Key Decisions

September 2013 – Substantial Evidence Standard On Appeal Requires The Appellant To Discuss Both Favorable And Unfavorable Evidence

(filed under: Key Decisions Archive | September 24, 2013)

Substantial Evidence Standard On Appeal Requires The Appellant To Discuss Both Favorable And Unfavorable Evidence

Rayii v. Gatica
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed July 24, 2013, published August 20, 2013

KEY FACTS

Nadja Rayii suffered severe injuries when she had a head-on collision with a car being driven by Melvin Gatica. Gatica had bought the car he was driving the day before the collision from Carlos Seciada. At the time, Gatica was unlicensed and had never driven in the United States.

At the time of the collision, Gatica was employed by Gateway Insulation, Inc. That morning Gatica’s boss sent him to another of Gateway’s facilities, where he spent the day working. There was contradictory evidence as to whether, at the time of the accident, Gatica was returning to Gateway’s office or was going home.

The jury found that Gatica was liable to Rayii, but that he was not acting in the course and scope of his employment for Gateway when the collision occurred. It also found in favor of Seciada.

Rayii made a motion for a new trial on grounds of attorney misconduct, irregularity in the proceedings and inadequate damages. The trial court denied the motion.

Rayii appealed. She challenged the jury’s finding that Gatica was not acting in the course and scope of his employment and the denial of relief against Carlos Seciada, who she contended was the registered owner of the car Gatica was driving. She also appealed the denial of her new trial motion.

HOLDING & REASONING

The Court of Appeal affirmed.

On the issue of Gatica’s employment and Gateway’s liability, Rayii asserted that there was no substantial evidence in support of the jury’s finding. The court rejected this challenge because Rayii failed to comply with the rules of appellate procedure.

Rayii’s brief discussed the evidence in support of her challenge, and in particular the evidence tending to show that Gatica was acting within the course and scope of his employment.

But she did not address the evidence supporting the jury’s finding. That failure alone supported rejecting the challenge.

As to Seciada’s liability, Rayii did not challenge the jury’s finding that he was not the owner of the car. Rather, she asserted he was liable as the registered owner of the car.

The court rejected this assertion because Rayii did not assert it at the time of trial and did not offer evidence that Seciada had not taken the proper steps to re-register the car in Gatica’s name.

The court also rejected Rayii’s claims of attorney misconduct because she did not object at the time it occurred and she failed to ask the trial court to instruct the jury to disregard opposing counsel’s allegedly improper statements.

Finally, the court rejected Rayii’s claims of irregularities in the proceedings. Those claimed irregularities consisted of the trial court permitting certain defense experts to be called out of order and examined during Rayii’s presentation of her case-in-chief. Rayii failed to establish that under circumstances that necessitated calling them out of order, the trial court abused its discretion.

ANALYSIS

Appellate courts occasionally reject challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence based on the appellant’s failure to discuss the evidence supporting the verdict.