Monday, October 24, 2016
C.A. Affirms $10,000 Sanction on Lawyer for Realleging Previously Stricken Matter
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal has affirmed a $10,000 sanction imposed on an attorney who filed a second amended complaint with allegations duplicating those the court had stricken from the first amended complaint, without additional support, as well as causes of action contained in that earlier complaint to which demurrers had been sustained.
It was San Bernardino employment attorney Giuseppe Joseph Antonelli on whom the sanction was imposed by Napa Superior Court Judge Diane Price. Her action was affirmed Thursday in an unpublished opinion by Presiding Justice Ignazio Ruvolo of Div. Four.
The superior court for Napa County was the third one in which the action, based on alleged Labor Code violations, was filed. The lead defendant is the Queen of the Valley Medical Center, located in the City of Napa.
Concepcion Vinas and others initially filed their complaint in Alameda Superior Court. The defendants moved for a change of venue on the ground that the events in question did not occur in that county and no defendant resided there.
Antonelli responded that the Napa Superior Court was not set up to handle complex litigation, and Alameda was the closest county to it that could. The trial judge found that was “factually incorrect.”
The Alameda judge granted the defendants’ motion for a change of venue to Orange County and ordered Antonelli, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure §396b, to pay attorney fees in the amount of $2,750 to the opposing side for having unreasonably resisted its motion to transfer.
The case went to Orange County; Antonelli dismissed it, without prejudice; he then re-filed it in Napa County.
Appealing the Code of Civil Procedure §170.7 sanction imposed by Price, Antonelli argued that by granting him leave to amend, the court “expressly invited” him to reallege matter contained in the earlier pleading, including those portions that had been disapproved. Ruvolo responded:
“The court’s order on the demurrer and motion to strike does allow leave to amend certain allegations where Antonelli could provide additional facts to support the claims. It did not, however, permit appellant to file the [second amended complaint] relying on the same allegations as in the [first amended complaint]. The fact that appellant added additional language and details did not necessarily alter the claims or make them viable.”
He noted that the defendants had requested sanctions in the amount of $28,080. In awarding a lesser amount, the jurist explained, Price took into account that some of the content of the new pleading was “consistent with the court’s earlier ruling.”
Claims ‘Stellar Reputation’
Ruvolo recited that Antonelli “repeatedly asserts that he is an attorney with a ‘stellar reputation,’ who has never previously been sanctioned, and he should not be sanctioned here.” He said the hospital is correct that an attorney’s reputation is of no relevance in connection with an award of sanctions under §128.7, adding:
“Moreover, as appellant concedes in his reply brief, his claim that he has never been sanctioned before is factually incorrect. Appellant was previously sanctioned by the Alameda County Superior Court in this lawsuit for his refusal to stipulate to a change of venue.”
Antonelli said yesterday that the jurists hearing the appeal—Ruvolo and Justices Timothy A. Reardon and Maria P. Rivera—were “an excellent panel,” and remarked that he “will respect the decision.”
Telling why the case was sent to Orange County—which was not explained in the opinion—he said:
“The initial filing named a number of related Defendants and the principal place of the defendant we named as the joint employer was in Orange County.”
The case is Vinas v. Queen of the Valley Medical Center, A143541.
Antonelli and two members of his Chino Hills law firm are listed in the opinion as attorneys for the plaintiffs/appellants. However, the only matter in issue was the sanction imposed on Antonelli, who is listed as his own attorney.
Derek Richard Havel, Daniel John McQueen, Marlene Maria Nicolas, and Matthew A Tobias of the Los Angeles office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP represented Queen of the Valley Medical Center.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company