An Order Resuming Civil Litigation of a Matter Previously Compelled to Arbitration Is Likely an Appealable Order

In Zazueta v. Imperial Heights Healthcare & Wellness Centre, LLC (Oct. 26, 2020) D075879 (D4d1), the trial court compelled the case to aribtration. But defendant "failed to engage and participate" in arbitration. So plaintiff went back to trial court and filed a "motion to restore" the case to the civil active list, which the trial court granted.

The Fourth District reversed, holding an order lifting a litigation stay and resuming a matter previously ordered to arbitration was the "functional equivalent" of an appealable order denying arbitration.

A recurring theme on the California Appellate Law Podcast (www.CALPodcast.com) is how appealable orders often come in unusual guises. This is a good example of that. A tip for the wary.

The Court points to an interesting distinction of a 2016 case, Gastelum v. Remax Internat., Inc. (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 1016, 1022-1023, where the arbitrator -- not the trial judge -- had terminated the arbitration on procedural grounds. There, the order was not the "functional equivalent" of an order denying arbitration.

The safer course is to appeal immediately. If you wait and you are wrong, the issue will be lost forever.

I found this interesting. Part way in to the appeal, the parties stipulated to dismiss the appeal and to ask the trial court to vacate its order and resume the arbitration. But the Court rejected the stipulation. The Court did reverse the order. The Court did send the parties back to arbitration. And the Court did not publish its opinion. This is the same outcome to which the parties had stipulated. I can only speculate that the Court had something different in mind when it rejected that outcome previously.

https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/D075879.PDF