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Tentative Ruling
Judge Pauline Maxwell
Department 6 SB-Anacapa
1100 Anacapa Street P.O. Box 21107 Santa Barbara, CA 93121-1107

CIVIL LAW & MOTION

Truck Insurance Exchange vs Oilcanners Construction Consulting et al

Case No: 16CV02600
Hearing Date: Wed Dec 13, 2017 9:30

Nature of Proceedings: Motion: Transfer

TENTATIVE RULING: The motion is denied, without prejudice to its renewal with full compliance with the requirements set forth in Code of Civil Procedure section 403.

 

 

Background: On July 23, 2015, Rocky Sala was working as a welder for Precision Welding, Inc. (PWI), on a job site in Palmdale, California. PWI was working with Oilcanners and Miller on a project to remove a clamshell building near the Palmdale Lockheed Airport. A man-lift rented by PWI and operated by Miller allegedly ran over Sala’s toes, causing serious injuries to his foot. Sala filed a claim with plaintiff Truck Insurance Exchange (Truck), PWI’s worker’s compensation carrier.

Truck filed a complaint for recovery of worker’s compensation benefits against Oilcanners on February 4, 2016, in the Orange County Superior Court. The parties stipulated to transfer the case to Santa Barbara, since Oilcanners is domiciled and has its principal place of business in Santa Barbara.

On July 18, 2017, Sala filed a complaint for personal injuries in Los Angeles Superior Court, Antelope Valley Courthouse (LASC Case No. MC027246) against Oilcanners, Miller, and Gary Little Construction, Inc. (GLC), the general contractor at the worksite. On October 6, 2017, GLC answered and filed a cross-complaint for indemnity against Oilcanners, Miller, and PWI. While Oilcanners and Miller have answered Sala’s complaint, they have not yet been served with the cross-complaint, and have not answered it. PWI has not retained counsel or appeared in that action.

Counsel for Miller/Oilcanners inquired of Sala’s counsel whether he would stipulate to transfer the personal injury action to Santa Barbara County and consolidate it with this action. Counsel agreed to do so, and signed a stipulation to that effect. Counsel for Miller/Oilcanners also inquired of Truck’s counsel whether he would stipulate to the transfer/consolidation, and he, too, agreed and signed a stipulation to that effect. Counsel for Miller/Oilcanners first became aware on October 10, 2017 that GLC had appeared in the Sala action. On October 11, 2017, counsel for Miller/Oilcanners contacted GLC’s counsel to inquire whether he would stipulate to the transfer/consolidation. He responded he would discuss the matter with his client. Counsel for Miller/Oilcanners sent the stipulation and proposed order to GLC’s counsel, but he has neither signed the stipulation nor stated whether he will sign it. Counsel for Miller/Oilcanners also contacted the offices of PWI to inquire whether it had retained counsel or intended to appear in Sala’s action, but has not received a response. To date, PWI has not appeared in that action.

Motion: Miller and Oilcanners have filed this motion to transfer the Los Angeles County action to Santa Barbara County and consolidate it with this action. Their motion asserts that both this action and the LASC personal injury action arise from the same on-the-job injury sustained by Mr. Sala. All parties have agreed to the transfer of the LASC action to Santa Barbara and its consolidation with this action, except GLC and PWI. The action is not complex. The same witnesses and evidence will be proffered in both matters. Miller/Oilcanners are domiciled in Santa Barbara. Sala knew of the existence of this action when he filed the LASC action. Both actions are in the early stages. Miller and Oilcanners assert that consolidation would effect a more efficient utilization of judicial resources, and avoid the possibility of inconsistent rulings, orders and judgments. Plaintiffs in both actions have stipulated to the transfer and consolidation.

There is no filed opposition to the motion.

Analysis: The motion is denied, without prejudice to its renewal with proper service.

Code of Civil Procedure section 403 provides, in relevant part:

A judge may, on motion, transfer an action or actions from another court to that judge’s court for coordination with an action involving a common question of fact or law within the meaning of Section 404. The motion shall be supported by a declaration stating facts showing that the actions meet the standards specified in Section 404.1, are not complex as defined by the Judicial Council and that the moving party has made a good faith effort to obtain agreement to the transfer form all parties to each action. Notice of the motion shall be served on all parties to each action and on each court in which an action is pending. Any party to that action may file papers opposing the motion within the time permitted by rule of the Judicial Council. The court to which a case is transferred may order the cases consolidated for trial pursuant to Section 1048 without any further motion or hearing.

Code of Civil Procedure sections 404 and 404.1, referenced in Section 403, relate generally to petitions to the Judicial Council for coordination of civil actions, which is not being requested here. While coordination is one of the ultimate results permissible when a motion to transfer filed pursuant to Section 403 is granted, the transfer also may result in consolidation under its express terms. However, Section 403 adopts their standards with respect to the actions’ involvement of common questions of fact or law, regardless of whether coordination or consolidation will result. In particular, Section 404.1 provides:

Coordination of civil actions sharing a common question of fact or law is appropriate if one judge hearing all of the actions for all purposes in a selected site or sites will promote the ends of justice taking into account whether the common question of fact or law is predominating and significant to the litigation; the convenience of parties, witnesses, and counsel; the relative development of the actions and the work product of counsel; the efficient utilization of judicial facilities and manpower; the calendar of the course; the disadvantages of duplicative and inconsistent rulings, orders, or judgments; and, the likelihood of settlement of the actions without further litigation should coordination be denied.

As noted above, Section 403 requires that a motion to transfer be served on all parties to each action and on each court in which an action is pending. The proof of service attached to the motion reflects service on all parties to each action except PWI. Under some circumstances, parties who have not yet appeared in actions do not need to be served with motion papers. However, PWI is a party to the Los Angeles action only, and could well have significant information of relevance to the propriety of moving that action to Santa Barbara County. While it had not appeared in that action as of the time this motion was filed on November 14, 2017, it could well have done so or be preparing to do so at this time, and it should at least be served with the moving papers. The proof of service also fails to reflect the required service upon the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The service requirements for a motion under Section 403 are not mere technicalities. They are requirements which must be met before the Court can consider the motion on its merits.

As a result, the motion will be denied, without prejudice to its renewal with full compliance with the requirements set forth in Section 403.

 
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