Judge: Michael E. Whitaker, Case: 21STCV01895, Date: 2023-03-21 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 21STCV01895    Hearing Date: March 21, 2023    Dept: 32

PLEASE NOTE:   Parties are encouraged to meet and confer concerning this tentative ruling to determine if a resolution may be reached.  If the parties are unable to reach a resolution and a party intends to submit on this tentative ruling, the party must send an email to the Court at sscdept32@lacourt.org indicating that party’s intention to submit.  The email shall include the case number, date and time of the hearing, counsel’s contact information (if applicable), and the identity of the party submitting on this tentative ruling.  If the Court does not receive an email indicating the parties are submitting on this tentative ruling and there are no appearances at the hearing, the Court may place the motion off calendar or adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court.  If all parties do not submit on this tentative ruling, they should arrange to appear in-person or remotely (which is highly encouraged).  Further, after the Court has posted/issued a tentative ruling, the Court has the inherent authority to prohibit the withdrawal of the subject motion and adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court. 

 

TENTATIVE RULING

 

DEPARTMENT

32

HEARING DATE

March 21, 2023

CASE NUMBER

21STCV01895

MOTIONS

Demurrer to First Amended Complaint

MOVING PARTIES

Defendants HREH LLC, Stan Huang and Nancy Huang

OPPOSING PARTY

Plaintiff Robert Ames

 

MOTION

 

Plaintiff Robert Ames (Plaintiff) sued Defendant HREH LLC, aka Stan Huang and Nancy F. Huang (Defendant) based on a trip and fall in a gym parking lot.  Defendants HREH LLC, Stan Huang, and Nancy Huang demurrer to Plaintiff’s complaint on the grounds of uncertainty and for failure to state facts sufficient to constitute causes of action for general negligence, personal injury and premises liability.  Plaintiff opposes the demurrer.

 

ANALYSIS

 

1.     DEMURRER

 

“It is black letter law that a demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the allegations in a complaint.”  (Lewis v. Safeway, Inc. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 385, 388.)  In ruling on a demurrer, the court must “liberally construe[]” the allegations of the complaint.  (Code Civ. Proc., § 452.)  “This rule of liberal construction means that the reviewing court draws inferences favorable to the plaintiff, not the defendant.”  (Perez v. Golden Empire Transit Dist. (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 1228, 1238.)

 

The basic elements of an actionable negligence claim are: (1) a duty on the part of defendant toward plaintiff; (2) defendant’s breach of that duty; (3) and harm to the plaintiff caused by the breach.  (Kesner v. Superior Court (2016) 1 Cal.5th 1132, 1142.)  Moreover, the elements of a cause of action for premises liability are the same as those for negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages.  (McIntyre v. The Colonies-Pacific, LLC (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 664, 671.) 

 

A demurrer for uncertainty will be sustained only where the pleading is so bad that the

responding party cannot reasonably respond, i.e., he or she cannot reasonably determine what issues must be admitted or denied, or what claims are directed against him or her. (Khoury v. Maly’s of California (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 612, 616.) Where a demurrer is made upon the ground of uncertainty, the demurrer must distinctly specify exactly how or why the pleading is uncertain, and where such uncertainty appears by reference to page and line numbers. (See Fenton v. Groveland Comm. Services Dist. (1982) 135 Cal.App.3d 797, 809.)

 

Here, Defendants demur to all three causes of action in the complaint for failure to allege facts sufficient to sufficient to constitute a cause of action and as uncertain.  First, Defendants argue that the FAC contains an unclear representation of Defendants as “HREH, LLC aka STAN HUANG & NANCY HUANG” which makes it unclear as to what relationship Plaintiff is alleging between the parties.  (See Complaint, ¶ 2.)  In his opposition Plaintiff concedes that the way in which he named the parties could cause confusion, and requests leave to amend the complaint to separately name each Defendant as “HREH LLC; STAN HUANG; NANCY HUANG.”  (See Plaintiff’s Opposition, pp. 1-2.) 

 

Next, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s FAC fails because it has not alleged facts to support a theory of alter ego liability against Defendants Stan Huang and Nancy Huang.  In opposition, Plaintiff attests that FAC does not allege liability against Defendants Stan Huang and Nancy Huang via an alter ego theory of liability, but rather imputes liability against them as owners of the property where the underlying incident occurred.  The Court finds that based on the ambiguous way Defendants are currently named in the FAC, it is impossible to assess what duty of care if any is imposed on each named defendant regardless of the theory of liability.

 

As such, the Court shall sustain Defendants’ demurrer to the FAC on the basis of uncertainty.

 

2.     LEAVE TO AMEND

 

A plaintiff has the burden of showing in what manner the amended complaint could be amended and how the amendment would change the legal effect of the complaint, i.e., state a cause of action.  (See The Inland Oversight Committee v City of San Bernardino (2018) 27 Cal.App.5th 771, 779; PGA West Residential Assn., Inc. v Hulven Int'l, Inc. (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 156, 189.)  A plaintiff must not only state the legal basis for the amendment, but also the factual allegations sufficient to state a cause of action or claim.  (See PGA West Residential Assn., Inc. v Hulven Int'l, Inc., supra, 14 Cal.App.5th at p. 189.)  Moreover, a plaintiff does not meet his or her burden by merely stating in the opposition to a demurrer or motion to strike that “if the Court finds the operative complaint deficient, plaintiff respectfully requests leave to amend.”  (See Major Clients Agency v Diemer (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 1116, 1133; Graham v Bank of America (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 594, 618 [asserting an abstract right to amend does not satisfy the burden].) 

 

            Here Plaintiff explains how he will cure the above cited deficiencies in the FAC by renaming Defendants separately as follows: “HREH LLC; STAN HUANG; NANCY HUANG.”  Accordingly, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend.

 

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

 

Therefore, the Court sustains Defendants’ demurrer to the FAC with leave to amend, and orders Plaintiff to file and serve an amended complaint in conformance with the Court’s ruling on or before April 21, 2023. 

 

Defendants shall provide notice of the Court’s ruling and file a proof of service of such.