SAN FRANCISCO – The California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District recently ruled that the state of California is not the proper defendant in dispute regarding jury trial fees in a case alleging personal injury from a car accident.
The appeals court rejected the argument that the state was the proper defendant in the fees dispute and affirmed the motion for judgment that was ruled on by the state court.
The opinion was filed on May 17 in the First Appellate District and certified for publication June 18.
Judge William R. McGuiness authored the opinion. Judges Stuart R. Pollack and Peter J. Siggins agreed with the opinion.
The injury suit was originally filed against James Shi Ming Lu and California on July 29, 2016. Geraldine and Mark Templo alleged that California was at fault for requiring litigants to pay a non-refundable fee in order to secure a jury trial. They alleged the fee was unconstitutional.
The first two counts in the complaint were against Lu for the accident and we not at issue for the appeal – the only issue on appeal was the count against California regarding the non-refundable fee. The Templos argued the fee was an improper tax.
The state filed for judgment, arguing that the couple failed to state a cause of action against the state because it is not the state that manages the fees, and, instead, the Judicial Council would be the proper defendant.
The state also argued that the couple could not seek relief from it because of the California Government Claims Act (CGCA).
The trial court granted the motion for judgment from California, stating that the state was not the proper defendant, but also noted that the CGCA did not apply in this case.
The Templos appealed once the trial court entered judgment in favor of the state.
“The Templos contend the trial court erred in granting the state’s motion for judgment on the pleadings because the state is the proper defendant to their cause of action for declaratory relief,” McGuiness wrote. “We disagree.”
The appeals court noted that the couple did not show how they would amend their complaint to ensure it stated a “valid cause of action against the state,” and simply echoed their previous argument.
California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District Case number A151094