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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 Jan 10, 2018 9:30

Nature of Proceedings: Motion: Transfer and Consolidate

TENTATIVE RULING:

For the reasons set forth herein, the court will grant the motion of defendant Oilcanners Construction Consulting, Inc., and orders the transfer of Rocky Sala v. Edward Miller, et al., Los Angeles County Superior Court case number MC027246, to this court and orders the Los Angeles action consolidated with this action upon transfer, with this action as the lead case. Counsel for the moving party shall comply with Rules of Court, rule 3.500(e) and (f) in serving the order as required and in taking all other further steps necessary to complete the transfer and consolidation.

 

Background:

On July 23, 2015, Rocky Sala was at a job site in Palmdale, California performing welding work for his employer at the time, Precision Welding, Inc. (PWI). (Slater decl., ¶ 2.) PWI was working with defendant Oilcanners Construction Consulting, Inc., (Oilcanners) and its principal, Ed Miller on a project to remove a clamshell building located near the Palmdale Lockheed Airport. (Ibid.) During the course of the project, Sala alleges that a man-lift rented by PWI and operated by Miller ran over Sala’s toes, causing him to sustain serious injuries to his foot. (Ibid.) Sala subsequently filed a claim with plaintiff Truck Insurance Exchange (Truck), which is PWI’s worker's compensation carrier. (Ibid.) Sala received workers’ compensation payments from Truck. (Ibid.) On February 4, 2016, Truck filed this action in Orange County Superior Court to recover from Oilcanners the worker’s compensation benefits that Truck paid to or on behalf of Sala. (Ibid.) This action was subsequently transferred to this court on June 21, 2016, upon stipulation of the parties, based upon Oilcanners’s principal place of business in Santa Barbara. (Ibid.)

On July 18, 2017, Sala filed a complaint for personal injuries in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Antelope Valley Courthouse, Sala v. Miller, Los Angeles County Superior Court case number MC027246 (the Los Angeles Action), against Oilcanners, Miller, and another entity named Gary Little Construction, Inc. (GLC), which was the general contractor at the worksite where Sala sustained his injuries. (Slater decl., ¶ 3.) Oilcanners and Miller filed their answer to Sala’s complaint on November 9, 2017. (Ibid.) On October 6, 2017, GLC filed a cross-complaint against Oilcanners, Miller, and PWI seeking indemnification for the relief sought by Sala in his complaint. (Ibid.) GLC’s cross-complaint has not yet been served on Oilcanners and Miller, and so Oilcanners and Miller have not yet filed their answers to the cross-complaint. (Ibid.) PWI has yet to retain counsel or appear in that action. (Ibid.)

This action involves the same facts and law insofar as the Los Angeles Action seeks compensation for Sala’s injuries in the accident and this action seeks reimbursement of workers’ compensation benefits paid to or on behalf of Sala for the same accident. (Slater decl., ¶ 8.) The same witnesses and evidence will be proffered in both actions and convenience and efficiency are served by litigating all matters in the same court. (Ibid.) Both matters are in their early stages and there are no scheduling issues or problems because of one case being farther along than the other. (Ibid.) Neither action is complex within the meaning of California Rules of Court, rule 3.400(a).

Oilcanners now moves to transfer the Los Angeles Action here and consolidate it with this action.

Counsel for Oilcanners has contacted counsel for plaintiff Truck in this action and plaintiff Sala in the Los Angles Action. (Slater decl., ¶¶ 4, 5.) Both of these counsel, on behalf of their respective clients, have agreed to the requested transfer and have signed a stipulation to that effect. (Ibid.) Counsel for Oilcanners also spoke with counsel for GLC, who stated that he would discuss the matter with his client but has neither agreed nor stated opposition despite further inquiries. (Slater decl., ¶ 6.) Counsel for Oilcanners also spoke with the person apparently in charge of PWI, who stated that the matter had been referred to PWI’s insurer, but counsel had not been appointed and he had no position as to the requested transfer. (Slater decl., ¶ 7.) As of the filing of this motion, PWI has not appeared in the Los Angeles Action. (Ibid.)

No opposition or other response has been filed by any party or other person to the motion.

Analysis:

“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 from 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 Civ. Proc., § 403.)

“A party that intends to file a motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 403 must first make a good-faith effort to obtain agreement of all parties to each case to the proposed transfer and consolidation.” (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.500(b).)

“A motion to transfer an action under Code of Civil Procedure section 403 must conform to the requirements generally applicable to motions, and must be supported by a declaration stating facts showing that:

            “(1) The actions are not complex;

            “(2) The moving party has made a good-faith effort to obtain agreement to the transfer and consolidation from all parties to the actions; and

            “(3) The moving party has notified all parties of their obligation to disclose to the court any information they may have concerning any other motions requesting transfer of any case that would be affected by the granting of the motion before the court.” (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.500(c).)

“If the court orders that the case or cases be transferred from another court, the order must specify the reasons supporting a finding that the transfer will promote the ends of justice, with reference to the following standards:

            “(1) The actions are not complex;

            “(2) Whether the common question of fact or law is predominating and significant to the litigation;

            “(3) The convenience of the parties, witnesses, and counsel;

            “(4) The relative development of the actions and the work product of counsel;

            “(5) The efficient utilization of judicial facilities and staff resources;

            “(6) The calendar of the courts;

            “(7) The disadvantages of duplicative and inconsistent rulings, orders, or judgments; and

            “(8) The likelihood of settlement of the actions without further litigation should coordination be denied.” (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.500(d).)

The court finds that a transfer of the Los Angeles Action to this court and consolidation with this action will promote the ends of justice. The two cases are essentially the same case, seeking damages arising out of the same accident with the same witnesses, parties, and evidence. Consolidation is highly desirable to promote efficiency according to the standards of rule 3.500 if not actually required. (See Lab. Code, § 3853; County of San Diego v. Sanfax Corp. (1977) 19 Cal.3d 862, 872.) The two actions are both in their early stages and there is no disadvantage or problem in transfer relative to the respective status of the cases. Failure to transfer would raise considerable potential problems of conflicting and duplicative rulings, discovery, and court proceedings.

Accordingly, the court will grant the motion and order transfer of the Los Angeles Action to this court and will order the Los Angeles Action consolidated with this action upon transfer. Counsel for the moving party shall comply with Rules of Court, rule 3.500(e) and (f) in serving the order as required and in taking all other further steps necessary to complete the transfer and consolidation.

 
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