20th Century Ins. Co. v. Sup.Ct. (Ahles) (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1247

After widespread abuses by the insurance industry were reported, the Legislature extended the statute of limitations for policyholders to file claims arising out the Northridge earthquake. The insurance industry attacked the statute, and Mr. Ehrlich handled the principal briefing and argument on its constitutionality in the appellate courts. After the statute was held constitutional on appeal, Mr. Ehrlich successfully defended that decision in the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, which both declined to hear the decision.

Brehm v. 21st Century Ins. Co. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 1225, 83 Cal.Rptr.3d 410

Summary (1) Trial court erred in dismissing insured’s claim on demurrer based on the genuine-dispute doctrine. Application of the doctrine was a factual issue that could not be determined on the pleadings. (2) The insurer’s contractual right to arbitrate uninsured-motorist (“UM”) claims did not relieve it from its obligation to make reasonable efforts to assess and settle the claim, and its failure to make those efforts would support a claim against it for bad faith.

Kotler v. PacifiCare of California (2005) 126 Cal.App.4th 950

Summary – On a motion for summary judgment, it was concluded there was a question of fact whether a delay of six weeks in arranging for a specialist was reasonable, in Kotler the health care services plan denied two appeals by the patient that sought reimbursement for a specialist the patient saw on his own because of the delay. (Id. at pp. 956-957.)

This was the first case in California to hold that an HMO could be sued for bad-faith for making its subscribers wait an unreasonable amount of time for medical treatment.

Smith v. Pacificare Behavioral Health (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 139

Held that health insurers and HMOs in California were required to comply with California statutes that regulated the use of arbitration clauses in health-insurance contracts. Mr. Ehrlich later convinced other appellate courts to adopt the reasoning of Smith, in Imbler v. PacifiCare of California (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 567, and Zolezzi v. PacifiCare of California (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 573.

UNUM Life Ins. Co. of America v. Ward, 526 U.S. 358 (1999)

Mr. Ehrlich briefed and argued this case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court adopted the position advocated by Mr. Ehrlich, and limited ERISA’s preemptive scope by making ERISA plans subject to state common-law rules of insurance regulation, which generally benefit consumers. The Ward decision benefited more than 80 million people who obtained their health insurance, life insurance, or disability insurance through their employer.

The basics of California Appeals — two not-so-simple rules

Success on appeal in California depends on many things — the facts that underlie your case, the legal positions you can take in light of the state of the law, your skill in selecting and presenting the issues to the appellate court in a persuasive way, and the beliefs and proclivities of the appellate judges who will hear your case. But before any of these factors can have an impact on the appeal you plan to bring, you must first satisfy the most elemental aspects of any appeal — you must get the appeal on file timely, and you must provide the court with an appropriate record for appellate review. Unless you can accomplish these two basic tasks your appeal will fail. This article will explain how to satisfy these most basic of appellate rules.

The rules governing filing appeals and designating the record are technical, and involve some deadlines that are jurisdictional. This article provides an overview, but before any lawyer tries to file and proceed with an appeal, he or she should carefully review the relevant sections of the California Rules of Court, and would do well to consult an appellate treatise (or an appellate lawyer.) It’s not exactly a “don’t try this at home” situation; more like, “don’t try this without making sure you do it right.” The problem is not that it is particularly hard to comply with the rules; it is that if you fail to do so, for whatever reason, the result can be catastrophic for the case.

Jeffrey I. Ehrlich retained as co-counsel in $10 million wrongful-death/products liability appeal

December 2014

After her Toyota Camry was struck in a traffic collision by Olga Bello, Noriko Nori’s foot became trapped behind the brake pedal and was pressing on the accelerator pedal, causing her car to accelerate to 100 mph.

Ms. Nori was unable to control the vehicle and was killed when her car crashed into a tree. The jury awarded her heirs $10 million, and the defendants have appealed.

10 Common mistakes that trial lawyers make that can lead to appellate disaster, and how to avoid them

Getting a case from the pleading stage through trial can be like trying to walk through a minefield. There are always procedural traps lurking to snare the unwary trial lawyer. Here are 10 easy, and distressingly common mistakes for a trial lawyer to make, which can have disastrous consequences on appeal. Happily, they are easily avoided, if you know what to look for.

10 Common mistakes that trial lawyers make (Part 2)

Mistake 2: Failing to make appropriate evidentiary objections on summary-judgment motions, or to respond to the other side’s objections

A motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication of issues must be supported and opposed by admissible evidence. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 437c, subd. (b)(1), and (d); Garibay v. Hemmat (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 735, 741, 74 Cal.Rptr.3d 715, 719.) As explained in the article in this issue by Justice Moore and Steven B. Stevens, objections to evidence in support of or in opposition to a motion for summary judgment or adjudication must follow the format in California Rules of Court 3.1352 and 3.1354.

The basics of California Appeals — two not-so-simple rules (Part 5)

Rule 8.121 (a) requires the appellant to file in the trial court a designation of the record on appeal within 10 days of filing a notice of appeal (although the designation can be combined with the notice of appeal). The rule contemplates a single document designating both the oral proceedings and the documents, usually the RT and a CT or Appendix. There is a Judicial Council form, APP 003, which is optional.

The notice designating the record must state when the appeal was filed, the form of the record of Superior Court documents (CT or Appendix), and the form of the oral proceedings (RT). If the appellant uses an RT, the designation must designate what proceedings it will contain. Rule 8.130(a)(1) requires that the notice specify the date of each proceeding to be included in the RT. Hence it is improper to designate “all oral proceedings”. A local rule in the Second Appellate District requires even more specificity — L.R. 3(a)(1) requires not only the date of each proceeding, but also the department, the name of the court reporter or electronic-recording monitor, and the nature of the proceeding.

The designation may specify the portions of designated proceedings that should not be transcribed. (Such as voire dire, or specific witnesses whose testimony was not relevant to the issues raised on appeal.) But if not all testimony will be designated, the notice must specify the points to be raised on appeal. (Rule 8.130(a)(2).) This enables the respondent to determine whether additional parts of the record must be transcribed. Designating less than all testimony limits the scope of appellate review to the points stated in the designation notice. (Rule 8.130(a)(2).) Copies of the notice of designation must be served on all other parties, and on all known court reporters.

If the appellant designates only part of the oral proceedings, then the respondent may file a notice of designation of additional proceedings within 10 days of service of the appellant’s designation. (Rule 8.130(a)(3).)

The designating party (that is, both the appellant and the respondent making a designation of additional proceedings) must make at the time the designation is filed a deposit for the approximate cost of transcribing the designated proceedings. There are two ways to compute this: (1) obtain a written estimate from the court reporter in advance, or (2) using the amounts specified in Rule 8.130(b)(1)(A) and (B): $325 for each proceeding of less than 3 hours, and $625 for each proceeding longer than 3 hours.

If the appellant files a notice electing to proceed via a Clerk’s Transcript, the respondent can trump that election by filing an election to use an appendix in lieu of the Clerk’s Transcript within ten days of the appellant’s election. (Rule 8.124.) At that point, the appeal will proceed using an appendix unless the Superior Court orders otherwise on a motion to oppose the election. (Id.)

If the appellate elects to use a Clerk’s Transcript, the election must designate the items to be included, specifically identifying each document by title and filing date. (Rule 8.122(a)(1).) It is sufficient to collectively designate all minute orders or all jury instructions given, refused, or withdrawn. (Rule 8.122(a)(1).) The designation may also specify parts of a document that need not be included — which can be handy if there are duplicates of other documents.) (Id.)
Optional documents in a Clerk’s Transcript or an Appendix include any document filed or lodged in the case in the Superior Court; any exhibit admitted in evidence, refused or lodged; any jury instructions submitted by a party or given or refused. (8.122(b)(3).)

The basics of California Appeals — two not-so-simple rules (Part 4)

What is a “protective cross-appeal” and when should I file one?

This is one of the nastier malpractice traps for lawyers. If the trial court vacates a judgment, or grants a motion for new trial or JNOV, you must file a protective or precautionary cross-appeal in order to preserve appellate review of the original judgment. So, if the court grants JNOV, the appellant will be the party who won a jury verdict, and the respondent will be the party who won the JNOV motion. If the appellant prevails, and convinces the court that the JNOV motion was granted in error, the original judgment will be reinstated. In order for the party who lost at that stage to preserve the right to appellate review of the original judgment, a protective cross-appeal must be filed after the “appellant” files the appeal from the JNOV and resulting judgment.

There are a couple more wrinkles — if the trial court denies a motion for JNOV but grants a new trial, or vacates the judgment, and there is an appeal from the new trial or order vacating the judgment, there must be a protective cross-appeal in order to preserve appellate review of the order denying the motion for JNOV. Also, if the party who is appealing a new-trial motion would also be aggrieved by the original judgment if it was reinstated after the new-trial motion was reversed, may file a protective cross-appeal to preserve the right to obtain review of the original judgment.