Landowners' Suit Against PG&E for Excessive Trimming, Plus Family Law, Criminal, Arbitration & anti-SLAPP Matters

By FindLaw Staff on October 18, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sunline Transit Agency v. Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1277, E049209, concerned a challenge to the trial court's denial of defendant employer's petition to vacate a contractual arbitration award, and grant of a petition to confirm the award, in plaintiff's suit against her former employer.

In affirming, the court held that the trial court properly denied defendant's motion to vacate or modify the arbitration award and appropriately confirmed the award as the award neither invades the exclusive jurisdiction of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board nor was entered in excess of the arbitrator's powers under the memorandum of understanding (MOU).  The court also held that the insertion in the judgment of language declaring that plaintiff "is judicially estopped later to claim continuing permanent disability benefits in the pending Workers' Compensation case," is stricken from the judgment as the trial court did not have the authority to issue a judgment containing this additional language, which was not in conformity with the arbitration award.

Starr v. Starr, B219539, concerned a challenge to the family law court's finding that the house the husband bought in his name only while married to his former wife was community property in ordering him to convey the property to them both as tenants in common, in a marital dissolution proceeding.  In affirming, the court held that the evidence shows that the wife quitclaimed her interest in the house based on the husband's promise to put her on title after the purchase was completed, but that the husband failed to do so, and as such, the evidence supports a finding that the house was community property based on the husband's violation of his fiduciary duties to his wife.  Further, the court held that the trial court properly valued the community and separate property interests in the house, and did not err in denying the husband's request to refund his overpayment of child support credits.

Sarale v. Pac. Gas & Elec. Co., C059873, involved plaintiff-landowners' suit against Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), claiming that it engaged in excessive trimming of commercially productive walnut trees located under the utility's power lines.  In affirming the trial courts' order sustaining defendant's demurrers without to leave to amend, in dismissing the complaints pursuant to Public Utilities Code section 1759, the court held that the superior court has jurisdiction to determine whether a utility has a power line easement over a particular property, but trial courts lack jurisdiction to adjudicate claims that a power utility has engaged in excessive trimming or unreasonable vegetation management when the utility has acted under guidelines or rules set forth by the commission.  Further, although the plaintiffs seek a judicial determination with respect to whether PG&E has an easement at all, this claim is defeated by the plaintiffs' own first amended complaint, which pleaded and attached a right-of-way in favor of PG&E.

People v. Wayman, G042582, concerned a challenge to a conviction of a defendant for transporting marijuana.  In affirming, the court held that the trial court did not err in instructing on the People v. Trippet test as the legislature intended to limit the circumstances under which the transportation of medical marijuana is lawful to situations in which the transportation is reasonably related to the patient's medical needs.

People v. Jahansson, H034446, concerned a challenge to the trial court's grant of defendant's motion to suppress evidence, resulting in dismissal of the case under section 1385, in a prosecution of a defendant for felony drug related offenses.  In affirming, the court held that the summary denial of the People's writ of petition challenging a suppression order does not preclude a subsequent appeal from a dismissal order based on that suppression order.  And, under the circumstances of this case, the defendant's initial detention outside the premises to be searched was lawful incident to the probation search of the premises.  However, defendant's continued detention in handcuffs was not reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

People v. Assad, C059777, concerned a challenge to a conviction of a defendant for torturing his son, committing aggravated mayhem on his son, and inflicting corporal injury, and a nine-year sentence.  In affirming, the court held that defendant's trial counsel was not ineffective in failing to request a jury instruction that would have directed the jury to consider whether evidence of defendant's cultural background raised a reasonable doubt as to whether defendant had the requisite intent to inflict torture and aggravated mayhem on his son when defendant physically disciplined him.  The court also held that the defendant was not entitled to the jury instruction he now proposed because it would have constituted an improper comment on the evidence.  Lastly, the trial court did not err in imposing separate punishment on the three counts of inflicting corporal injury on his son, and the single count of torturing his son.

Baharian-Mehr v. Smith, G043068, concerned a challenge to the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute, in a dispute over accounting irregularities between partners in an adult entertainment business.  In affirming, the court held that the motion was properly denied because the complaint did not arise from any protected activity on defendant's part, but from a business dispute between the parties, and the mention of any protected activity was merely incidental.

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