Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, January 6, 2022


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C.A. Decides Case Involving ‘Measly’ Amount

Panel Is Confronted With Dispute Over a Few Thousand Dollars Because Case Was Reclassified Below Pursuant to Unfulfilled Representation That Higher Amounts Would Be Sought


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district has devoted its resources to resolving a dispute between two businesses over what the trial court judge characterized as being “over a few measly thousand dollars,” with the justices finding no merit in the plaintiff’s contention that a company it hired to process its payroll made unauthorized deductions from its bank account.

Tuesday’s unpublished opinion by Presiding Justice Lee Edmon of this district’s Div. Three finds no fault in the March 4, 2019 decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Randolph M. Hammock granting summary judgment in favor of defendant Applied Underwriters, Inc. (“AUI”). AUI was sued by Chango Coffee, Inc. which contracted for its services in connection with a coffee house the plaintiff operated in Echo Park from 2004-11.

Hammock found the plaintiff’s contentions unsupported by evidence, and Edmon agreed.

Case Reclassified

Chango initially brought a limited-jurisdiction action against AUI. Proclaiming that it had uncovered evidence that AUI had drawn moneys from its account purportedly for payment of Chango’s workers’ compensation insurance premiums, as it was contractually obliged to do, but had not in fact made those payments, it moved for a reclassification of the case as one involving unlimited jurisdiction, claiming damages in excess of $25,000.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Sotelo granted the motion. But Chango never sought to amend its complaint to allege a failure to pay the premiums, and AUI moved for an order shunting the case back to a limited-jurisdiction courtroom.

Edmon recited that “Judge Hammock said that another bench officer had reclassified the case as a general civil case, and ‘this court...cannot simply reconsider and overrule Judge Sotelo’s order reclassifying this case to unlimited jurisdiction.’ ”

 Accordingly, Hammock, in an unlimited jurisdiction courtroom in the Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, decided a case that apparently concerned sums below the jurisdictional minimum of an unlimited-jurisdiction action, and the Court of Appeal acted on an appeal from a judgment that, but for the reclassification, would have gone to the Superior Court’s Appellate Division.

Hammock’s Comments

Hammock commented in his order granting summary judgment:

“This case, simply, is a sad example of litigation gone amok (or at least well beyond the normal madness often demonstrated in our current litigious society). On one hand there has been a seemingly endless array of trivial discovery motions, specious reconsideration motions, and spurious appeals and writs to various higher courts (including our State Supreme Court!); on the other hand there was and still is the constant bickering and name-calling between counsel accompanied by the predictable ‘sanctions’ requests, etc.

“And when all is said and done, this litigation, which just passed its five year anniversary a few months ago, boils down to a somewhat simple and pathetic dispute over a few measly thousand dollars between two corporations. Indeed, this Court wouldn’t be surprised if literally over one million dollars has either be[en] spent or incurred in legal fees over a case which should have been filed in the Small Claims court, if at all.”

Prior Opinion

The judge noted one benefit from the extensive litigation, saying: “Well at least we all now know that a party cannot directly appeal from a denial of motion for reconsideration under CCP § 1008 (b).” That was established in a May 26, 2017 decision by Div. Three which dismissed AUI’s appeal from an order denying its renewed petition to compel arbitration.

“Unfortunately, and undoubtedly, this Court predicts that the appeals and madness will continue,” Hammock said, adding: “So be it.”

The case is Chango Coffee v. Applied Underwriters, B297432.

Los Angeles attorney Thomas Montague Hall represented Chango. Michael K. Perkins and William D. Wheelock of the San Diego firm of Fine, Boggs & Perkins were attorneys for AUI.


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