Judge: Stephen I. Goorvitch, Case: 21STCV38528, Date: 2023-03-27 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 21STCV38528    Hearing Date: March 27, 2023    Dept: 39

Jonathan Hemphill v. Andrea Riser-Zanders

Case No. 21STCV38528

Motion to Quash


            Plaintiff Jonathan Hemphill, as administrator of the estate of Eunice Hemphill, (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Defendant Andrea Riser-Zanders (“Defendant”).  Plaintiff is Eunice Hemphill’s son, and Defendant is Eunice Hemphill’s sister.  Plaintiff alleges that Eunice Hemphill passed on March 17, 2017, and a petition to administer her estate was filed on or about June 28, 2021.  Plaintiff alleges that he subsequently discovered that Defendant withdrew $24,636.98 from Eunice Hemphill’s account on or about November 20, 2020, before Eunice Hemphill passed.  Accordingly, Plaintiff asserts causes of action for fraud, conversion, intentional misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation.


Defendant served a subpoena upon JP Morgan Chase Bank for all bank records for Eunice Hemphill’s account from January 1, 2016, to December 20, 2022.  Now, Plaintiff moves to quash the subpoena.  If a subpoena requires the production of documents, the Court may quash the subpoena entirely or modify it.  (Code Civ. Proc., § 1987.1, subd. (a).)  In ruling on a motion to quash, “the Court may in its discretion award the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred in making or opposing the motion, including reasonable attorney's fees, if the court finds the motion was made or opposed in bad faith or without substantial justification or that one or more of the requirements of the subpoena was oppressive.”  (Code Civ. Proc., § 1987.2, subd. (a).)


            Eunice Hemphill no longer has a right to privacy in her bank records, as she is deceased.  (Flynn v. Higham (1983) 149 Cal.App.3d 677, 683.)  The Court finds that the records are relevant to Plaintiff’s allegations.  Defendant argues that Eunice Hemphill received public benefits, which should have ceased upon her death, but Plaintiff did not inform the State of her passing.  Therefore, Eunice Hemphill’s account improperly received $24,636.98 in benefits, and Defendant alleges that she withdrew the funds to safeguard them for return to the State.  Under this theory, the records are relevant. 


            Defendant seeks sanctions in the amount of $3,560 against Plaintiff and his counsel-of-record, Estelle & Kennedy.  The Court finds that there was no substantial justification for the motion, warranting discovery sanctions.  Therefore, the Court orders Plaintiff and his counsel-of-record, Estelle & Kennedy, to pay sanctions in the amount of $2,800 based upon a reasonable billing rate of $350 per hour for a total of eight hours. 


            Plaintiff also argues that the subpoena invades “the exclusive domain power of the Court appointed administrator of the Decedent’s estate.”  There is no dispute that there is an open probate case: 21STPB04878.  However, the Supervising Judge of Civil has already determined that these cases are unrelated.  (See Court’s Minute Order, dated March 2, 2022.)  Therefore, the subpoena is appropriate. 


            Based upon the foregoing, the Court orders as follows:


            1.         The Court denies Plaintiff’s motion to quash.


            2.         The Court orders Plaintiff and his counsel-of-record, Estelle & Kennedy, to pay Defendant, through counsel, discovery sanctions in the amount of $2,800 within sixty (60) days.


            3.         The Court continues the trial setting conference to June 6, 2023, at 8:30 a.m.


            4.         Plaintiff’s counsel shall provide notice and file proof of such with the Court.