California Court of Appeal Affirms Strict Adherence to Jurisdictional Restrictions in Appeal from Car Accident Case

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn an appeal stemming from an automobile accident, the California Court of Appeal addressed procedural issues of jurisdictional deadlines following service of notice of entry of judgment.  This appeal centers on a rear-end automobile accident case. The plaintiff, Ms. Keely Maroney, turned right and “double parked” while her passenger used an ATM. The defendant, Asaf Iacobsohn, was driving and did not see her vehicle until it was too late to avoid a collision.

A jury tried the case and returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, Ms. Maroney.   She was found 40 percent at fault, and the defendant, Mr. Iacobsohn, was found 60 percent at fault. The plaintiff’s judgment was rendered in the amount of $44,070.

After entry of judgment, Mr. Iacobsohn moved to recover his costs based on Ms. Maroney’s rejection of his offer to compromise.

Ms. Maroney responded with a motion to tax costs and a file-stamped copy of the judgment. Twenty-two days passed, and Ms. Maroney filed a notice of intention to move for a new trial. As the grounds for relief, Ms. Maroney cited inadequate damages, insufficiency of the evidence, and an error in law. She argued the damages were inadequate because she incurred medical expenses of $275,930 due to the accident.

Mr. Iacobsohn opposed the motion on its merits, and he also argued that the notice had been filed late and that the trial court’s jurisdiction to rule on the new trial had lapsed.  He alleged that the jurisdictional time period began when Ms. Maroney served him the file-stamped copy of the judgment, as an exhibit to her motion to tax costs.   It had been 82 days since she had served the notice.

The trial court held a hearing on the new trial motion and made a conditional order, granting the motion for a new trial. The condition was that the appellate court rule its jurisdiction had not lapsed.

First, the appellate court stated that service of a notice of entry of judgment does not begin the time running for a new trial, unless the moving party is served.   If the time began to run when she served the file-stamped copy of the judgment, the trial court did not have jurisdiction. If the time began to run when she served the notice of intention to move for a new trial, the court had jurisdiction.

The court turned to the language of sections 659 and 660 in the California Rules of Court.  Here, the court stated that both statutes require that the moving party be served with a notice of entry of judgment. In this case, Ms. Maroney timely served her notice, and that commenced the 60-day jurisdictional period.

But Mr. Iacobsohn contended that Ms. Maroney waived the requirement when she attached a file-stamped copy of the judgment to her motion to tax costs. Since Ms. Maroney was not served with the notice of entry of judgment, she could not believe that attaching a copy of the judgment to her motion to tax costs would waive the service under section 659.

The court stated that strict adherence to statutory language is required by the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has expressly stated that in cases involving jurisdictional restrictions, there should be no “guesswork,” and the statutes must be read according to their express language.

Here, since Ms. Maroney had not been served with the notice of entry of judgment, her notice of intention was timely filed. The trial court had jurisdiction to rule on the new trial motion.

Regarding the conditional order, granting a new trial on a favorable appellate resolution of the disputed jurisdictional issue, the court held this had no legal effect. This results in a procedural “state of limbo,” without a final judgment or an enforceable new trial order.

The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, dismissing the appeal from the order conditionally granting a new trial.

Procedural issues can be controlling in a personal injury lawsuit. The competent attorneys at Sharifi Firm bring years of litigation experience to their representation of injured individuals. Call us today for a free consultation at 866-422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Holds Plaintiffs Entitled to Costs of Proof Due to Defendants’ Failure to Admit Requests for Admissions, Southern California Injury Blog, September 18, 2015

California Court of Appeals Reverses Dismissal of Vehicle Accident Case as Forum Issue Remains Unsettled, Southern California Injury Blog, September 11, 2015

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