The first new law, Senate Bill 383 requires a party objecting to a pleading such as an answer, complaint, or cross-complaint, in certain situations, to meet and confer with the opposing party to resolve issues before filing a demurrer. The demurring party needs to identify all of the causes of action that it thinks are subject to the demurrer and identify with legal authority the reason for the deficiencies. Parties desiring to file a demurrer should ensure they state all possible grounds to dismiss a pleading in the first demurrer. Grounds left out will be barred in subsequent demurrers.
The pleader must give legal authority that the pleading is legally sufficient or how it can be amended to fix the insufficiency. The law does not allow a party to amend a complaint or cross complaint more than three times in response to a demurrer except when there are new facts.
Senate Bill 383 lets a court, if it upholds any part of a demurrer, to order a conference with parties in the case “before an amended complaint or cross-complaint or a demurrer to an amended complaint or cross complaint may be filed.” When judges get involved, the demurrers may be avoided. If the court holds a conference, the court cannot preclude a party from filing a demurrer and the time to file a demurrer begins after the conference concludes.
The second new law for 2016 is Assembly Bill 555. Assembly Bill 555 provides procedures for mandatory expedited jury trials in limited jurisdiction civil cases. One goal of Assembly Bill 555 is to make the court system more efficient.
Assembly Bill 555 gives plaintiff and defense attorneys up to five hours to finish voir dire and present their case. Participation in expedited jury trials may no longer be voluntary. Assembly Bill 555 lets attorneys with qualifying cases to opt out of expedited jury trials if certain requirements are met. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 630.20(b) is amended to read: “Either party may opt out of the mandatory expedited jury trial procedures if any of the following criteria is met:
(1) Punitive damages are sought.
(2) Damages in excess of insurance policy limits are sought.
(3) A party’s insurer is providing a legal defense subject to a reservation of rights.
(4) The case involves a claim reportable to a governmental entity.
(5) The case involves a claim of moral turpitude that may affect an individual’s professional licensing.
(6) The case involves claims of intentional conduct.
(7) The case has been reclassified as unlimited pursuant to Section 403.020.
(8) The complaint contains a demand for attorney’s fees, unless those fees are sought pursuant to Section 1717 of the Civil Code.
(9) The judge finds good cause exists for the action not to proceed under the rules of this chapter. Good cause includes, but is not limited to, a showing that a party needs more than five hours to present or defend the action and that the parties have been unable to stipulate to additional time.”
Assembly Bill 555 becomes effective July 1, 2016 and expires July 1, 2019. The defense, such as insurance companies, agreed to a mandatory system for any type of case.