Published Opinions
Each year the California Courts of Appeal issue approximately 3,500 written opinions resolving civil appeals. Of these, only about 160 cases per year (15%) are published.

Publication is reserved for those cases that concern important issues of law. Once published, these cases become the law of the State of California, and are binding on trial court judges. These opinions are cited by attorneys and by other courts as authority for legal principals, and attorneys rely on these cases in providing advice to their clients.

Attorneys who handle appeals that become published opinions have done more than advocate on behalf of their client. They have litigated questions of law for which there was no clear answer. Win or lose, these attorneys have contributed to the understanding and development of the law and have assisted the Courts of Appeal in carrying out one of its most important public functions.

Of the many civil appeals that Herb Fox has litigated through to a final written opinion, eleven have been published. Two of these case were accepted for review and resolved by the California Supreme Court. To read the full text of these opinions, just click on the case titles.

California Supreme Court

Rice v. Clark (2002) 28 Cal.4th 89

Under what circumstances is a caretaker of an elderly person disqualified from receiving gifts under a will that the caretaker helped the elderly person draft? Here the Supreme Court reviewed and interpreted, for the first time, a statutory scheme designed to limit the ability of caretakers, attorneys and other fiduciaries from benefiting under wills drafted by those who may be unduly influenced (Probate Code §21350 et. seq.)

Estate of Griswold (2001) 25 Cal.4th 904

What should happen when a person dies without a will, and half-siblings who did not even know that they had a brother until after his death, claim rights to inheritance? The Supreme Court held here that the half-siblings had a right to a portion of the estate of a brother whom they never met and did not know existed until after his death.

California Courts of Appeal

Estate of Lira (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 1368

Under the Probate Code, a will or trust instrument can be set aside if a beneficiary is related to a person (such as an attorney) who drafted the will or trust, except if the transferor is related by blood or marriage to the beneficiary. But what happens if the transferor divorces before he or she dies, and so is no longer related to the beneficiary at the time of his or her death? The Court of Appeal answered that question in a case that became Herb's twelth published opinion.

Parks v. Safeco Insurance Co. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 992

Under what circumstances must an insurance company search its own records to determine whether it issued a policy that might cover a claim? Here, a 17 year-old minor whose parents were divorced, tendered a claim under a policy insuring the home where her mother lived. The insurance company denied coverage because the minor actually lived with her father and grandmother. But the insurance company failed to disclose that it had also issued a policy covering the grandmother’s home. The Court of Appeal found that under these unique circumstances, an insurance company has a duty to search its own records for the existence of an insurance policy that might cover the claim, and it affirmed a $3.2 million bad faith judgment. 

Reyes v. Van Elk Ltd., Inc. (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 604

Does an undocumented worker have the right to sue for payment of minimum wages after performing labor for the benefit of the employer? In this class action suit on behalf of laborers on a public works project in Los Angeles, the trial court found that workers who were not lawfully in the U.S. had no right to enforce the minimum wage laws applicable to their job. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that disallowing undocumented workers from enforcing their right to be paid lawful wages would only encourage employers to hire and exploit them.

Kleveland v. Chicago Title Insurance Co. (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 761

Is an arbitration clause in a title insurance policy enforceable where arbitration was not mentioned in the preliminary title report and where that report referred to a policy that was different than that actually issued by the insurer? The Court of Appeal found that under these circumstances, the arbitration clause was not incorporated by reference into the preliminary report and is not binding upon the insured.

Violante v. Communities Southwest Development and Construction Company (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 972 

Where a subcontractor on a public works construction project fails to pay its employees their lawful wages, can the employees hold the prime contractor liable for the unpaid wages? The Court of Appeal found that the prime contractor was not liable for its subcontractor’s failure to properly pay those wages.

Parker v. McCaw (2005) 125  Cal.App.4th 1494

An employee arbitrates claims against his employer arising from two contracts. One of these contracts provides that any dispute be arbitrated by a panel of three arbitrators; the other contract provides that only one arbitrator is necessary. Here the Court of Appeal found that the right to a three-member panel is substantial and cannot be modified by the trial court, and reversed the arbitration award issued by a single arbitrator.

Ocean View HOA v. Montecito Water District (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 396

In this California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) case, the Court of Appeal found that aesthetic concerns could constitute a substantial environmental impact that required consideration in the environmental review process.

Harris v. Sandro (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 1310

This case explores the limits of the right to appeal from a judgment that confirms an arbitration award. The Court of Appeal imposed $11,000 in sanctions against the appellant and his attorney for prosecuting a frivolous appeal.

Marriage of Bryant (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 789

This case explores the scope of a trial court’s discretion to allow a parent to move out-of-state with her children notwithstanding the objections of the other parent. 

Huijers v. Demarais (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 676

This real estate disclosure case tested the limits of the duties of a seller to disclose the existence of known property defects in a commercial property transaction.