California Supreme Court Holds that a UCL Action May Be Based on Conduct that Allegedly Violates Both the UIPA and Other Statutes or Common Law

In a long-awaited decision on the interplay between California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.) and the Unfair Insurance Practices Act (“UIPA”) (Ins. Code, § 790 et seq.), the California Supreme Court today issued its ruling in Zhang v. Superior Court, Case No. S178542 (rev. granted 2/10/10). The opinion appears at the following link: Zhang v. Superior Court, Case No. S178542 (rev. granted 2/10/10)

The Supreme Court held that the case of Moradi-Shalal v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Companies (1988) 46 Cal.3d 287, 304, “does not preclude first party UCL actions based on grounds independent from section 790.03, even when the insurer’s conduct also violates section 790.03.” (Slip Op. p. 2) The decision is limited to the first party context. (Id., p. 2, fn. 2) Continue reading

Voluntary Dismissal without Prejudice Triggers Trial Court Discretion to Award Expert Witness Fees under C.C.P. Section 998

On July 23, 2013, in the case of Mon Chong Loong Trading Corp. v. Superior Court (2013 WL381168), the California Court of Appeal held that a voluntary dismissal without prejudice following a Section 998 offer that was not accepted triggers the cost-shifting provisions of California Code of Civil Procedure Section 998.

In this case, the plaintiff slipped and fell at a supermarket and sued for negligence and premises liability. Defendant made a Section 998 settlement offer. Plaintiff did not respond to the offer, did not appear for an independent medical exam, and did not exchange expert information. Just before trial, plaintiff filed a voluntary dismissal of the action without prejudice. Continue reading

How to Get Value from Your ERISA Mediation

ERISA benefits litigation is by and large a streamlined form of litigation that involves an expeditious trial usually based on the administrative record, with no witnesses. Lawyers who do this kind of work are sensitive to the factual nuances of ERISA benefits cases and the risks posed by taking chances before the district or magistrate judge.

Most of these cases are either settled by the lawyers themselves or in mediation. The lawyers and parties are usually very well prepared, but it is usually the plaintiff’s first and probably only experience with the process. Therefore, the process must address the discomfort that the individual plaintiffs experience, even if the setting is much more informal than the courtroom. Continue reading