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: Summary Judgments

MSJ Evidence Rulings Are Discretionary, California Appellate Court Holds in Split of Authority

CEB has published my article, “MSJ Evidence Rulings Are Discretionary, California Appellate Court Holds in Split of Authority,” about the recent published opinion in Doe v. Software One, Inc. (D4d3 Oct. 12, 2022 no. G060554) 2022 WL 6901145 holding that evidentiary rulings in connection with summary judgment are reviewed on appeal for abuse of discretion. The article is here: http://bit.ly/3g090pV

The opinion is interesting because ever since the Supreme Court’s holding in Reid v. Google, Inc. (2010) 50 Cal.4th 512, which applied de novo review, practitioners have watched carefully to see if a trend of more rigorous review of evidentiary rulings might emerge in the context of motions for summary judgment.

But most cases have not followed Reid’s opening. Doe v. Software one provides a nice summary of the cases since Reid.

I also offer a comment that the preferable approach would be to treat boilerplate objections as waived, rather than indulging the fiction the trial court actually considered them all.

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Update: Opinion Published in Doe v. Software One, Inc.

In October 2022 the Court of Appeal issued its unpublished opinion in Doe v. Software One, Inc. (D4d3 Oct. 12, 2022 no. G060554) 2022 WL 6901145 (see here: http://bit.ly/3EkEmAQ ). On November 8, the court ordered the opinion be published: https://bit.ly/3WP2Dq0

Doe v. Software One holds that evidentiary rulings in deciding a motion for summary judgment are reviewed under the same deferential standard as given evidentiary rulings at trial—i.e., for abuse of discretion. The challengers urged the Supreme Court’s opinion in Reid v. Google, Inc. (2010) 50 Cal.4th 512 created the possibility for more favorable de novo review, and a couple appellate courts had followed that lead.

I filed the publication request. I noted that this split of authority was likely to come before the Supreme Court. And California Rules of Court rule 8.1115 prohibits litigants from citing to the nice summary of the split in Software One opinion unless the opinion were published. (This phenomenon was discussed on the California Appellate Law Podcast episode 22 with David Ettinger and Dean Bochner, at www.CALPodcast.com )

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MSJ Affirmed on New Ground on Appeal; Request for Continuance Denied Because Not Supported by Declaration

There are two important reminders about motions for summary judgment in Steger v. CSJ Providence St. Joseph Medical Center (D2d5 Aug. 16, 2021) 2021 WL 3615548 no. B304043 (nonpub. opn.). The first reminder is that the appellate court may affirm on any ground, even if the trial court never reached that ground. The second reminder is that, if you are opposing an MSJ and you have not had a chance to complete discovery on any of the grounds advanced in the motion, you must say so in a CCP § 437c(h) declaration: just arguing it in the opposition is not enough.

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Reversing Summary Judgment, Court Faults Respondent for "Specious"​ Assertions That "Wholly Mischaracterize"​ Ruling and Appellant's Arguments

Sensing reversal of its summary judgment, the respondent in Lubke v. Automobile Club of S. Cal. (D2d7 Jan 6, 2021) No. B302782, engaged in desperate arguments that earned it some unfavorable comments in the Second District's opinion.
We are used to seeing appellate courts take a critical view toward an appellant's arguments. Here, however, the Second District took the respondent to task for its less-than-candid arguments attempting to rehabilitate a moribund judgment. The court faulted respondent for "wholly mischaracteriz[ing] the court's ruling," and making an "equally specious assertion" about appellant's argument.

After remand, there may be another opportunity in this case for an appeal, and before the same panel. Persuasion is a tough business as it is. Conducting that business before jurists who remember you as having made "specious" arguments that "wholly mischaracterize" the court is tougher still.

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In Summary Judgment Appeal, Split Decision on Unruled-Upon Objections, Conclusory Expert Opinions, and Design-Immunity Defense

Expert declarations opposing summary judgment ordinarily do not need an extensive analysis, and evidentiary objections ordinarily must be ruled upon or else deemed denied. But in a 2-1 decision out […]

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