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.)

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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.

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 (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.

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.