Legal News and Appellate Tips

Each week, TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal reviews several recent decisions out of the appellate courts in California, and elsewhere, and reports about the ones that might help you get an edge in your cases and appeals.

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Tag: Judgment Enforcement

Outside Reverse Veil Piercing May Be Permissible Even Against an LLC with an Innocent Third-Party Member, Published Appellate Decision Holds

When you have a judgment against a shell entity, you can amend the judgment to name the sole shareholder or member. That is called piercing the corporate veil. Until a few years ago, it didn’t work in reverse: if you have a judgment against a judgment-proof business owner, you can’t add the entity as a judgment-debtor. (Postal Instant Press, Inc. v. Kaswa Corp. (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1510, 1513, 77 Cal.Rptr.3d 96 (Postal Instant Press).) Except in 2017 in Curci Investments, LLC v. Baldwin (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 214, 221 (Curci), the same appellate court said you could do that — that is, at least if you were dealing with an LLC. (Curci did not apply to corporations.)

But what if the LLC has innocent members? It wouldn’t be fair to innocent LLC members to add the LLC to a judgment because of whatever some other member did. That is the issue that came up in Blizzard Energy, Inc. v. Schaefers (D2d6 Nov. 18, 2021 no. B305774) 71 Cal.App.5th 823. And the court answered the question by holding: Yes, the LLC may be liable for the judgment, but no, we can’t offer any suggestions how it could be done consistent with an innocent member’s rights. The court remanded for the trial court to think about that.

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Denial of Motion to Enforce a Settlement Held Appealable Because it “Functionally Terminated” the Litigation

Can you appeal an order on a motion to enforce a settlement agreement? And if so, why aren’t these orders listed in the appealable orders statute of [Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1](https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=904.1&lawCode=CCP)?

The functional answer to the question is yes: orders on motions to enforce a settlement probably are appealable. But the court in *[Rezzadeh v. Chiu*](https://casetext.com/case/rezzadeh-v-chiu?tab=keyword&jxs=&sort=relevance&type=case&resultsNav=false) (D5 Dec. 13, 2021) 2021 WL 5873074 (nonpub. opn.) suggests the reason this is not obvious in the statute is that litigants are not supposed to have to take appeals from the orders. Instead, trial courts are supposed to be entering *judgments* on those orders. And then the appeal, naturally, would be taken from the judgment.

Settling a case is not the end. You may need to be prepared to invoke your appellate rights until a settlement is fully executed.

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Judgment Not Satisfied Unless Payment "Conditioned"​ on Satisfaction, Published Appellate Decision Holds

Enforcing a judgment is hard enough before appeals and appeal bonds enter the picture. Unfortunately, the published opinion in Wertheim, LLC v. Currency Corp. (D2d1 Oct. 14, 2021) 2021 WL 4785575 (nos. B304655, B310650) now takes that picture even further out of focus. The upshot is that the defendant fully satisfied a judgment, but that was not enough: the plaintiff intended to seek more costs, and the defendant did not "condition" its payment on its constituting full satisfaction of the judgment.

Held: contrary tot Gray1 CPB, LLC v. SCC Acquisitions, Inc. (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 882, 891, the plaintiff could continue filing motions for more enforcement costs even after the defendant had paid the entire amount of the judgment, interest, and costs then due.

Takeaways: (1) Don't wait to enforce an appeal bond — you have a year after the appeal, that ought to be plenty. (2) When seeking judgment-enforcement fees, the touchstone is "necessarily incurred," not the more familiar and relaxed standard under Civil Code section 1717. (3) If you are a defendant trying to satisfy a judgment, make it clear that is your intent, because Wertheim throws existing law on this point into doubt.

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Sale of Property Rendered Appeal Moot; Bond and Stay Were Required to Preserve the Appeal

It is not enough to appeal your case. You have to keep your case alive until the Court of Appeal has a chance to get to it.

That is the lesson of Badea-Mic v. Detres (D3 Nov. 23, 2020) **no. C085459 (nonpub. opn.). The appellant appealed an order authorizing the sale of the property, but the property was sold to a third party before the appeal concluded. Thus, the appeal was moot.

In fairness, the appellant did seek a stay in the trial court, which was the right move. But when the trial court denied that stay, the appellant waited too long to seek a writ of supersedeas (the appellate court's fancy word for stay) in the Court of Appeal. In this case, she had only four days to seek supersedeas before escrow closed. A good reason to have appellate counsel at the ready!

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Failure to Exercise Discretion in Issuing a Stay of Enforcement of Judgment Is an Abuse of Discretion

In a recent case involving more than one case number, the defendant got an early victory in one case, and got an award of attorney fees. The trial court, however, did not like the idea of rewarding one party partway through a complex litigation, so it imposed a sua sponte stay of enforcement of that fee award.

That stay was reversed on appeal in Specialty Baking, Inc. v. Kohanbash (LASC App. Div. May 24, 2021) no. BV033347 (nonpub. opn.). While such a stay may be permissible, the court in making the discretionary ruling failed to consider the factors required under the operative statute. Failure to exercise discretion is an abuse of discretion.

Whenever the topic of stays and bonds come up, that is a good time to consult an appellate attorney.

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After Reversal on Appeal, Appellant Claimed It Was Entitled to $5.7MM in Restitution

Here is an under-appreciated consideration in appellate procedure: If you are the party that prevailed at trial, and you collect on your judgment pending appeal, what's the worst that could happen? Would it surprise you to learn that the prevailing plaintiff could be ordered to make restitution "of all property and rights lost by the erroneous judgment or order," and could even have a money judgment imposed against it under Code of Civil Procedure section 908? This includes legal interest. And if enforcing the judgment caused the appellant to lose business profits, the judgment creditor can be liable for those losses, too.

That is very nearly what happened to the respondent in Dr. Leevil, LLC v. Westlake Health Care Ctr. (D2d6 Mar. 17, 2021) no. B304339 (non-pub.). A judgment-creditor absolutely can be liable in restitution to the judgment-debtor. And it would have here, too, had the appellant not stipulated to the remedy – a $5.7 million mistake. Ouch.

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Notice of Appeal Filed by Corporation But Omitting Alter Ego Appellant Held Not Fatal Under the Liberality Rule – But Alter-Ego Finding Still Affirmed

It is a horrifying thing to find that your appeal has been dismissed. And it can happen very easily. An appeal can be dismissed because the notice of appeal was filed late – even a day late. Or because the notice of appeal had the wrong box checked on it specifying the wrong type of order (even though specifying the type of order is not even required), or because the notice of appeal specified the wrong authority (which is not required, either).

So what about a notice of appeal that omits the name of the appellant? That is what happened in Westlake Village Marketplace, LLC v. West American Roofing, Inc. (D2d5 May 17, 2021) no. B306358 (non-pub.). Miraculously, that appeal, from the alter-ego judgment, survived. (But the judgment was affirmed.)

Also covered: A tactical choice for plaintiffs: whether "it may be prudent for a plaintiff to sue only the corporation," leaving the alter egos for postjudgment litigation.

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Private Jet Lessor's Novel Judgment Enforcement Strategy Affirmed on Appeal, Holding Debtor Waived His Challenge by Failing to Raise It Below

The judgment-enforcement case of R Consulting & Sales, Inc. v. Kim (D4d1 May 13, 2021) (non-pub.) provides several useful lessons. For attorneys representing judgment-creditors, the case provides an interesting application of a wage garnishment against a debtor's sham companies. For appellants, it provides a caution in careful drafting of the notice of appeal, and a warning that post-judgment stipulations may be deemed as an assent to the judgment – thus waiving the right to appeal.

It also suggests how new legal theories – which sometimes may be raised for the first time on appeal – will be deemed forfeited if they involve a factual question that was not raised in the trial court.

Finally, it reminds attorneys for prevailing parties to be judicious in their use of redacted billings, and to avoid block-billing.

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Attorney Fees Recoverable Even for Unsuccessful Judgment Enforcement Efforts

So holds the Fourth District, Third Division Court of Appeal in Buechler v. Butker, Case No. G058054 (4th Dist. Div. 3 November 23, 2020) (unpublished), where plaintiff sought contempt against defendant […]

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