Jun 27, 2022
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TENTATIVE RULINGS                 
LAW & MOTION CALENDAR                   
Wednesday, June 22, 2022, 3:00 p.m.
Courtroom 16 – Hon. Patrick M. Broderick
3035 Cleveland Avenue, Suite 200, Santa Rosa
 
PLEASE NOTE: Per order of the court, any party or representative of a party must appear remotely through Zoom for this calendar, unless you request in person appearance by 4:00 p.m. the day before the hearing.

 
   
TO JOIN “ZOOM” ONLINE,
Courtroom 16
Meeting ID: 824-7526-7360                                                                                                            
Passcode: 840359
 
TO JOIN “ZOOM” BY PHONE,
By Phone (same meeting ID and password as listed above):
(669) 900-6833 US (San Jose)
 
The following tentative rulings will become the ruling of the Court unless a party desires to be heard. If you desire to appear and present oral argument as to any motion, YOU MUST notify the Court by telephone at (707) 521-6725, and all other opposing parties of your intent to appear by 4:00 p.m. today, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Parties in motions for claims of exemption are exempt from this requirement.
 
PLEASE NOTE: The Court’s Official Court Reporters are “not available” within the meaning of California Rules of Court, Rule 2.956, for court reporting of civil cases.
 
 
 

1.     

MCV-253349, Citibank, N.A. v. Mobazion

            This matter is on calendar for the motion of Plaintiff Citibank, N.A. (“Plaintiff”) for an order entering judgment on the pleadings in its favor against Defendant Thomas A. Mobazion (“Defendant”). The motion is made on the grounds that Plaintiff alleged facts sufficient to state a cause of action for common counts and that Defendant's deemed admissions overcome any denials contained in Defendant's answer to Plaintiff's causes of action. The motion is GRANTED.

            A motion by plaintiff can be made on the ground that the complaint states facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against the defendant and “the answer does not state facts sufficient to constitute a defense to the complaint.” (CCP § 438(c).)

The grounds for a motion for judgment on the pleadings must appear on the face of the challenged pleading or be based on facts which the court may judicially notice. (CCP § 438(d).) A court may take judicial notice of something even if it negates an express allegation of the pleading. (Evans v. California Trailer Court, Inc. (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 540, 549.)

The complaint alleges sufficient facts to establish a cause of action for common counts—that Defendant owes Plaintiff $3,905.27 on a credit card account.

Defendant’s answer, filed on September 25, 2020, is incomplete as it does not admit or deny all of Plaintiff’s allegations. However, it states lack of knowledge with respect to paragraph 1 of the complaint and contains one affirmative defense of lack of consideration.

The Court takes judicial notice of the motion and order granting Plaintiff’s request to deem its Requests for Admissions admitted. The admissions negate the allegations in Defendant’s answer. They establish that Defendant had a credit card account with Plaintiff and that, as of April 20, 2021, Defendant owed $3,905.27 on the account. Therefore, the complaint states facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against the Defendant and the answer does not state facts sufficient to constitute a defense to the complaint. Accordingly, the motion is GRANTED and judgment shall be entered against Defendant in the amount of $3,905.27.

Plaintiff’s counsel shall submit a written order to the court consistent with this ruling and in compliance with California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1312.

 

2.     

MCV-256506, American Express National Bank v. Jin 

This matter is on calendar for the motion of Plaintiff American Express National Bank (“Plaintiff”) for leave to file a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). The motion is made on the grounds that the amendment is in the furtherance of justice in order to litigate all issues between Plaintiff and Defendant. In Plaintiff’s memorandum, it states that Plaintiff’s counsel inadvertently included the incorrect amount in the complaint and listed the incorrect name of the corporation, which Plaintiff states it seeks to correct in the FAC. The unopposed motion is GRANTED. The Court will sign the proposed order.

 

3.     

SCV-256339, People of the State of California v. Santa Rosa Grand Petroleum, Inc. 

This matter is on calendar for the motion of defendant Arash Salkhi (“Salkhi”) for an order dissolving the injunction ordered on November 19, 2014. The motion is GRANTED.

            On November 13, 2014, the People of the State of California filed an action against defendants Salkhi and Santa Rosa Grand Petroleum, Inc. for civil penalties and equitable relief. The complaint was based upon defendants’ ownership of the Valero Grand Petroleum gas station located at 525 East Washington Street in Petaluma.

On November 19, 2014, the parties entered into a stipulated judgment and permanent injunction (“the Judgment”). The Judgment ordered defendants to pay civil penalties and costs. It also contained an injunction permanently enjoining and restraining the defendants and their agents, servants, employees, and representatives, pursuant to Business and Professions Code sections 17203 and 17204, from violating Underground Storage Tank laws (Health and Safety Code sections 25284, et seq.) and Title 23 of the California Code of Regulations in relation to any gasoline stations they own and/or operation. The injunction also laid out specific code sections and regulations with which defendants were ordered to comply. The Judgment retained jurisdiction over the parties for the purpose of modifying or dissolving the injunction, to enforce the injunction, or for the punishment of violations.

The complaint only lists a gas station at 525 East Washington Street in Petaluma. However, the parties agreed to an injunction as to “any” gas station owned or operated by defendants. Salkhi states that the action only related to three service stations, those located at 32 E. Washington Street, 483 E. Washington Street, and 101 N. McDowell Blvd, all in the City of Petaluma (“Petaluma Stations”). (Salkhi decl., ¶2.)  In 2014, Salkhi operated the Petaluma Stations through Santa Rosa Grand Petroleum, Inc. (Id., at ¶3.) Salkhi divested and disassociated himself from the Petaluma Stations on March 16, 2016. (Id., at ¶4.) As of July 2, 2018, defendant Santa Rosa Grand Petroleum, Inc. has been dissolved. (RJN, Exhibit C, 4:20-21.)

On January 10, 2020, the People of the State of California brought an action against Ali Salkhi, Fatemeh Salkhi, and Ali Salkhi as Trustee of the Ali Salkhi and Fatemeh Salkhi 1993 Revocable Family Trust, and Salkhi Family Holdings, Inc., for civil penalties and injunctive relief based upon their ownership of service stations located at 101 N. McDowell Blvd. and 483 E. Washington Street in Petaluma. A judgment was entered in that case on December 9, 2021. (RJN, Exhibit F.) It provides, in part, for injunctive relief requiring the defendants in that action to maintain written records for UST systems as required by section 2712 of the California Code of Regulations. (Ibid.)

Salkhi previously brought a motion to dissolve the PI, which was opposed by the Plaintiff. In their opposition to that motion, they argued that the PI was still warranted because Salkhi owns and operates a gas station at 2145 Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. No opposition has been filed with respect to the instant motion.

Salkhi’s main argument in this motion is that the broad “obey the law” injunction is disfavored. He also argues that this action was brought back in 2014 with respect to three gas stations that he no longer owns, the action against the owners of two of the Petaluma Stations has been resolved, and that the injunction in that action was narrowly drawn and limited to five years after entry of judgment.

Based upon the above facts presented by defendant Salkhi, the Court finds it is appropriate to dissolve the injunction. The motion is GRANTED. ­­­­­­­­­­Salkhi’s counsel shall submit a written order to the court consistent with this ruling and in compliance with California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1312. 

4.     

SCV-262429, Security National Insurance Company v. Clifford

            This matter is on calendar for the motion of Defendant Robert Biglin (“Defendant”) for determination pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 877.6 of the good faith settlement entered into between Defendant and Plaintiff Security National Insurance Company (“Plaintiff”). The unopposed motion is GRANTED.

            This is a workers compensation subrogation action filed by Plaintiff as a result of paying workers compensation benefits to Plaintiff’s insured’s employee James Etimos (“Etimos”). Etimos was injured during the course and scope of his employment allegedly as a result of defendant Steve Clifford’s (“Clifford”) negligence in driving his vehicle and causing a motor vehicle accident on Highway 101 in Petaluma. Defendant was substituted in as DOE 1, who allegedly operated and owned the subject vehicle involved in the accident, employed and entrusted his vehicle to defendant Clifford, and was Clifford’s agent.

            In his motion, Defendant states that the accident occurred when he was driving his vehicle on Highway 101, which was directly behind Clifford’s vehicle. Clifford’s vehicle was directly behind Etimos’s vehicle. Defendant states that he saw Clifford’s vehicle hit Etimos’s vehicle. Defendant stopped his vehicle, which was then hit from behind by a fourth vehicle. Clifford claims that Defendant’s vehicle hit Clifford’s vehicle, which pushed Clifford’s vehicle into Etimos’s vehicle. Defendant maintains he did not hit Clifford’s vehicle. He states that his vehicle does not show any damage to its front, and Clifford’s vehicle only had damage to its front. Defendant has included photographic evidence that supports his position.

            At the time of the accident, Defendant was insured through a policy of automobile insurance issued by National General Insurance, Policy No. PPA0045970, which provides for bodily injury limits of $100,000. (Jew decl., Policy Declarations Page, Exhibit 8). The settlement between Plaintiff and Defendant is for the policy limits of $100,000.00 in exchange for a full release and a request for dismissal with prejudice. (Id., Exhibit 1, Executed Settlement Agreement.) Defendant signed a Statement of Assets in support of his contention that the only available source to pay a potential judgment is through his insurance policy coverage. (Id., Exhibit 11.)

A plaintiff may settle with one of several joint tortfeasors or co-obligors on a contract without releasing the others. Provided it is in “good faith,” the settlement discharges the settling defendant from liability to the other defendants for equitable contribution or comparative indemnity. (CCP §§ 877(a),(b); 877.6(c).)

            The amount paid by the settling defendant reduces the claim against the others (CCP § 877(a)). But there is still a risk of prejudice to them ... because an unreasonably low settlement (e.g., with the most culpable tortfeasor) would expose the remaining defendants to a judgment exceeding their fair share of the liability. To avoid this risk, the court is empowered under CCP § 877.6 to determine the “good faith” of such “piecemeal” settlements. (See Bay Development, Ltd. v. Sup.Ct. (Home Capital Corp.) (1990) 50 Cal. 3d 1012, 1019–1020.)

            The elements that must be analyzed to determine the good faith of a settlement are discussed in detail in Tech-Bilt, Inc. v. Woodward-Clyde & Associates (1985) 38 Cal. 3d 488. Tech-Bilt, Inc. requires the court in a contested case to consider: a “rough approximation” of plaintiff's total recovery and the settlor's proportionate liability; the amount paid in settlement; allocation of settlement proceeds among plaintiffs; an understanding that a settling defendant should pay less than if that defendant were found liable at trial; financial condition and insurance policy limits of the settling defendant(s); and the existence of collusion, fraud, or misconduct aimed at injuring the remaining defendants. (Id. at 499; See Oldham v. California Capital Fund, Inc. (2003) 109 Cal. App. 4th 421.)

            The settling defendant's proportionate liability is a critical factor: “The ultimate determinant of good faith is whether the settlement is grossly disproportionate to what a reasonable person at the time of settlement would estimate the settlor's liability to be.” (City of Grand Terrace v. Boyter (1987) 192 CA3d 1251, 1262.)

            If the good faith of the settlement is uncontested, the court does not have to analyze the Tech-Bilt factors. (City of Grand Terrace v. Superior Court (1987) 192 Cal. App. 3d 1251, 1261.) When no one objects, the barebones motion which sets forth the ground of good faith, accompanied by a declaration which sets forth a brief background of the case is sufficient. (Ibid.) Nevertheless, the motion is still discretionary. (See Mattco Forge, Inc. v. Arthur Young & Co. (1995) 38 Cal. App. 4th 1337, 1349.)

            Here, the motion is uncontested. The evidence supports finding that Defendant did not cause the accident and did not even hit Clifford’s or Etimos’s vehicles. Moreover, Defendant is settling for the limits of his insurance policy.

The motion is GRANTED. Defendant’s counsel shall submit a written order to the court consistent with this ruling and in compliance with California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1312. 

5.     

SCV-267332, County of Sonoma v. Rochemont 

This matter is on calendar for the application of plaintiff County of Sonoma (“County”) pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure (“CCP”) section 128(a)(4), 177.5, and 664.6 for an order to show cause why Defendant Glenn Rochemont, Individually, and as Trustee under Declaration of Trust dated December 12, 2005 (“Defendant”), should not be held in contempt of the judgment entered on August 4, 2021.  This matter was last on calendar on June 8, 2022, at which time the Court determined that the motion should be granted and the matter set for hearing. However, in light of certain discrepancies in the 2021 Judgment regarding the total amount of penalties owed, the matter was continued to this date to allow County Counsel to provide its civil penalty calculations regarding the amount that should be stated in the 2021 Judgment, and to provide an updated proposed order. As of the date the Court reviewed this case for this hearing, no additional information had been provided. Accordingly, the motion will be continued once more to allow Counsel to provide this Court with its calculation of the total amount of penalties owed. 

The matter is CONTINUED to July 27, 2022, at 3:00 p.m., in Department 16, to allow County Counsel to provide its calculations for civil penalties that should be stated in the 2021 Judgment, and to provide an updated proposed order. 

6.     

SCV-267750, Cooley v. Soriano  

1.     

Motion for a Protective Order

            This matter is on calendar for the motion of Defendants LCS Santa Rosa, LLC, and HCP Santa Rosa CA OPCO (“Defendants”) for a protective order pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 2031.060(a) to protect from public dissemination documents that are confidential business records and trade secrets and which contain information, including patterns, compilations, programs, methods, techniques, and processes that derive independent economic value by being kept secret and which are subject to reasonable efforts to keep said information secret. The motion is GRANTED.

Code of Civil Procedure section 2031.060 subdivision (b) allows the Court to make a protective order on the basis of “good cause shown.” A protective order is reasonable and customary to protect a company’s “legitimate interest in protecting its trade secrets and other confidential proprietary information.” (Westinghouse Elec. Corp. v. Newman & Holtzinger (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th 1194, 1209; In re Providian Credit Card Cases (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 292, 298, 299; GT, Inc. v. Sup. Ct. (1984) 151 Cal.App.3d 748, 751-752.) When good cause is shown, a trial court may issue a protective order relating to production demands directing “[t]hat a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be disclosed, or be disclosed only to specified persons or only in a specified way.” (Code Civ. Proc. § 2031.060, subd. (b)(5).)

Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s requests for production seeks disclosure of confidential, proprietary, trade secret and business methodology related information. They argue that there is a legitimate concern that production of Defendants’ documents in this litigation, absent a protective order, may adversely affect Defendants’ competitive or negotiation positions in their industry as well as business operations. Defendants argue that the information and/or documents at issue are, in fact, confidential, secret, commercially sensitive and have not been disclosed to the public. They also argue that they derive independent economic value from the information at issue due to its being kept confidential and that they have made reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of the information, including keeping the documents on a secured computer server which is not accessible to persons who are not employed by the Defendants. Defendants’ counsel states that the documents at issue would be meaningless with the number of redactions that would be required in the absence of a protective order.

Defendants’ motion establishes good cause that a protective order is reasonable under the circumstances of this case as the Defendants have a legitimate interest in protecting their confidential proprietary information. Accordingly, the motion is GRANTED.

Defendants’ proposed order is not attached to their coversheet. Defendants’ counsel shall submit a written order to the court consistent with this ruling and in compliance with California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1312.

2.     

Motion for Relief from Untimely Responses

 

This matter is also on calendar for the motion of Defendants LCS Santa Rosa, LLC, and HCP Santa Rosa CA OPCO (“Defendants”) for relief from their waiver of objections due to untimely discovery responses. The motion is GRANTED.

On April 13, 2022, this Court granted Plaintiff’s motion for an order compelling Defendants to respond to Plaintiff’s discovery requests without objection. In opposing that motion, it was the Defendants’ position that pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1284.1, the action was stayed upon their filing their Petition to Compel Arbitration which included a request to stay the action pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.4. It was Defendants’ counsel’s position that responses were due by December 14, 2022, and that responses were served by that date. Defendants also subsequently served supplemental responses.

Defendants’ prior counsel attests that it was his mistake not to file a separate motion requesting a stay of discovery and a notice of stay under Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 3.650 pending the arbitration motion. (Hollingsworth decl., ¶¶6-12.) He states his confusion was based upon the lack of language in the statue indicating that a separate motion to stay must be filed in order to stay the action pending the arbitration motion, and that he had filed other motions in which the concurrent request to stay had been deemed sufficient. (Id., ¶11.) He further states that he failed to raise the issue of the stay at the hearing on the motion to compel arbitration because he thought that the stay had been in place. (Id., ¶14.) Mr. Hollingsworth then informed Defendants’ current counsel that a stay had been in place between March 18, 2021, when the arbitration petition had been filed, and May 14, 2021, when that petition was denied. (Id., ¶¶15, 17.)

Amended responses to Plaintiff’s discovery requests were served in January 2022, and after this Court’s tentative ruling regarding deeming admissions admitted. (Rose decl., ¶¶8, 12.) Documents have not been served with the substantive responses as Defendants filed their motion for protective order. (Ibid.) Documents are being located, reviewed, redacted, and processed by Harbor Litigation Services, LLC. (Ibid.) The substantive verified responses served in January 2022 imposed no objections to the fact-specific unverified responses not objected to in the December 14, 2021 responses. (Ibid.) Harbor Litigation Services, LLC, is processing 859,000 documents and began a rolling production in April 2022. (Id., ¶¶9, 10.)

Defendants’ motion establishes that Defendants subsequently provided supplemental discovery responses and that it was Defendants’ counsel’s mistake, inadvertence, or excusable neglect that led Defendants to untimely serve their discovery responses. Judicial policy supports liberally providing relief from waiver instead of penalizing litigants for their attorney’s mistakes. (Dingwall v. Vangas, Inc. (1963) 218 Cal.App.2d 108, 112.)

The motion is granted. The Court will sign the proposed order.

 

 

 

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