Hon. Richard M. Aronson (Ret.) served as an associate justice on the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three, for nearly 20 years. Justice Aronson authored approximately 1,600 opinions, including more than 180 that were published, covering nearly every aspect of California law. He also served more than 10 years on the Orange County Superior Court, beginning in 1989 when the Orange County Superior Court judges selected him to be a superior court commissioner. He later became the first commissioner to receive a trial court assignment. He was appointed to superior court in 1996. During his tenure he completed panel assignments for unlimited civil trials, felony criminal trials, family law, and sat on the law and motion panel and the court’s appellate division.
Before his appointment to the bench, Justice Aronson was a senior staff attorney at the Court of Appeal and a deputy public defender in Orange County, where he tried major felonies and supervised the homicide panel and the writs and appeals department. As a deputy district attorney in San Bernardino County, he prosecuted major felonies, including homicides and sexual assault crimes, and as a private practitioner, he focused on civil and criminal litigation.
Justice Aronson has served as a faculty member for the California Judicial College and New Judge Orientation; a lecturer at the California State Bar, the Rutter Group and Continuing Education of the Bar; and a speaker before various bar groups. As an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine Law School and Chapman School of Law, he taught courses on evidence and trial advocacy.
- 20 years as a justice and justice pro tem on the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three
- Conducted numerous settlement conferences while serving on the civil trial panel of the Orange County Superior Court
- Bank of America v. Byrd (2019) WL 5541259: Rejected defendant’s claim she was not liable for her credit card debt based on the “least sophisticated debtor” standard under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The “least sophisticated debtor” standard did not apply because defendant failed to assert a claim under the FDCPA and because a reasonable person would understand the last statement reflected the total amount due.
- Colaco v. Cavotec SA (2018) 25 Cal. App. 5th 1172: The seller of assets sued the buyer for breaching the asset purchase agreement. Buyer’s obligation to make the final earn-out payment was independent of seller’s obligation to forward to the buyer its post-closing payments. Consequently, the seller’s failure to forward the post-closing payments provided an offset rather than an excuse for nonperformance.
- California Bank & Trust v. Lawlor (2013) 222 Cal. App. 4th 625: The sham guarantee defense does not apply to guarantees given by individual defendants on a loan taken out by an affiliated company. Defendants failed to present evidence that there was a unity of interest between them and the primary obligors on the loan or that the lender structured the loan to circumvent the anti-deficiency law
- Holcomb v. Wells Fargo (2007) 155 Cal. App. 5th 490: The California Uniform Commercial Code does not bar a negligent misrepresentation claim where the bank manager negligently misrepresented that a deposit “had been verified” and the customer could write checks against the deposit.
- Nissan Motor Acceptance Cases (2021) 63 Cal. App. 5th 793: Substantial evidence supported the jury’s finding that an auto manufacturer’s finance company negligently misrepresented to its dealer that it would not shut the dealer down for missing certain payments owed under its franchise agreement. Substantial evidence also showed the dealer fraudulently concealed material information that was contrary to its earlier promise.
- Kwitz-Ahlers v. Bank of America (2020) 48 Cal. App. 5th 952: Banks do not have a duty to investigate and disclose possible fraudulent activity in another depositor’s account. Requiring banks to monitor the accounts of its depositors’ suspicious activities for the benefit of its other depositors would impede the expedited process of banking transactions crucial to the economy and compromise customer privacy.
- Taubee v. EJ Distribution Corp. (2019) 35 Cal. App. 5th 590: No duty to instruct on negligence per se where the motorist’s vehicle code violation was not the proximate cause of the accident.
- Barber v. Chang (2007) 151 Cal App. 4th 1456: Negligence action examined the general duty of landlords to protect tenants and invitees from the risk of harm posed by a potentially violent tenant. Landlord failed to carry his initial burden on summary judgment to show he owed no duty to undertake minimally burdensome measures to alleviate the risk.
- Swanson v. Morongo Unified School District (2014) 22 Cal. App. 4th 964: Plaintiff sued a school district for wrongfully failing to renew her teaching contract under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), alleging the district discriminated against her because she took time off to receive cancer treatments. Plaintiff’s status as an untenured teacher on probation did not deprive her of FEHA’s protections. The district failed to meet its initial burden on summary judgment because it failed to present any evidence on plaintiff’s interactive process claim and failed to show it offered a reasonable accommodation for the plaintiff’s condition.
- Verdugo v. Alliantgroup, L.P. (2015) 237 Cal. App. 4th 141: In this lawsuit for unpaid overtime wages, failure to provide itemized wage statements and failure to pay commissions, the defendant employer moved to stay the action based on the forum selection clause in the employment contract. Defendant failed to meet its burden to show that enforcing a forum selection clause would not diminish the unwaivable rights the Labor Code confers on all California employees to timely receive their proper pay and itemized wage statements.
- Wills v. Superior Court (2011) 195 Cal. App. 4th 143: Discussed the requirements for FEHA’s administrative exhaustion requirement. Plaintiff sued her employer for disability discrimination when it terminated her for threatening her co-workers and a police officer. The court on summary judgment may not consider whether plaintiff’s comments reasonably could be construed as threatening. Instead, it must determine whether the employer honestly believed plaintiff violated its written policy against verbal threats and threatening conduct.
- Brand v. Hyundai Motor Corporation (2014) 226 Cal. App. 4th 1538: Nonsuit erroneously granted in a buyer’s action against a car dealer alleging a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. A reasonable jury could conclude a sunroof that spontaneously opens and closes while the car is being driven creates a substantial hazard, making it unmerchantable.
- Laliberte v. Pacific Mercantile (2007) 147 Cal. App. 4th 1: Class action alleged bank failed to accurately disclose its finance charges, in violation of the Truth in Lending Act. Trial court erred in denying plaintiffs leave to amend the class claim in their complaint because it appeared they could allege sufficient facts showing they shared a common interest with the class they sought to represent. But plaintiffs could not allege a class claim seeking rescission because rescission under the Truth in Lending Act is a personal remedy not suitable for class action treatment.
- Authored numerous anti-SLAPP cases, including the following: —
- Sandlin v. McLaughlin (2020) 50 Cal. App. 5th 805: Candidate statement qualified as protected activity because it contributed to the ongoing public debate over where to locate a veterans cemetery and therefore was a matter of public interest.
- ValueRock TN Properties, LLC v. Pk II Larwin Square SC LP (2019) 36 Cal. App. 5th 1037: The gravamen of plaintiffs’ second amended complaint was the landlord’s refusal to consent to an amended request for an assignment of a ground lease in a shopping center made while the case was pending. The landlord’s response during the litigation was not a protected settlement communication or litigation-related conduct.
- Paterno v. Superior Court (2008) 163 Cal. App. 4th 1342: A libel plaintiff cannot establish good cause for special discovery under the anti-SLAPP statute without a prima facie showing the allegedly libelous statements are false and unprivileged.
- Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 148 Cal. App. 4th 71: Defamation action by public figure plaintiffs against defendant who reported plaintiffs were under investigation for mail fraud. To demonstrate probability of success in opposing defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion, plaintiffs are required to show falsity by preponderance of evidence and malice by clear and convincing evidence.
- Kolar v. Donahue, McIntosh & Hammerton (2006) 145 Cal. App. 4th 1532: A malpractice cause of action is ordinarily not a protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute because it does not arise from petitioning activity undertaken on the client’s behalf, but instead arises from the attorney’s failure to competently represent the client.
- Chambers v. Miller (2006) 140 Cal. App. 4th 821: Trial court may not award attorneys’ fees under the anti-SLAPP statute when the plaintiff dismissed all claims against the moving defendants before they filed their anti-SLAP motion.
- Integrated Healthcare Holdings, Inc. v. Fitzgibbons (2006) 140 Cal. App. 4th 515: Disputed issues included whether the defendant doctor’s email to his hospital’s medical executive committee concerned a matter of public interest under section 425.16, subdivision (e)(4) of the anti-SLAPP statute based on his statement the potential purchaser of the hospital faced bankruptcy.
- Guillory v. Hill (2015) 233 Cal. App. 4th 240: Disputed issues included whether the doctrine of qualified immunity shielded a deputy sheriff from liability for a civil rights violation (42 U.S.C. 1983) based on an alleged prolonged detention of partygoers while executing a search warrant of the residence.
- Hessians Motorcycle Club v. J.C. Flanagans (2001) 86 Cal. App. 4th 833: In addition to the specific forms of discrimination prohibited by the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the statute also prohibits discrimination based on classifications not specifically identified in the statute, including discrimination based on unconventional dress. But no violation occurs when a sports bar’s policy requires members of motorcycle clubs to remove the patches on their motorcycle jackets. Policy applied to all persons to further the legitimate business interest in preventing fights between rival clubs.
- Brown v. TGS Management Company, LLC (2020) 57 Cal. App. 5th 303: Disputed issues included whether the arbitrator exceeded his powers when issuing an award enforcing provisions of an employment agreement that restricted a party’s right to work and compete with his former employer.
- Mejia v. DACM Inc. (2020) 54 Cal. App. 5th 691 and Clifford v. Quest Software Inc. (2019) 38 Cal. App. 5th 745: These cases applied the McGill rule (McGill v. Citibank, NA (2017) 2 Cal. 5th 945) [arbitration provision waiving the right to seek public injunctive relief is invalid and unenforceable] to resolve whether the plaintiff’s allegations sought public or private injunctive relief.
- Buckhorn v. St. Jude Heritage Medical Group (2004) 121 Cal. App. 4th 1401: Torts independent of the employment relationship are outside the scope of an arbitration agreement unless the alleged torts are “rooted” in the contractual relationship between the employer and employee.
- As a trial court judge and appellate justice, handled legal malpractice claims involving general litigation, such as failing to investigate, subpoena material witnesses, conduct adequate discovery, submit correct instructions or move for a continuance; conflicts arising from multiple representations, and whether the former client had knowledge of an actual injury or whether an actual injury occurred triggering the statute of limitations
- As a trial court judge and appellate justice handled medical malpractice claims, including the alleged negligent use of an esophageal stethoscope, allegations of negligently performing perineal nerve surgery, administering a facial chemical peel and negligently interpreting diagnostic tests, and covering numerous issues, including informed consent, standard of care and causation
- McDermott Will & Emery LLP v. Superior Court (2017) 10 Cal. App. 5th 1083: Substantial evidence supported trial court’s ruling disqualifying a party’s attorney when the attorney received an opposing party’s inadvertently disclosed attorney-client communications, reviewed the privileged material and used it during a deposition. This violated an attorney’s duty to review an opponent’s inadvertently disclosed document no more than necessary to determine if it is privileged, notify privilege holder and refrain from using it until the parties or the court resolve any dispute about its privileged nature.
- DP Pham v. Cheadle (2016) 246 Cal. App. 4th 653: Once the proponent makes a prima facie showing of a confidential attorney-client communication, it is presumed the communication is privileged, and the burden shifts to the opponent to establish waiver, an exception or that the privilege does not apply for some other reason. The opponent may not rely on the content of the communication to make that showing.
- Catalina Island Yacht Club v. Superior Court (2015) 242 Cal. App. 4th 1116: Disputed issues included whether a deficient privilege log allowed the trial court to find a waiver of the attorney-county privilege and the work product doctrine.
- Hailey v. California Physicians’ Service (2007) 158 Cal. App. 4th 452: Health and Safety Code section 1389.3 prohibits a health insurer from denying coverage to its insured based on a misrepresentation in the application unless the insurer presents evidence the applicant’s misstatement was willful or evidence the insurer made reasonable efforts to ensure the application was accurate and complete as part of the precontract underwriting process.
- Levy v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. (2007) 150 Cal. App. 4th 1: California law does not preclude an auto insurer from including its contracted repair shops in determining prevailing competitive repair labor rates for its repair estimates.
- In re Marriage of Minkin (2017) 11 Cal. App. 5th 939: The parties agreed in their stipulated judgment dissolving their marriage that the husband would pay his former spouse a certain percentage of his annual bonuses as additional spousal support. Substantial evidence supported the trial court’s interpretation of the ambiguous annual bonus term as a discretionary performance-based payment by the husband’s employer.
- Noergaard v. Noergaard (2015) 244 Cal. App. 4th 76: Mother’s due process rights were violated when trial court ordered a child returned to Denmark under the Hague Convention without holding a hearing on mother’s claim the father posed a grave risk of physical harm to the child.
- In re Marriage of Prentis-Margulis & Margulis (2011) 198 Cal. App. 4th 1252: When a non-managing spouse makes a prima facie showing concerning the existence and value of community assets in the other spouse’s control postseparation, the burden shifts to the managing spouse to rebut the showing or prove a lesser value of the asset.
- Larson v. UHS of Rancho Springs, Inc. (2014) 203 Cal. App. 4th 336: Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) applies to intentional torts when they arise out of or are based on the health care professional’s medical negligence. Plaintiff based his battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress claim on the anesthesiologist’s forceful manner in administering anesthesia, which amounts to a claim the defendant anesthesiologist failed to meet the applicable standard of care. Consequently, the one-year statute of limitations applied under MICRA.
- PacificCare of California v. Bright Medical Associates, Inc. (2011) 198 Cal. App. 4th 1451: Medical service plan was jointly liable for its medical provider’s malpractice when its delay in treatment led to the patient’s death. The trial court had the authority to make a good faith settlement determination between plaintiffs and the medical provider because plaintiffs alleged the medical plan’s conduct in designing and implementing its health care service plan contributed to the delay in treatment.
- Michele K. Superior Court (2013) 221 Cal. App. 4th 409: Whether a gravely developmentally disabled person should remain in a development center or transition into a less restrictive community-based facility.
- Nellie Gail Ranch Owners Association v. McMullin (2016) 4 Cal. App. 5th 982: Disputed issues included whether an alleged adverse possessor presented sufficient evidence to relieve the claimant from the statutory requirement to pay property taxes on the claimed property and whether the trial court abused its discretion in granting a homeowners’ association a mandatory injunction requiring the defendant to remove portions of a retaining wall and restore the surrounding areas to its natural condition.
- Dyer v. Martinez (2017) 147 Cal. App. 4th 1240: A new buyer of real property had no constructive notice of a lis pendens trust that was filed but not indexed until after the new buyer’s escrow closed. New buyer therefore took the property free from the plaintiff’s claim because the lis pendens could not have been located by a diligent title search.
- City of Irvine v. County of Orange (2013) 221 Cal. App. 4th 846: County’s application for state funding to expand one of its jail facilities did not constitute a project approval under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because it did not commit the county to a definite course of action.
- Rossberg v. Bank of America N.A. (2013) 219 Cal. App. 4th 1481: Borrowers failed to state fraud clause of action because they failed to allege their reliance on the promised loan modifications caused them to default on their loans or prevented them from curing their existing defaults.
Probate, Estates and Trusts
- Stennet v. Miller (2019) 34 Cal. App. 5th 284: The nonmarital biological daughter of an absentee father who never openly held her out as his own did not have standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 to sue for wrongful death because she failed to obtain a court order declaring paternity during the father’s lifetime. The standing requirements of section 377.60 did not violate the state of federal equal protection clauses.
- Estate of Trikha (2013) 219 Cal. App. 4th 791: Primary issue addressed whether the appellant had rebutted a statutory presumption that his father had revoked his will by destroying it. The probate court incorrectly weighed all the evidence in determining whether the revocation presumption applied rather than determining whether the appellant’s evidence constituted substantial evidence negating the revocation presumption.
- Fazzi v. Klein (2010) 190 Cal. Ap. 4th 1280: Disputed issues included whether a trust’s “no contest” clause applied to the subtrusts.