California Courts Deny Property Mgmt. Co.'s Appeal & Rule In Favor of the Worker

In October of 2017, a California state appeals panel reprimanded a property management company and its attorneys for an “orchestrated” delay of the trial. The panel ordered the company to cover the expenses their ex-worker incurred while fighting an appeal.

The Fourth Appellate District panel denied Professional Community Management Inc.’s appeal of an Orange County Superior Court order. According to Judge Raymond J. Ikola, “By doing that, PCM won the battle —it got the court to issue the appealable order it sought, prior to trial —but it lost the war.” He went on to write for the panel, “A party that invites the trial court to commit error is estopped from challenging that error on appeal.”

In October of 2014, PCM worker Francisco Diaz sued the company for wrongfully firing him after not abiding by a doctor-issued work restriction notice. Just days before an already delayed trial in August of 2016, PCM moved to have the dispute sent into arbitration. Immediately after a hearing on PCM’s accompanying motion to speed up arbitration or have the trial delayed, the company filed a proposed order for its motions to be denied.

That November, Diaz moved to have the appeal dismissed, stating that PCM “pulled a fast one” on him and Judge Howard. PCM denied that it had used the appeal to push back Diaz’ trial, suggesting that Judge Howard wrongly rejected its motion to compel arbitration.

The panel ultimately sided with Diaz and ruled that Judge Howard’s order was “invited error.” California code actually blocks parties that “induce … the commission of error” from later “asserting [error] as a ground for reversal” on appeal.

Furthermore, the court ruled that PCM waived its right to compel arbitration, saying the company’s push to arbitrate was really an elaborate attempt to reargue a defeated summary judgment motion.

PCM and its attorneys were sanctioned by the panel for “preparing an intentionally misleading proposed order.” They were directed to pay for the attorney’s fees and costs Diaz incurred preparing for the trial and defending the appeal, plus $8,500 that the court incurred for processing the appeal.

Diaz was represented throughout by eLA’s very own, A. Jacob Nalbandyan.

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