Friday, April 03, 2020

Tarin v. Lind (Cal. Ct. App. - April 3, 2020)

Here's a hypothetical that I sometimes give first-year law students to help them understand the point .  I pick out two students in the class and say:

"Imagine that Student X files a lawsuit against me that states 'Professor Martin caused my significant other to break up with me by telling her that I didn't sufficiently care about her, which caused me a lot of heartache and damages, so I would like a million dollars, please.'  Student Y:  You're my attorney.  I didn't really do any of that; indeed, I didn't even know that Student X had a significant other, much less did I cause the breakup.  How should I respond to the lawsuit?"

The answer, of course, is that I should file a demurrer (in state court) or 12(b)(6) motion (in federal court).  Yes, I could defend on the merits, and say I didn't do it.  But that would involve an answer, discovery, a summary judgment motion, etc.  The better response would be to say that even if I did what was alleged (which I didn't), that's still not a tort, so the lawsuit should be dismissed at the outset.  The point is to concretely demonstrate both strategy as well as the relevant law; that you can get lawsuits dismissed because what they allege isn't a cause of action in addition to the other defects (omitting an element, etc.) that give rise to 12(b)(6) motions or demurrers. 

We then move on to talk about more sophisticated stuff; but at the outset, I just want them to grok the concept.

After today, though, perhaps I should just use this opinion.

It's basically the same thing.  Same concept, anyway.  Plaintiff sues because the defendant allegedly caused a third party to "break up" with her.  Though in this case, the person who's doing the "breaking up" is the grandmother, the person who's broken up with is her daughter, and the person who caused the breakup is a granddaughter.

The allegations essentially are that Delores (the plaintiff) ("Daughter") was estranged from Lucy (her mother) ("Grandmother") but then they started getting back together.  Daughter alleges in this regard that Grandmother even thought about adding Daughter back into her trust, which makes you wonder about Daughter's motivations for working things out with the 85-year old Grandmother, but let's view things in the most favorable light and assume that it's a daughter just wanting to reconnect with her mother before she dies.

But Rochelle -- the daughter of Delores' sister, and hence Lucy's granddaughter -- (hereinafter "Niece") allegedly doesn't think much of the newfound affection between Grandmother and Daughter (and/or the associated potential impact on the trust), so allegedly starts persuading Grandmother that Daughter is evil and shouldn't be trusted, leading ultimately to Grandmother not liking Daughter again.  Hence the lawsuit, which contains numerous causes of action, all of which basically amount to "You turned my mother against me."

 It takes Justice Bendix over 25 pages.  But she basically just says:  "Whatever.  That's not a tort."

It's an adult grandparent.  It's an adult daughter.  There's no "loss of consortium" or any other related claim in this context.  Yes, you've got to distinguish some old cases that hold that it's a tort when you kidnap a minor from her parent.  But that's not this.  Interfering with a relationship between an adult daughter and her adult mother is neither a crime nor a tort.  Otherwise we'd have far too many claims and it'll be super hard to draw the lines between when it's legitimate to say "Daughter's an ungrateful leech" and when it's not.

Hence my potential new example.  No tort to break up a mother and daughter.  Which is maybe better than my current go-to alternative:  I occasionally use "Dog Palimony" as an example of a lawsuit that could be filed but that'd be legitimately dismissed on a 12(b)(6) motion.

This one's actually real.