This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 03/06/2022 at 16:11:06 (UTC).

ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN, ET AL. VS STATE FARM MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY

Case Summary

On 10/19/2021 ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN filed a Contract - Insurance lawsuit against STATE FARM MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is ELAINE LU. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******8503

  • Filing Date:

    10/19/2021

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Insurance

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

ELAINE LU

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

EGEBYAN HRIPSIME

GRIGORYAN ARAMAYIS

Defendants

STATE FARM MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

BYBERG GREGORY B

Defendant Attorney

TOMAINO DOMINIQUE

 

Court Documents

Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO STRIKE OF STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY

2/14/2022: Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO STRIKE OF STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY

Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER OF STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY

2/14/2022: Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER OF STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY

Reply - REPLY TO PLAINTIFFS OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF COMPLAINT

2/16/2022: Reply - REPLY TO PLAINTIFFS OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF COMPLAINT

Reply - REPLY TO PLAINTIFFS OPPOSITION TO THE DEMURRER

2/16/2022: Reply - REPLY TO PLAINTIFFS OPPOSITION TO THE DEMURRER

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: FAILURE T...)

2/22/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: FAILURE T...)

Case Management Statement

2/22/2022: Case Management Statement

Order - ORDER RE: DEFENDANT STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANYS DEMURRER AND MOTION TO STRIKE THE COMPLAINT

2/24/2022: Order - ORDER RE: DEFENDANT STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANYS DEMURRER AND MOTION TO STRIKE THE COMPLAINT

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON DEMURRER - WITH MOTION TO STRIKE (CCP 430.10) DEFE...)

2/24/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON DEMURRER - WITH MOTION TO STRIKE (CCP 430.10) DEFE...)

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (NUNC PRO TUNC ORDER)

2/24/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (NUNC PRO TUNC ORDER)

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON DEMURRER - WITH MOTION TO STRIKE (CCP 430.10) DEFE...)

2/24/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON DEMURRER - WITH MOTION TO STRIKE (CCP 430.10) DEFE...)

Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

2/7/2022: Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

Case Management Statement

2/7/2022: Case Management Statement

Motion to Strike (not initial pleading)

1/3/2022: Motion to Strike (not initial pleading)

Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10)

1/3/2022: Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10)

Declaration - DECLARATION OF MICHAEL J. MCGUIRE RE: MEET AND CONFER COMPLIANCE AS REQUIRED BY CCP 430.41(A)(2) AND 435.5 (A)(2)

1/3/2022: Declaration - DECLARATION OF MICHAEL J. MCGUIRE RE: MEET AND CONFER COMPLIANCE AS REQUIRED BY CCP 430.41(A)(2) AND 435.5 (A)(2)

Declaration - DECLARATION OF MICHAEL J. MCGUIRE RE: MEET AND CONFER COMPLIANCE AS REQUIRED BY CCP 430.41(A)(2) AND 435.5 (A)(2)

12/6/2021: Declaration - DECLARATION OF MICHAEL J. MCGUIRE RE: MEET AND CONFER COMPLIANCE AS REQUIRED BY CCP 430.41(A)(2) AND 435.5 (A)(2)

Proof of Personal Service

11/18/2021: Proof of Personal Service

Order to Show Cause Failure to File Proof of Service

10/28/2021: Order to Show Cause Failure to File Proof of Service

12 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 04/26/2022
  • Hearing04/26/2022 at 08:30 AM in Department 26 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Case Management Conference

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  • 02/24/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Case Management Conference - Not Held - Continued - Court's Motion

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  • 02/24/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Hearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10) (DEFENDANT STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY?S NOTICE OF DEMURRER AND DEMURRER TO THE COMPLAINT; DEFENDANT STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY?S NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS? COMPLAINT) - Held

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  • 02/24/2022
  • Docketat 4:08 PM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Nunc Pro Tunc Order

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  • 02/24/2022
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Demurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10) DEFE...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/24/2022
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Nunc Pro Tunc Order)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/24/2022
  • DocketOrder (RE: DEFENDANT STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY?S DEMURRER AND MOTION TO STRIKE THE COMPLAINT); Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/22/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service - Held - Continued

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  • 02/22/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 26, Elaine Lu, Presiding; Case Management Conference - Held - Continued

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  • 02/22/2022
  • DocketCase Management Statement; Filed by ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN (Plaintiff)

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9 More Docket Entries
  • 01/03/2022
  • DocketDemurrer - with Motion to Strike (CCP 430.10); Filed by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (Defendant)

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  • 12/06/2021
  • DocketDeclaration (OF MICHAEL J. McGUIRE RE: MEET AND CONFER COMPLIANCE AS REQUIRED BY CCP 430.41(a)(2) AND 435.5 (a)(2)); Filed by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (Defendant)

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  • 11/18/2021
  • DocketProof of Personal Service; Filed by ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/28/2021
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 10/28/2021
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Failure to File Proof of Service; Filed by Clerk

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  • 10/21/2021
  • DocketAmendment to Complaint (Fictitious/Incorrect Name); Filed by ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/19/2021
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil Case; Filed by Clerk

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  • 10/19/2021
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN (Plaintiff); HRIPSIME EGEBYAN (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/19/2021
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN (Plaintiff); HRIPSIME EGEBYAN (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/19/2021
  • DocketSummons (on Complaint); Filed by ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN (Plaintiff); HRIPSIME EGEBYAN (Plaintiff)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: *******8503 Hearing Date: February 24, 2022 Dept: 26

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 26

ARAMAYIS GRIGORYAN, HRIPSIME EGEBYAN,

Plaintiff,

v.

STATE FARM MUTUAL INsURANCE COMPANY, et al.

Defendants.

Case No.: *******8503

Hearing Date: February 24, 2022

[TENTATIVE] order RE:

DEFENDANT state farm mutual automobile insurance company’s demurrer and motion to strike the complaint

Procedural Background

On October 19, 2021, Plaintiffs Aramayis Grigoryan (“Grigoryan”) and Hripsime Egebyan (“Egebyan”) (jointly “Plaintiffs”) filed the instant action for bad faith breach of insurance contract against Defendant State Farm Mutual Insurance Company (“Defendant”). The complaint asserts two causes of action for (1) Breach of Contract and (2) Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing.

On January 3, 2022, Defendant filed the instant demurrer and motion to strike. On February 14, 2022, Plaintiffs filed oppositions to the demurrer and motion to strike. On February 16, 2022, Defendant filed replies for the demurrer and motion to strike.

Allegations of the Operative Complaint

The complaint alleges that:

Plaintiffs purchased an automobile policy – which included GAP Insurance and a Premiere Ultimate Vehicle Protection Package – from Defendants to insure a 2016 BMW 740i (“Subject Vehicle”). (Complaint 8.) Plaintiffs bought the vehicle for $107,550.45. (Ibid.) This policy was in effect on February 15, 2018. (Id. 11.)

On February 15, 2018, Plaintiff Egebyan was driving the Subject Vehicle when an unknown vehicle hit the right of the subject vehicle causing it to collide with a tree. (Ibid.) The unknown vehicle fled the scene. (Ibid.) Plaintiffs reported the accident to Defendant who issued payment of $18,698.20 on February 21, 2018. (Id. 13-14.) On February 28, 2018, a repair estimate for the Subject Vehicle indicated damage of $43,581.79 and that the vehicle was a total loss. (Id. 14.) Defendant conducted a further investigated with which Plaintiffs cooperated. Defendant’s expert concluded that the accident did not occur as claimed as there was an indication that the Subject Vehicle was inoperative or had significant mechanical issues at the time of the accident, contrary to representations by Plaintiff Grigoryan. (Id. 15-16.) However, no explanation was provided as to how the accident did occur. (Id. 16.)

On April 26, 2019, Defendants mailed a letter to Plaintiffs denying the claim concluding that there was no coverage and that Plaintiffs had breached the Insured Duties and Concealment or Fraud conditions of the policy. (Id. 20.) In addition, the letter quoted part of the policy which stated that:

14. Legal Action Against Us

Legal action may not be brought against us until there has been full compliance with all the provisions of this policy. In addition, legal action may only be brought against us regarding:

•••

d. Physical Damage Coverages if the legal action relating to these coverages is brought against us within one year immediately following the date of the accident or loss.

(Id. 20.)

The letter clarified that “[t]he one year periods referred to do not include the time we take to investigate your claim. The time from the date of loss to the date you reported your claim to your agent does count in computing the amount of time that has already expired. The suit limitation period begins running again as of the date of this letter.” (Id. 20.)

On May 13, 2019, Plaintiffs through their attorney hired an expert to inspect the Subject Vehicle. (Id. 27.) Upon examination, Plaintiffs discovered that Defendants had cut off a portion of the Subject Vehicles front section spoiling the evidence and preventing Plaintiffs’ expert from fully examining the Subject Vehicle with a CDR download. (Ibid.) Plaintiffs’ expert also provided a detailed explanation of why Defendant’s expert was incorrect in the assessment of the accident. (Ibid.) On August 9, 2019, Plaintiffs’ counsel sent a demand letter for payment of the damages caused by the accident and by Defendant’s spoilation of the Subject Vehicle and noting the findings of their expert. (Id. 28.) On August 29, 2019, Defendant responded denying the damage by their expert, contending that Plaintiffs’ expert’s findings were deficient, and maintaining the denial of the claim. (Id. 29.) Defendant denied payment of Plaintiff’s claim while relying on a biased expert who predetermined that he was going to deny the claim. (Id. 32.)

Untimely Opposition

“All papers opposing a motion so noticed shall be filed with the court and a copy served on each party at least nine court days, and all reply papers at least five court days before the hearing.” (Code Civ. Proc., 1005(b).) This is calculated by counting backwards from the hearing date and excluding holidays and weekends. (Code Civ. Proc. 12-12(c).) The court may refuse to consider a late-filed paper. (Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 3.1300(d).)

Here, the opposition was filed on February 15, 2022, but nine court days before the hearing was February 9, 2021. Accordingly, the opposition is untimely. However, Defendant was able to respond to the opposition. Thus, on this one occasion, the Court, in its discretion, will consider the untimely opposition. Plaintiff is forewarned that the Court will disregard any future untimely filed papers.

Legal Standard

Demurrer Standard

A demurrer can be used only to challenge defects that appear on the face of the pleading under attack; or from matters outside the pleading that are judicially noticeable. (Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal 3d 311, 318.) No other extrinsic evidence can be considered (i.e., no “speaking demurrers”). (Ion Equipment Corp. v. Nelson (1980) 110 Cal.App.3d 868, 881.)

A demurrer for sufficiency tests whether the complaint states a cause of action. (Hahn v. Mirda (2007) 147 Cal. App. 4th 740, 747.) When considering demurrers, courts read the allegations liberally and in context. (Taylor v. City of Los Angeles Dep’t of Water & Power (2006) 144 Cal. App. 4th 1216, 1228.) In a demurrer proceeding, the defects must be apparent on the face of the pleading or via proper judicial notice. (Donabedian v. Mercury Ins. Co. (2004) 116 Cal. App. 4th 968, 994.) “A demurrer tests the pleadings alone and not the evidence or other extrinsic matters. Therefore, it lies only where the defects appear on the face of the pleading or are judicially noticed.” (SKF Farms v. Superior Ct. (1984) 153 Cal. App. 3d 902, 905.) “The only issue involved in a demurrer hearing is whether the complaint, as it stands, unconnected with extraneous matters, states a cause of action.” (Hahn, supra, 147 Cal.App.4th at 747.)

Motion to Strike Standard

Motions to strike are used to reach defects or objections to pleadings that are not challengeable by demurrer (i.e., words, phrases, prayer for damages, etc.). (See CCP 435-437.) A party may file a motion to strike in whole or in part within the time allowed to respond to a pleading, however, if a party serves and files a motion to strike without demurring to the complaint, the time to answer is extended. (CCP 435(b)(1), 435(c).)

A motion to strike lies only where the pleading has irrelevant, false, or improper matter, or has not been drawn or filed in conformity with laws. (CCP 436.) The grounds for moving to strike must appear on the face of the pleadings or by way of judicial notice. (CCP 437.)

Meet and Confer Requirement

Code of Civil Procedure 430.41, subdivision (a) requires that “[b]efore filing a demurrer pursuant to this chapter, the demurring party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to demurrer for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that would resolve the objections to be raised in the demurrer.” The parties are to meet and confer at least five days before the date the responsive pleading is due and if they are unable to meet the demurring party shall be granted an automatic 30-day extension. (CCP 430.41(a)(2).) The demurring party must also file and serve a declaration detailing the meet and confer efforts. (Id. at (a)(3).) If an amended pleading is filed, the parties must meet and confer again before a demurrer may be filed to the amended pleading. (Id. at (a).) There is a similar meet and confer requirement for motions to strike. (CCP 435.5.)

Here, the court notes that Defendant has fulfilled the meet and confer requirements. (McGuire Decl. 3-7.)[1]

Discussion – Demurrer

Entire Complaint: Statute of Limitations

Defendant contends that the entire complaint is barred by the statute of limitations.

“A demurrer based on a statute of limitations will not lie where the action may be, but is not necessarily, barred. In order for the bar ... to be raised by demurrer, the defect must clearly and affirmatively appear on the face of the complaint; it is not enough that the complaint shows that the action may be barred.” (Committee for Green Foothills v. Santa Clara County Bd. of Supervisors (2010) 48 Cal.4th 32, 42, [internal citations omitted].)

“Claims arising out of the contractual relationship are subject to the contractual limitations period contained in the insurance policy.” (Lawrence v. Western Mutual Ins. Co. (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 565, 575.) Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the statutes of limitations for civil actions were further extended. “Notwithstanding any other law, the statutes of limitations and repose for civil causes of action that exceed 180 days are tolled from April 6, 2020, until October 1, 2020.” (Emergency rule 9(a); See Judicial Council of Cal., Advisory Com. com., Emergency rule 9 [“Emergency rule 9 is intended to apply broadly to toll any statute of limitations on the filing of a pleading in court asserting a civil cause of action”].)

“The statute of limitations usually commences when a cause of action ‘accrues,’ and it is generally said that ‘an action accrues on the date of injury.’” (Vaca v. Wachovia Mortgage Corp. (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 737, 743, [internal citations omitted].) Moreover, the limitations period begins to run from the date of loss and is tolled from the date the insured reports the claim until the insurer unequivocally denies the claim in writing. (Prudential-LMI Com. Ins. V. Superior Court (1990) 51 Cal.3d 674, 678– 679.)

Here, the attached sample State Farm policy, (Complaint 3, Exh. A) and the quoted April 26, 2019 coverage denial letter both specify that “[l]egal action may not be brought against us until there has been full compliance with all the provisions of this policy. In addition, legal action may only be brought against us regarding: ••• d. Physical Damage Coverages if the legal action relating to these coverages is brought against us within one year immediately following the date of the accident or loss.” (Complaint 20, [bold added].)

As noted by the Supreme Court, the statute of limitations is tolled until the claim is denied and thus begins to run once the claim is denied. (Prudential-LMI Com. Ins., supra 51 Cal.3d at pp.678– 679.) Accordingly, presuming that Emergency Rule 9 applies to contractual statutes of limitations, Plaintiffs had until October 21, 2020 (one year and 180 days after the April 26, 2019 denial letter) to file the instant action. However, Plaintiffs did not file the instant action until nearly a year later on October 19, 2021. Thus, on its face, the complaint appears to be time-barred.

In opposition, Plaintiffs contend that the provision shortening the applicable statute of limitations to one year from the date of accident or loss was without notice and unconscionable. The Court disagrees.

“It is a well-settled proposition of law that the parties to a contract may stipulate therein for a period of limitation, shorter than that fixed by the statute of limitations, and that such stipulation violates no principle of public policy, provided the period fixed be not so unreasonable as to show imposition or undue advantage in some way.” (Beeson v. Schloss (1920) 183 Cal. 618, 622.) “Such a provision has long been recognized as valid in California.” (C & H Foods Co. v. Hartford Ins. Co. (1984) 163 Cal.App.3d 1055, 1064.) “ ‘Reasonable’ means the shortened period ‘provides sufficient time to effectively pursue a judicial remedy.’ [Citation.]” (Zalkind v. Ceradyne, Inc. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 1010, 1030.)

As explained by the Supreme Court, [s]uch a covenant shortening the period of limitations is a valid provision of an insurance contract and cannot be ignored with impunity as long as the limitation is not so unreasonable as to show imposition or undue advantage. One year was not an unfair period of limitation.” (Fageol Truck & Coach Co. v. Pacific Indem. Co. (1941) 18 Cal.2d 748, 753.)

Here, the one-year provision is reasonable. First, the one-year period was equitable tolled as a matter of law until Defendant denied the claim. (Prudential-LMI Com. Ins., supra 51 Cal.3d at p.678, [“this limitation period should be equitably tolled from the time the insured files a timely notice, pursuant to policy notice provisions, to the time the insurer formally denies the claim”]; Zurn Engineers v. Eagle Star Ins. Co. (1976) 61 Cal.App.3d 493, 499 [“if the right to sue upon an insurance policy is postponed by action that must be taken by the insured as a prerequisite to suit, the limitation period does not commence to run until the insured has an opportunity to comply with the conditions precedent to litigation.”].) Moreover, the provision limiting the statute of limitations is conspicuous in the attached policy agreement. (Complaint, Exh. A.) Specifically, the provision limiting the statute of limitations is in standard size font and located under the bolded section “Legal Action Against Us”. Given this context, the provision is clear and conspicuous.

Moreover, Plaintiffs were clearly reminded again of the statute of limitations because the quoted letter by Defendant denying the claim specified the specific section limiting the statute of limitations and explained that “[t]he one year periods referred to do not include the time we take to investigate your claim. The time from the date of loss to the date you reported your claim to your agent does count in computing the amount of time that has already expired. The suit limitation period begins running again as of the date of this letter.” (Complaint 20.) In sum, there is a reasonable statute of limitations of one year that was equitably tolled during the investigation, and Plaintiffs were clearly put on notice of the statute of limitations twice – in the policy itself and in the denial letter.

Further, the complaint fails to allege that the statute of limitations was equitably tolled beyond the date that Defendant denied the claim.

“In California, an insurer may be estopped to assert a policy provision limiting the time to sue where it has caused the insured to delay filing suit until after the expiration of the time period.” (Doheny Park Terrace Homeowners Assn., Inc. v. Truck Ins. Exchange (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 1076, 1090, 34 Cal.Rptr.3d 157.) “ ‘ “Four elements must ordinarily be proved to establish an equitable estoppel: (1) The party to be estopped must know the facts; (2) he must intend that his conduct shall be acted upon, or must so act that the party asserting the estoppel had the right to believe that it was so intended; (3) the party asserting the estoppel must be ignorant of the true state of facts; and, (4) he must rely upon the conduct to his injury.” ’ ” (Spray, Gould & Bowers v. Associated Internat. Ins. Co. (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1260, 1268, 84 Cal.Rptr.2d 552.)

(Ashou v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co. (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 748, 766–767.)

“The requisite act or omission must involve a misrepresentation or nondisclosure of a material fact bearing on the necessity of bringing a timely suit.” (Doe v. Marten (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 1022, 1028.)

Notably, however, even a defendant who is ignorant or mistaken as to the real facts may be equitably estopped if the defendant was “ ‘ “in such a position that he [or she] ought to have known” ’ ” the true facts. (Krolikowski v. San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 537, 566, (Krolikowski).) This means that an estoppel may be created where the defendant harbored no intent to mislead and did not engage in actual fraud or bad faith. (Lantzy, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 384; Holdgrafer v.Unocal Corp. (2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 907, 925, (Holdgrafer).) Rather, it is enough that the defendant's conduct “induced” the plaintiff to delay commencement of an action. (Benner v. Industrial Acc. Commission (1945) 26 Cal.2d 346, 349–350; Vu, supra, 26 Cal.4th at pp. 1152–1153; Holdgrafer, at p. 925.) A plaintiff has “a reasonable time in which to bring [the] action after the estoppel has expired.” (Regus v. Schartkoff (1957) 156 Cal.App.2d 382.)

(Doe, supra, 49 Cal.App.5th at pp.1028–1029.)

For pleading purposes “[w]hen a plaintiff relies on a theory of fraudulent concealment, delayed accrual, equitable tolling, or estoppel to save a cause of action that otherwise appears on its face to be time-barred, he or she must specifically plead facts which, if proved, would support the theory.” (Mills v. Forestex Co. (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 625, 641.)

In opposition, Plaintiff further argues that the State Farm denial letter misled Plaintiffs as to the applicable statute of limitations “[b]y falsely telling Plaintiffs at the end of the denial letter that they have only one year to sue from the date of denial, when the Policy actually illegally states it is one year from the date of accident”. (Opp. to Demurrer at p.7:5-8.) The Court disagrees.

As noted above, the denial letter correctly notes that contractual statutes of limitations in insurance contracts are equitably tolled until the claim is denied. Thus, the denial letter did not mislead Plaintiffs. Moreover, Plaintiff’s argument is illogical; if Plaintiffs were “misled” by the statement in the letter, Plaintiffs would have filed the instant action earlier -- not later -- and the complaint would have been timely. Whatever Defendant may have done to mislead Plaintiffs into believing an incorrect statute of limitations applied, no such facts have been alleged to support this conclusion.

Accordingly, Defendant’s demurrer to the complaint is SUSTAINED based on the statute of limitations.

Discussion – Motion to Strike

Defendant moves to strike the claim for punitive damages and improper matter.

Punitive Damages

Civil “Code section 3294 provides that punitive damages may be awarded in an action for breach of an obligation not arising from contract, if the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice.” (Scott v. Phoenix Schools, Inc. (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 702, 715.) “The clear and convincing standard ‘‘requires a finding of high probability . . . . ‘‘so clear as to leave no substantial doubt’; ‘sufficiently strong to command the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind.’’ [Citation.]’ [Citations.]’ [Citation.]” (Id.) “‘Malice’ means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.” (Civ. Code 3294(c)(1).) “‘Oppression’ means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.” ( 3294(c)(2).)

The Court has sustained Defendant’s demurrer as to the entirety of the complaint. Therefore, there is no basis for punitive damages. Accordingly, Defendant’s motion to strike is GRANTED.

Leave to Amend

Leave to amend must be allowed where there is a reasonable possibility of successful amendment. (Goodman v. Kennedy (1976) 18 Cal.3d 335, 348.) The burden is on the plaintiff to show the court that a pleading can be amended successfully. (Goodman v. Kennedy, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p.348; Lewis v. YouTube, LLC (2015) 244 Cal.App.4th 118, 226.)

This is the first time that the court has sustained a demurrer to the complaint. Therefore, the court finds it is proper to allow Plaintiffs an opportunity to cure the defects discussed in this order. (See Goodman v. Kennedy (1976) 18 Cal.3d 335, 349; Kong v. City of Hawaiian Gardens Redevelopment Agency (2002) 108 Cal.App.4th 1028, 1037.)

Conclusion and ORDER

Based on the foregoing, Defendant State Farm Mutual Insurance Company’s demurrer to the complaint is SUSTAINED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

Defendant’s motion to strike is GRANTED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

Plaintiffs are to file an amended complaint within 20 days.

The case management conference is continued to April 26, 2022 at 8:30 am.

Moving Parties are to give notice and file proof of service of such.

DATED: February 24, 2022

Elaine Lu

Judge of the Superior Court


[1] The Court notes that the declarations in support of the demurrer and motion to strike are substantially identical.


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