Key Decisions

June 2012 – Cannot Argue The Objections Were Improperly Sustained

(filed under: | June 16, 2012)

Other Cases Of Interest

In A Summary Judgment Motion, If A party Fails To Respond To Objections, Whether In Writing Or Orally, It Cannot Argue The Objections Were Improperly Sustained On Appeal

Tarle v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed May 22, 2012 

Patricia Tarle worked for Kaiser Health Plan. She sued it and several of its supervisory personnel for discrimination.

Kaiser and its supervisors filed a motion for summary judgment. Tarle filed a written opposition to the motion supported by evidence that she asserted showed a triable issue of material fact.

Tarle’s opposition gave rise to a substantial number of evidentiary objections. Kaiser and its supervisors submitted 200 pages of objections, consisting of 335 separate objections. Most of the objections asserted multiple grounds.

Tarle did not file any opposition to the objections, nor request a continuance for additional time in which to prepare a written opposition. Prior to the hearing, the prior court provided the parties with a written tentative ruling, in which it indicated that it would sustain all but a handful of the objections. At the hearing of the motion, Tarle did not challenge most of the objections.

The trial court granted the motion.

On appeal, Tarle challenged, for the first time, the trial court’s ruling on the great bulk of Kaiser and the supervisors’ objections.

The Court of Appeal framed the issue as “whether a party can challenge, on appeal from a summary judgment, rulings sustaining objections to her evidence to which she never submitted oral or written opposition.” It held that “a party who fails to provide some oral or written opposition to objections, in the context of a summary judgment motion, is barred from challenging the adverse rulings on those objections on appeal.”

In reaching its conclusion, the court noted that “it is no longer in dispute that a trial court must expressly rule on each properly presented evidentiary objection.” However, it observed that there is very little law relative to the litigants’ obligations relative to objections.

The court rejected Tarle’s argument that she could not be expected to address each objection because there was insufficient time between the due date on the moving party’s reply and the hearing date. It noted that, if appropriate, the trial court could continue the hearing so there would be sufficient time. It also noted that it was not requiring opposition to give objections in writing. Opposing arguments simply needed to be before the court.

The court also rejected Tarle’s argument that requiring that the objections be addressed would be burdensome. The court recognized that a litigant might use excessive objections to cause burden, but noted that the trial court could, upon proper request, use its inherent power to control excessive objections. It said that challenging excessive objections as being burdensome should be done in the trial court, not for the first time on appeal.

The court next rejected Tarle’s argument that it is unjust for an appellate court to uphold a summary judgment based on evidentiary rulings which the appellate court knows were erroneous. The court said that it is equally unjust for a party to lead a trial court to make an erroneous ruling on an evidentiary objection by failing to suggest to the court a basis on which the evidence is admissible, and then raise the argument for the first time on appeal.

Although the court found that Tarle could not raise asserted errors in evidentiary rulings on appeal, it also found that much of the problem was due to the papers that Kaiser and the supervisors had submitted. It thus remanded and instructed the parties to prepare proper papers.