Category Archives: Case Law

Real Property Checklists

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Real Property Checklists

California Real Property Forms, Clauses, and Checklists Database

This is a database related to interests in and transfers of real estate, in the following material: State Treatises, Forms, and Practice Guides. A description of this real estate database is provided below:

Forms, clauses, and checklists from state-specific publications as well as general, non-statespecific publications, including West's® Legal Forms, Nichols Cyclopedia of Legal Forms Annotated, and American Jurisprudence Legal Forms 2d, that relate to real property law.

Further information on United States legal research databases, including real property databases, are provided following the former link. For information on this legal database (covering California) and other (covering other States) related to Real Property Checklists, see the entry about Real Property Checklists in the United States legal encyclopedia.

Real Property Databases

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Real Property Databases

California Real Property Briefs Multibase Database

This is a database related to interests in and transfers of real estate, in the following material: Case Law, Briefs, Trial Filings, and Jury Verdicts. A description of this real estate database is provided below:

Selected briefs relating to real property law. Coverage begins with 1986.

Further information on United States legal research databases, including real property databases, are provided following the former link. For information on this legal database (covering California) and other (covering other States) related to Real Property Databases, see the entry about Real Property Databases in the United States legal encyclopedia.

Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California

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Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California

Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California (1976) Case Summary

by Thomas L. Libby

On July 1, 1976, in a highly unusual action, the California Supreme Court reheard Tarasoff v. The Regents of the University of California (13 Cal. 3d 177 (1974)). In the resulting new ruling, the court expanded its landmark decision from two years prior to hold that psychotherapists are obligated to protect potential victims from threats made by their patients. The case spawned a spate of diverse “Tarasoff laws” in states across the country.

At the center of the controversy was Prosenjit Poddar, a UC Berkeley grad student who began stalking a colleague named Tatiana Tarasoff. Poddar sought mental help through the university, and his therapist reported him to the campus police after he made threats against Tarasoff. Poddar promised to keep his distance and the police released him, but two months later Poddar stabbed Tarasoff to death.

Tarasoff’s parents sued the school psychologist and the campus police for failing to warn them that their daughter was in danger. This led to the 1974 Tarasoff I decision, which held that therapists have a “duty to warn.” When the state Supreme Court reheard the case in 1976, it increased their professional responsibility to a “duty to protect” through its Tarasoff II ruling (17 Cal. 3d 425 (1976)).

Because of the unpredictability of violence, the California Legislature enacted Section 43.92 of the Civil Code, which narrowed therapists’ liability. But six years ago the Court of Appeal once again broadened a clinician’s obligation with its decision in Ewing v. Goldstein (120 Cal. App. 4th 807 (2004)).

As for Poddar, he was convicted and served four years in prison before returning to his native India. He was last reported to be happily married.

Li v. Yellow Cab Co. of California

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Li v. Yellow Cab Co. of California

Li v. Yellow Cab Co. of California Case Brief

by Thomas L. Libby

It was a quiet Thursday night in Los Angeles in November 1968 when Nga Li, driving her Oldsmobile northbound on Alvarado Boulevard, decided to turn left across three lanes of oncoming traffic into a service station.

At the same time, Robert Phillips sped southbound at 30 miles per hour in his taxicab, proceeding through a yellow traffic light on Alvarado and striking the rear of Li’s vehicle.

Both parties were at fault, but Li was injured and she sued.

At the time, California followed a “contributory negligence” standard, which barred any recovery when the plaintiff’s conduct contributed, even minimally, to the harm suffered. It was referred to as an “all-or-nothing” rule.

The California trial court found for Phillips, but nearly seven years later the California Supreme Court reversed the judgment. It adopted a new system of “comparative negligence,” in which a plaintiff can recover damages beyond the amount of her liability (Li v. Yellow Cab Co. of California, 13 Cal. 3d 804 (1975)).

The court argued that the contributory negligence standard failed to distribute responsibility in proportion to fault. Similarly, it declared that the “comparative fault” standard used in Wisconsin – which allowed a plaintiff to recover when deemed less than 50 percent at fault – was just as inequitable. That standard, the court said, “simply shifts the lottery aspect of the contributory negligence rule to a different ground.”

The “pure” form of comparative negligence adopted by the court – already in use in Florida, Mississippi, Washington, and Rhode Island – assigns respon-sibility in accordance with each party’s fault in what it described as “logic, practical experience, and fundamental justice.”

People v. Elmore

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People v. Elmore in California

Introduction to People v. Elmore

In People v. Elmore (59 Cal. 4th 121 (2014)), a defendant convicted of murder claimed the trial court erred by not instructing the jury that even if his belief in the need to defend himself was unreasonable, his offense could be reduced to voluntary manslaughter by applying the doctrine of “imperfect self-defense.” The instruction was refused because the defendant’s belief was “entirely delusional.” Seizing on a slippery distinction between an insane delusion and a “mistake of fact,” Justice Carol A. Corrigan, joined by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Baxter and Chin, concluded that an insanity claim cannot be litigated in the guilt phase of a criminal trial; it requires a separate sanity phase.

In a “concurring and dissenting” opinion joined by Justices Kathryn M. Werdegar and Liu, Kennard relied upon the plain statutory language that evidence of mental disease, mental defect, or mental disorder is admissible “solely on the issue of whether or not the accused actually formed a required specific intent, premeditated, deliberated, or harbored malice aforethought …” (Cal. Penal Code § 28). Kennard correctly concluded that an insane delusion that defeats the showing of malice aforethought for a murder conviction is a guilt-phase issue.

However, Kennard agreed with the majority that the imperfect self-defense argument was properly rejected at trial since the defendant offered no evidence that his delusion posed an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury from the victim.

Although Kennard technically wasn’t dissenting from the judgment, her resolution of the case would have kept the majority from nullifying the unambiguous statutory language.

Loeffler v. Target Corporation

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Loeffler v. Target Corporation (58 Cal. 4th 1081 (2014)) in California


In Loeffler v. Target Corporation (58 Cal. 4th 1081 (2014)), the plaintiff customers contended that the retailer violated the California Unfair Competition Law by collecting sales tax on purchases of hot coffee “to go,” claiming such sales are exempt under the tax code. Noting that a tax code exemption for such sales is far from clear, the majority opinion by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye concluded that in any event, disputes over the taxability of a retail sale must be resolved under the tax code. Justice Liu contended that because the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was not a “tax case,” the tax laws could not foreclose a remedy under consumer protection laws. He defined the harm the plaintiffs sought to remedy as Target’s misrepresentation to consumers that all sales of a particular item are subject to sales tax, noting that in fact, Board of Equalization regulations stipulate that only some sales of hot coffee are likely subject to sales tax.

“Target could have avoided this lawsuit simply by advertising hot coffee to go at a higher (post-tax) price with a sign that says ‘all prices include applicable sales tax,’ ” Liu wrote. “Such an approach would not misinform customers; it would tell them that the price they are paying includes any applicable sales tax, with no representation as to whether sales tax was applicable to a particular transaction.”

Johnson v. American Standard, Inc.

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Johnson v. American Standard, Inc. in California

Summary to Johnson v. American Standard, Inc.

by Thomas L. Libby

On April 3, 2008, the California Supreme Court unanimously adopted the so-called “sophisticated user” defense in product liability cases. (Johnson v. American Standard, Inc., 46 Cal. 4th 46 (2008).) The court held that a manufacturer is not required to warn of dangers that a sophisticated user knew about – or should have known of.
William Johnson, who contracted pulmonary fibrosis, claimed he didn’t know that heating a part of a commercial air conditioning system while repairing it would cause refrigerant chemicals to decompose into dangerous phosgene gas. He said American Standard had failed to warn him of this hazard, but the court ruled that, as a trained and certified ventilation technician, he should have known what he was working with.

The decision formed the basis for a California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI 1244) now used in both strict liability and negligence cases.

Broad application of the defense is still in flux, however: The state Supreme Court plans to review one asbestos case involving a “sophisticated” intermediary between the manufacturer and the end user. (Webb v. Special Electric Co., 214 Cal. App. 4th 595 (2013).) And a petition for review is pending in another (Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc., 220 Cal. App. 4th 1270 (2013)).

Supreme Court Decisions

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Supreme Court Decisions in California

Opinion Count in 2012

By Gerald F. Uelmen, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.

The Court decided 96 cases in 2012, compared with 86 in the previous twelve months. The number of concurring and dissenting opinions increased sharply, largely due to the output of Justices Kennard and Liu. Justice Liu’s low rate of majority opinions is most likely a result of reassignments. When the court grants a hearing, the chief justice assigns the task of preparing a calendar memorandum to one of the justices who supported taking the case; the calendar memorandum evolves into a majority opinion if three other justices sign on. If the calendar memorandum does not draw a majority, the case is reassigned to another justice who will write the majority opinion. The justice’s calendar memorandum then ends up as a separate opinion. Some of Liu’s concurrences and dissents read as though they had been prepared to be majority opinions – for example, People v. Barrett (54 Cal. 4th 1081 (2012)).

Close Calls in 2012: The 4-3 Splits

  • People v. Villatoro, 54 Cal. 4th 1152 (July 30, 2012): Evidence Code section 1108 provides that when a defendant is charged with a sexual offense, evidence of another sexual offense can be considered as character evidence of a propen-sity to commit sexual offenses. When the additional offense is charged in the same case, this reduces the burden of proof for considering those charges as propensity evidence to a mere preponderance. Should section 1108 be limited to sexual offenses not charged in the same case?. NO Chin, joined by Baxter, Cantil-Sakauye, and Kennard. YES Corrigan, joined by Werdegar; separate dissent by Liu.
  • In re Greg F., 55 Cal. 4th 393 (Aug. 27, 2012): Welfare and Institutions Code section 733(c) provides that a juvenile cannot be committed to a juvenile correctional facility unless his most recent offense was violent. When a ward on probation for such an offense violates probation by committing one that is not so defined, the ward’s probation may be revoked and he or she can be committed. If the prosecution instead files the violation as a new charge, however, section 733(c) applies, and the juvenile cannot be committed. Does the juvenile court have discretion to dismiss the new charge and treat the offense as a probation violation, to allow commitment of the juvenile?. YES Corrigan, joined by Baxter, Chin, and Werdegar. NO Cantil-Sakauye, joined by Kennard and Liu.
  • People v. Schmitz, 55 Cal. 4th 909 (Dec. 3, 2012): May a warrantless search of a parolee seated as a front-seat passenger extend to the entire contents of the automobile in which he was a passenger?. YES Corrigan, joined by Baxter, Cantil-Sakauye, and Chin. NO Werdegar (the issue was not preserved for appeal and should not be decided on this record), joined by Kennard; separate dissent by Liu.
  • In re Richards, 55 Cal. 4th 948 (Dec. 3, 2012): A habeas corpus challenge to a conviction based on new evidence may be granted only if the new evidence “points unerringly to innocence or reduced culpability.” However, a claim that the prosecution used false evidence permits relief if it was “substantially material or probative on the issue of guilt or punishment.” (Cal. Penal Code § 1473(b)(1).) Where an expert witness later recants his testimony as inaccurate, based on newly available technology, does it render his trial testimony false, thereby permitting application of the broader standard of section 1473?
    NO Kennard, joined by Baxter, Cantil-Sakauye, and Corrigan. YES Liu, joined by Chin and Werdegar.
  • People v. Rodriguez, 55 Cal. 4th 1125 (Dec. 27, 2012): California Penal Code section 186.22(a) permits punishment for a separate offense of “gang participation” by one “who actively participates in any criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a criminal gang activity, and who willfully promotes, furthers or assists in any criminal conduct by members of the gang.” Does the commission of an attempted robbery by a gang member while acting alone constitute the crime of gang participation?. NO Corrigan, joined by Baxter, Liu, and Werdegar. YES Kennard, joined by Cantil-Sakauye and Chin.
  • People vs Goldsmith were the Chief Justice held that the right to confrontation can be denied because a defendant cannot cross-examine a machine. However, in State vs Bullcoming the New Mexico Supreme Court used the exact words in affirming his conviction Mr. Bullcoming and the U S Supreme Court reversed. Does the California Supreme Court think it can overrule the U S Supreme Court.
  • Apple, Inc. v. Superior Court (Krescent), 56 Cal. 4th 128  (Feb. 4, 2013): California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971 prohibits retailers from requiring personal identification information to be recorded as a condition of accepting a credit card as payment. Does this provision apply to online purchases of electronically downloadable products?. NO Liu, joined by Cantil-Sakauye, Corrigan, and Werdegar. YES Kennard, joined by Baxter and court of appeal Justice Barbara J. R. Jones (in place of Chin).
  • City of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Engineers & Architects Ass’n), 2013 WL 3064811 (June 20, 2013): May a charter city arbitrate disputes over collectively bargained wage-and-hour provisions without unlawfully delegating to the arbitrator its discretionary budgeting authority?. YES Kennard, joined by Cantil-Sakauye, Liu, and Werdegar. NO Corrigan, joined by Baxter and Chin.

Productivity of the Supreme Court in 2011-2012

By Gerald F. Uelmen, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.Luci Buda, JD (Class of 2012), compiled the data for this article.

The court’s 86 published majority opinions represent a slight drop from the 100-opinions-per-year average achieved by the George Court. The decline may be attributed to the long delay in filling the seat after Justice Moreno’s retirement, requiring the temporary assignment of a different court of appeal justice for each case up until Justice Liu’s confirmation on August 31, 2011 (he was sworn in the following day). The authorship of majority opinions was evenly divided among the justices, with two exceptions: Despite his late start, Justice Liu produced 10 majority opinions and 7 concurring opinions, as well as his single dissenting opinion. Justice Kennard produced only 8 majority opinions, but she led the court in dissents, with 4. (Kennard also continued her practice of labeling some of her concurring opinions as dissents, although she joined fully in the court’s judgment.)

The longest opinion of the year was a 213-page death penalty affirmance written by the chief justice. (People v. Clark, 52 Cal. 4th 856 (2011).) Justice Chin should win the Professor Stephen Barnett Memorial Prize for brevity and precision: His 15 majority opinions were models of concise legal reasoning, with no superfluous asides.
Speaking of superfluous asides, check out Justice Baxter’s concurring opinion in People v. Lowery (52 Cal. 4th 419 (2011)). In that case, Justice Kennard authored a unanimous opinion holding that the statutory prohibition on willfully threatening violence against a crime victim or witness requires no proof that the threat was made with the intent to intimidate, nor is such intent required by the First Amendment. In a footnote, she dismissed a recent Ninth Circuit decision (United States v. Bagdasarian, 652 F.3d 1113 (9th Cir. 2011)), stating simply that “we are not persuaded.” (52 Cal. 4th at 427 & n. 1.) Baxter’s unusual concurrence offered an extensive critique of the Bagdasarian case, concluding it is “both mistaken … and dangerous.” His analysis drew four other votes (from the chief justice and Justices Werdegar, Chin, and Corrigan). What we’re left with, then, are two majority opinions, the only difference being their eagerness to slap down the Ninth Circuit.

Are the changes in the composition of the court the only explanation for the new-found accord? In part, the unanimity may reflect the high proportion of death penalty cases on the docket (see “Dealing with Death”, right). It may also reflect the deferral of difficult decisions to a later day. In any case, a timeless reality rings true: With each new appointment, the dynamic of the entire court changes.

In the numbers is a story, and it is a simple tale of togetherness.

Other Decisions

In People vs Goldsmith, the Chief Justice held that the right to confrontation can be denied because a defendant cannot cross-examine a machine. However, in State vs Bullcoming the New Mexico Supreme Court used the exact words in affirming his conviction Mr. Bullcoming and the U S Supreme Court reversed. Does the California Supreme Court think it can overrule the U S Supreme Court.

Maryland v. King

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Maryland v. King in California

by Martin Lasden

It’s not everyday that Justice Antonin Scalia sides with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. But as Maryland v. King illustrated just in June 2013, when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the traditional alliances that define liberals and conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court do not apply.

In King the question was whether police could legally take a DNA sample from a criminal suspect without a warrant. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy concluded that they could. “Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is,” he observed, “like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable [to identify a suspect] under the Fourth Amendment.”

But in his dissent, Scalia suggested that the real motive here was to develop a DNA database to help solve old crimes. “Solving crimes is a noble objective,” Scalia wrote, “but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law enforcement searches. The Fourth Amendment must prevail.”

For Scalia, King is just the latest milestone in a journey that began almost a quarter century ago, when he was part of a high-court majority ruling that police can spy on private property from an aircraft without a warrant (Florida v. Riley). But in 2001, in a 5-4 decision, Scalia wrote for the majority that police could not employ thermal-imaging technology to examine the exterior of a suspect’s home without a warrant (Kyllo v. United States). Then, less than three months before King, Scalia in another 5-4 decision concluded that the warrantless use of a drug-sniffing dog around the exterior of a suspect’s home had violated the suspect’s property rights (Florida v. Jardines).

“I just hate Fourth Amendment cases,” Scalia confided in an interview broadcast in 2009 on C-SPAN, noting that the particulars in these situations often conspire against broadly defined rules. Such cases can also be very tough on the sort of originalism that Scalia loves to champion, especially when they revolve around technology that our Framers couldn’t possibly have imagined.

McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech., Inc.

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McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech., Inc. in California

When an employer investigates misconduct in the workplace, employees have a duty to cooperate with the inquiry.

Employer investigation of discrimination: McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech., Inc.

By Sophia S. Lau. She is a partner at Early, Sullivan, Wright, Gizer & McRae in Los Angeles, where she handles commercial litigation.

Is an employee obligated to assist his or her employer in the investigation of another employee’s discrimination claim? According to a recent California appellate decision, the answer appears to be yes.

The case involved John McGrory, who had sued his former employer, Applied Signal Technology, for wrongful termination. (McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech., Inc., 212 Cal. App. 4th 1510 (2013).) Although the Silicon Valley company had determined (after an internal investigation) that McGrory had not discriminated against a lesbian subordinate, he was terminated for violating the company’s sexual harassment policy and, more to the point, being uncooperative and deceptive during the investigation of the underlying matter.

McGrory was an at-will employee. He supervised a dozen subordinates, including Dana Thomas, an openly gay woman. After McGrory criticized Thomas’s work performance, she complained to human resources that he did so only because of “sexual orientation and/or gender discrimination and harassment.” Thomas also claimed that she had witnessed McGrory “telling off-color jokes” that demonstrated a “lack of good judgment and sensitivity to those of other cultures.”

Applied hired a third-party attorney to investigate Thomas’s allegations of discrimination and harassment. The attorney-investigator’s report exonerated McGrory of discrimination charges and found that Thomas indeed had work-performance issues. However, the investigator also concluded that McGrory had been uncooperative and untruthful during the investigation and had violated company policies by making jokes based on race and sex in the workplace. Based on those findings, the investigating attorney concluded that McGrory’s termination was justified, as his conduct was unacceptable for a manager of his level and experience and he seemed unwilling to acknowledge or reform his behavior.

Immediately after he was fired, McGrory sued for wrongful termination and defamation, apparently because Applied had told one of his former coworkers that he was let go for being uncooperative in the investigation (a charge McGrory denied). McGrory alleged, among other things, that his termination violated public policy because he was fired as a result of participating in an employer’s internal investigation. (Thomas, the subordinate who filed the underlying complaint, eventually resigned and settled with Applied for approximately $90,000.)

The trial court, in ruling for Applied, found that being uncooperative or deceptive in an employer’s internal investigation is not a protected activity under state or federal law.

On appeal, since California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 12900-12996) did not address the issue of whether participating in an employer’s internal investigation was protected activity, the court looked to similar federal case law under Title VII (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-5). Following the reasoning in the federal decisions, the court concluded that California’s public policy protects neither deceptive activity nor the withholding of information during an internal investigation; it held that such conduct is a legitimate reason to terminate an at-will employee.

FEHA and Title VII prohibitions against retaliation do not prohibit an employer from imposing discipline based on an employee’s misbehavior during an internal investigation. By extension, refusing to cooperate with an employer’s investigation is not a protected activity. Thus, in affirming the employer’s termination decision, the court held that a company investigation does not meet the definition of a “proceeding” under FEHA and “public policy does not protect deceptive activity during an internal investigation.”

Consequently, McGrory was unable to demonstrate that Applied terminated him for an illegitimate reason. There was no evidence supporting a rational inference that intentional discrimination – or any other improper motive – was the root cause of his termination.

Finally, the court rejected McGrory’s defamation claim because Applied’s statements regarding the reasons for his termination were conditionally privileged; California’s statutory common interest privilege applies to statements by management to employees explaining why an employer disciplined an employee. (Cal. Civ. Code, § 47(c).) McGrory failed to show any actual malice on the employer’s part that would defeat the qualified common interest privilege.

The message from the McGrory decision: When an employer investigates a claim of discrimination, all employees should cooperate and be truthful.