Monday, June 29, 2020

Eghtesad v. State Farm Gen. Ins. Co. (Cal. Ct. App. - June 29, 2020)

Check out all the delays discussed in this opinion by the Court of Appeal:

"The first two pages of Eghtesad’s complaint bear the preprinted Judicial Council footer “COMPLAINT—Contract.” The caption identifies State Farm and Does 1 to 20 as defendants . . . .

State Farm filed a general and special demurrer on the grounds that Eghtesad failed to plead sufficient facts to state causes of action for fraud, defamation, and breach of contract, and that each of the claims was uncertain. Eghtesad did not file an opposition to the demurrer. He did, however, appear at a case management conference two days before the originally scheduled hearing, at which he asked the court for 60 days to try to settle with State Farm and get counsel. The trial court continued the hearing on the demurrer for approximately three weeks, with Eghtesad’s opposition due ten days before the hearing.

On the day his opposition was due, Eghtesad, still representing himself, filed a request for a further continuance of 90 days, informing the court that three days before he had been involved in an auto accident. He attached a note from his doctor placing him off work for three days and instructing him to take two medications for pain and muscle stiffness and avoid heavy lifting. The trial court granted Eghtesad “one final continuance” and set the hearing out for two additional weeks.

Three days before the new hearing date (and without having filed a response to the demurrer), Eghtesad filed another request for a continuance to respond to the demurrer on the grounds that he had now been ordered by his doctor to rest for 90 days. The request was accompanied by a doctor’s note stating that the car accident had “exacerbated” Eghtesad’s back pain, such that he was unable to sit for long time without changing position, and that the doctor expected him to recover in three months. The trial court did not grant a further continuance: the court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend and directed State Farm to prepare an order and judgment of dismissal."

You can probably guess what the trial court was thinking here.  Hence the result.

The Court of Appeal reverses, holding that the trial court should have granted plaintiff leave to amend (notwithstanding the fact that he didn't request such relief).

There's also this mysterious footnote in the opinion, which reads:  "Notice of entry of judgment was filed on January 8, 2016. For reasons not relevant to the issue on appeal, briefing before this court was not completed until April 2020."  More delay.  Lots of it.  So I looked at the docket sheet in the Court of Appeal.  Which seems to show lots of efforts by the Court of Appeal in 2016 designed to assist the pro se appellant in perfecting the appeal, which nonetheless resulted in no opening brief being filed in 2016, notwithstanding a notification that if no such brief was filed, the case would be dismissed.

Thereafter . . . nothing.  For years.

It seems like the case just fell through the cracks.  Perhaps literally.

Then, in 2019, someone in the Court of Appeal presumably notices all of this, and the appeal gets dismissed.  Then reinstated after the appellant hires counsel, ultimately resulting in the filing of the briefs.

So the unexplained "reasons" for a three-year delay appear to simply be the Court of Appeal's inexplicable failure to dismiss the appeal once no briefs were filed.  Given this delay on the Court of Appeal's part, perhaps it's not surprising that Justice Miller's opinion isn't particularly critical about all of the various delays on the appellant's part in the trial court.

Ultimately resulting in an appellate win for the appellant.