Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
TruConnect Communications, Inc. v. Maximus, Inc.
The Lifeline Program provides discounted telecommunications services to low-income Californians. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) administers the program under Pub. Util. Code 871. A “third-party administrator,” qualifies applicants, and there are procedures for service providers to seek reimbursement from CPUC for “LifeLine-related costs and lost revenues.” TruConnect provides free wireless telephone service through LifeLine. CPUC changed the third-party administrator to Maximus. TruConnect claimed Maximus was “woefully unequipped” and asked CPUC to delay the rollout of new software. The launch nonetheless went forward. Maximus recruited TruConnect to assist. TruConnect allegedly invested hundreds of thousands of man-hours. Maximus subsequently subcontracted work to Solix. TruConnect claims it incurred losses of more than $14 million in connection with the launch. TruConnect sought reimbursement from CPUC, which paid some claims but denied compensation for “lost opportunities,” customers who wanted TruConnect’s services but were unable to enroll because of the flawed rollout.TruConnect sued Maximus and Solix. The trial court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction. The court of appeal reversed and remanded for determination of whether the lawsuit is nonetheless barred because CPUC is an indispensable party or for other reasons. Section 1759 does not bar the lawsuit since recovery would not conflict with a CPUC order or interfere with its oversight of LifeLine. View "TruConnect Communications, Inc. v. Maximus, Inc." on Justia Law
City of Chula Vista v. Stephenshaw
This dispute arose out of 2011 legislation that dissolved California’s redevelopment agencies and created a process for winding down their affairs. The Department of Finance (Department) determined that certain reimbursement agreements between the City of Chula Vista (City) and its former redevelopment agency (Agency) were not “enforceable obligations” under the redevelopment dissolution laws. Thus, despite having approved payment under the agreements on prior “recognized obligation payment schedules” (ROPS), the Department denied payment authorization on the fiscal year 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 ROPS. The City and the Chula Vista Redevelopment Successor Agency (together, plaintiffs) filed this action seeking to compel the Department to recognize the reimbursement agreements as enforceable obligations and approve the use of property tax revenues for such items on all current and future ROPS. The trial court denied the petition and entered judgment in favor of the Department. On appeal, plaintiffs argued the Department erred in rejecting the items as enforceable obligations under Health and Safety Code section 34171(d)(2). Alternatively, plaintiffs contended the Department should have been estopped from denying the items based on its prior approvals. The Court of Appeal concluded some of the disputed items were enforceable obligations, and reversed the trial court's judgment in part. View "City of Chula Vista v. Stephenshaw" on Justia Law
Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A.
In 2014 the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution directing various City departments and officials to prepare and execute the necessary approvals and agreements to convey the property to Childhelp in exchange for Childhelp’s agreement to continue using the property to provide services for victims of child abuse. Ultimately, however, the City decided not to transfer the property to Childhelp. Childhelp filed this action against the City for, among other things, declaratory relief, writ of mandate, and promissory estoppel, and the City filed an unlawful detainer action against Childhelp. After the trial court consolidated the two actions, the court granted the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s cause of action for promissory estoppel, sustained without leave to amend the City’s demurrer to Childhelp’s causes of action for declaratory relief and writ of mandate, and granted the City’s motion for summary judgment on its unlawful detainer complaint. Childhelp appealed the ensuing judgment. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Childhelp had occupied the property for almost 30 years and had an expectation it would eventually own the property. The 2014 resolution certainly suggested the City was seriously considering selling the property to Childhelp. But it was undisputed the parties never completed the transaction in accordance with the City Charter. While Childhelp cites cases reciting general principles of promissory estoppel, it does not cite any cases where the plaintiff successfully invoked promissory estoppel against a municipality in these circumstances. The trial court did not err in granting the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s promissory estoppel cause of action. View "Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A." on Justia Law
Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Edelweiss brought a qui tam action against financial institutions (California False Claims Act (Gov. Code 12650) (CFCA)), alleging that the defendants contracted to serve as remarketing agents (RMAs) to manage California variable rate demand obligations (VRDOs): tax-exempt municipal bonds with interest rates periodically reset by RMAs. Edelweiss claims that the defendants submitted false claims for payment for these remarketing services, knowing they had failed their obligation to reset the interest rate at the lowest possible rate that would enable them to sell the series at par (face value), and “engaged in a coordinated ‘Robo-Resetting’ scheme where they mechanically set the rates en masse without any consideration of the individual characteristics of the bonds or the associated market conditions or investor demand” and “impose[d] artificially high interest rates on California VRDOs.” Edelweiss alleged that it performed a forensic analysis of rate resetting during a four-year period and that former employees of the defendants “stated and corroborated” this robo-resetting scheme.The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the allegations lacked particularized allegations about how the defendants set their VRDO rates and did not support a reasonable inference that the observed conditions were caused by fraud, rather than other factors.The court of appeal reversed. While allegations of a CFCA claim must be pleaded with particularity, the court required too much to satisfy this standard. The court rejected an alternative argument that Edelweiss’s claims are foreclosed by CFCA’s public disclosure bar. View "Edelweiss Fund LLC v. JPMorgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Banking, California Courts of Appeal, Government Contracts, Securities Law
GRFCO, Inc. v. Super. Ct.
The California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (Division) debarred the following from acting as public works contractors: (1) GRFCO, Inc. (GRFCO), a contractor; (2) George Rogers Frost, the principal in GRFCO; (3) Garcia Juarez Construction (GJC), a contractor and apparent alter ego of GRFCO; and (4) James Craig Jackson, the principal in GJC and an employee of GRFCO. The Division found that, in six instances, the contractors violated apprenticeship requirements, and in two instances, Frost and Jackson had made false certifications under penalty of perjury. The trial court denied the contractors’ petition for administrative mandate. On appeal, the contractors contended: (1) there was insufficient evidence that the apprenticeship violations were knowing; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the false certification findings; (3) the contractors were debarred because they refused to join a union, in violation of the First Amendment; (5) the Division, hearing officer, and/or the investigator were biased; and (5) the hearing officer erred by denying the contractors' request to reopen, which was based on new evidence of bias. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "GRFCO, Inc. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Marin v. Department of Transportation
Decedent was employed by Jones as a construction worker. Jones was under contract with DOT to perform construction work on I-580 in Oakland. Much of this work was performed at night because it required lane closures. A car operated by a drunk driver entered the closed lanes of the project site and struck Decedent, who died on the scene. A wrongful death lawsuit against DOT asserted vicarious liability for the negligence of its employees; failure to discharge a mandatory duty; and dangerous condition on public property. The court dismissed the mandatory duty claim. DOT offered evidence that it did not instruct or control Jones as to how to comply with its safety obligations but that Jones complied with its safety plan on the night in question and that the contract between DOT and Jones delegated to Jones the responsibility for selecting the means for performing, including ensuring worker safety.The trial court concluded DOT was not liable for Decedent’s death as a matter of law because DOT delegated to Jones its duty to provide a safe work environment and the conduct of the drunk driver was not reasonably foreseeable. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that admissible evidence was wrongfully excluded. Plaintiffs failed to present evidence that DOT retained control over the construction site and actually exercised that control in such a way as to affirmatively contribute to Decedent's injuries, as required under California law. View "Marin v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law
So. Cal. Gas Co. v. P.U.C.
These original proceedings involve efforts by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC or the Commission) to discover whether the political activities of Southern California Gas Company (SCG) are funded by SCG’s shareholders, which is permissible, or ratepayers, which is not. The Commission propounded several discovery requests (called “Data Requests”) on SCG, and when SCG failed fully to comply, moved to compel further responses that ultimately resulted in an order to comply or face substantial penalties. SCG seeks a writ of mandate directing the Commission to rescind its order on the ground that the discovery requests infringe on SCG’s First Amendment rights. The Second Appellate District granted the petition and held that SCG has shown that disclosure of the requested information will impact its First Amendment rights, and the Commission failed to show that its interest in determining whether SCG’s political efforts are impermissibly funded outweighs that impact. The court reasoned that because SCG demonstrated that a threat to its constitutional rights exists, the burden shifted to the Commission to demonstrate that the data requests serve and are narrowly tailored to a compelling governmental interest. However, the PAO’s discovery inquiries into all sources of funding for SCG’s lobbying activities go beyond ratepayer expenditures. Insofar as the requests seek information about shareholder expenditures, they exceed the PAO’s mandate to obtain the lowest possible costs for ratepayers and its authority to compel disclosure of information necessary for that task. The requests, therefore, are not carefully tailored to avoid unnecessary interference with SCG’s protected activities. View "So. Cal. Gas Co. v. P.U.C." on Justia Law
California-American Water Co. v. Marina Coast Water Districtw
Monterey is an independent public agency responsible for analyzing Monterey County's water resources. Cal-Am is an investor-owned water utility providing water to over 100,000 residents on the Monterey Peninsula. Marina, a public agency, provides water for the City of Marina and neighboring Monterey Peninsula communities. In 1995 the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Cal-Am to stop drawing water from the Carmel River and develop an alternate water supply. In 2009 Marina, Monterey, and Cal-Am agreed to develop and construct a regional desalinization project to extract brackish water from beneath Monterey Bay, purify it, and deliver it to consumers. In 2010-2011, the parties entered into several agreements. The project was never built. The parties engaged in negotiation and mediation, ending in January 2012 without resolution.In September 2012, Cal-Am submitted a claim under the California Government Claims Act. Litigation followed. In 2019, the trial court entered summary adjudication against Monterey, finding that a negligence cause of action was barred by the two-year statute of limitations and against Cal-Am under the Government Claims Act. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court erred in finding that the “harm” accrued in 2010. There were triable issues of fact as to express waiver and as to the applicability of alternatives to the Claims Act. View "California-American Water Co. v. Marina Coast Water Districtw" on Justia Law
City of L.A. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC
The City of Los Angeles (City) entered into a contract with defendant and respondent PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC (PWC) to modernize the billing system for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). PWC filed a motion for sanctions under Code of Civil Procedure sections 2023.010 and 2023.030 of the Civil Discovery Act nine months after the case was dismissed with prejudice, seeking monetary sanctions for egregious misuse of the discovery process while the litigation was pending. The trial court awarded $2.5 million in sanctions. On appeal from the postjudgment order, in response to a letter from this court inviting additional briefing pursuant to Government Code section 68081, the sanctioned party contends the Discovery Act does not authorize the trial court to award monetary sanctions under section 2023.030 alone or together with section 2023.010. The Second Appellate District reversed the postjudgment order and remanded the matter for the trial court to enter a new and different order on the issue of monetary sanctions based on discovery provisions authorizing the imposition of sanctions in this case. The court explained that although the trial court had jurisdiction to entertain PWC’s motion for sanctions and discretion to find it was timely filed, the order awarding sanctions must be reversed and remanded to allow the trial court to award PWC’s reasonable expenses incurred as a result of sanctionable conduct under provisions of the Discovery Act other than sections 2023.010 and 2023.030. View "City of L.A. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC" on Justia Law
California v. AWI Builders, Inc.
In 2015, defendants AWi Builders, Inc. (AWi), Construction Contractors Corporation, Zhirayr Robert Mekikyan, Anna Mekikyan, and Tigran Oganesian (collectively, the AWI defendants) were under criminal investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office (RCDA) in connection with AWi's involvement in certain public works projects. Pursuant to search warrants jointly obtained by OCDA and RCDA, a large amount of AWI' s property was taken into OCDA's custody. In 2017, OCDA decided not to pursue criminal charges against the AWI defendants and reassigned the matter to Orange County Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby for civil prosecution. In 2018, Ernby filed a civil complaint, on behalf of the State and against the AWI defendants, for violations of the unfair competition law. The AWI defendants were provided with a copy of OCDA's full investigative file, minus privileged documents, and returned documents seized during the criminal investigation to the AWI defendants. In 2020, the AWI defendants filed a motion seeking an order recusing and disqualifying from this case Ernby and the entire OCDA, arguing OCDA had engaged in misconduct by, amongst other things, improperly handling property seized during the criminal investigation that was protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. The AWI defendants also argued that in the UCL action, Ernby had wrongfully threatened one of the AWI defendants, their counsel, and a paralegal with criminal prosecution, a claim Ernby categorically denied. The motion to recuse was denied, and the Court of Appeal affirmed denial: he AWI defendants did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's findings. The Court found the trial court did not err by denying the motion to recuse because the evidence showed that no conflict of interest existed that would render it unlikely that the AWI defendants would receive a fair trial. View "California v. AWI Builders, Inc." on Justia Law