. Plaintiffs Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association and Quentin Kopp challenged Senate Bill No. 1107 as an improper legislative amendment of a voter initiative. Defendants Governor Gavin Newsom and the Fair Political Practices Commission (the Commission) appealed a judgment that invalidated Senate Bill No. 1107 and enjoined its implementation, contending the trial court misconstrued the purposes of Act and erred in finding the ban on public financing of political campaigns was a primary purpose of the Act. The Court of Appeal found that Senate Bill No. 1107 directly conflicted with a primary purpose and mandate of the Act, as amended by subsequent voter initiatives, to prohibit public funding of political campaigns. Accordingly, the legislation did not further the purposes of the Act, a requirement for legislative amendment of the Act. View "Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. Newsom" on Justia Law