Procedural Posture

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Procedural Posture

Plaintiff tenant appealed a judgment and a postjudgment order from the Superior Court of Orange County (California), which granted defendant landlord's motion for nonsuit of the tenant's action alleging breach of contract and related claims arising from the landlord's termination of a commercial lease. The trial court's award of costs to the landlord included expert witness fees pursuant to a lease provision.

Overview

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The lease required substantial investment by the landlord to build a new shopping center, while the tenant had few obligations until the lease began. The parties agreed that unless the lease began by a specified date, either party would have the right to terminate for any reason. The landlord was unable to obtain the necessary approvals for a traffic signal, and the shopping center was never built. The landlord exercised its right to terminate. The court noted that because the contract was integrated, Code Civ. Proc., § 1856, precluded the use of extrinsic evidence such as drafts of the lease. The clear language of the lease, interpreted in accordance with Civ. Code, §§ 1636, 1638, 1641, gave both parties the absolute right to terminate. Because the mutual termination provision was conditioned on notice, it did not result in an illusory agreement. The expert witness fees awarded by the trial court were allowable as costs under Code Civ. Proc., § 1033.5, subd. (b)(1), without any requirement of specially pleading and proving such costs at trial because the lease contract specifically provided that expert fees were recoverable costs.

Outcome

After trial the defendant’s civil defense attorney San Diego file the defendant’s notice of appeal and submitted briefs. The court affirmed the judgment and affirmed the postjudgment order.

Procedural Posture

Petitioner patient filed for a writ of mandate after respondent superior court granted respondent health care provider's motion to stay the action and compel arbitration. Petitioner had brought two causes of action against respondent health care provider for negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent selection, employment, retention and supervision of an employee who allegedly committed sexual assaults against petitioner.

Overview

Petitioner patient brought suit against respondent health care provider for negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent selection, employment, retention and supervision of an employee, who petitioner alleged sexually assaulted her. After respondent superior court compelled arbitration of the claims, petitioner filed for a writ of mandate. On review, the court stated that the issue was whether an arbitration provision in the parties' health service agreement, which covered any claim arising from rendition or failure to render services, required arbitration of petitioner's claims. In issuing the writ of mandate and ordering respondent to set aside its order compelling arbitration, the court held that since the scope of the arbitration clause was unclear, the ambiguity of its language had to be interpreted against the drafter, respondent health care provider. Thus, since the employee's alleged conduct fell outside the scope of his employment and it was unlikely that the parties intended that the arbitration clause would apply in such circumstances, the contract should not have been construed to require arbitration of petitioner's claims.

Outcome

The court issued a writ of mandate and ordered that respondent superior court set aside its order compelling arbitration of petitioner patient's claims because the scope of the arbitration provision in the service agreement between petitioner and respondent health care provider was ambiguous. Such ambiguity should have been construed against the drafter, respondent health care provider. Thus, the provision did not apply to petitioner's claims.

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