Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, July 31, 2017


Page 1


C.A. Remands Case, Expressing Bewilderment As to What the Parties Are Contending


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district has taken the unusual step of returning a case to the trial court because the record is too fuzzy to permit appellate review.

Div. Two was able to discern that nine long-time tenants of a Santa Monica apartment building are suing the owner of the building and do not want to arbitrate their disputes, each disclaiming have read their new leases, which they say they were compelled to sign in 2014, containing an arbitration provision. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana declined to order case into arbitration, saying that the agreements “are completely unenforceable under California law.”

But, Acting Justice Allan J. Goodman said, the justices are bewildered as to particulars.

“[W]e return this matter to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing and for clarification of the contentions of the parties, so that if then necessary we will be able to properly apply the law applicable to the issues then extant,” he wrote. “At present, we have unresolvable questions about the contentions of the parties that preclude proper analysis of the issues.”

Goodman, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge sitting on assignment, said:

“It is unclear in the present case…whether respondents’ challenge is to the arbitration clause only, or to the entirety of the 2014 Rental Agreements.  If the former, resolution of the issues may be for the court; if the latter (or both) resolution is for the arbitrator unless the party challenging the entirety of the agreement alleges that the agreement is ‘wholly void.’…Neither the briefs of the parties nor the trial court’s written ruling denying the motion to compel arbitration provides any clarity on this point.”

He also said that Recana failed to make factual findings in connection with the declarations submitted by the tenants and did not rule on some of the legal contentions put forth.

The disposition was:

“The judgment is reversed and the matter is remanded to the trial court, which is to order the parties to proffer any additional evidence and to provide additional briefing clarifying their legal contentions, followed by a court trial on the issues then presented.”

The case, which was not certified for publication, is Cerneka v. Russell No. 8, B276676.

Jason E. Goldstein, Anne Marie Ellis, and Efrat M. Cogan of Buchalter represented the owner of the apartment building and Christian J. Scali and Denise L. McGranahan of the Legal Foundation of Los Angeles acted for the tenants.


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