Justia Non-Profit Corporations Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association
“Breathe” was previously known as the American Lung Association of Los Angeles County, affiliated with the national organization, ALA, and the American Lung Association in California (ALAC). Breathe’s predecessor entered into annual agreements with ALAC and the ALA that provided for “income sharing” between Breathe and ALAC, except for “funds restricted in writing by the donor, not later than the date of donation, to exclude or limit sharing, such restriction not having been invited by the donee association.” ALA sued ALAC and its affiliates, including Breathe, for trademark infringement and related causes of action. Under a 2006 Consent Judgment, Breathe disaffiliated from the ALA and ALAC and was renamed. The parties agreed to a process for settling their outstanding accounts.In 2015, ALAC moved to enforce the Consent Judgment by compelling Breathe to share three bequests that were created but not distributed before the Consent Judgment. The trial court ruled in favor of the ALA, concluding the restricted funds exception of the Affiliate Agreement was ambiguous and that the bequests were shareable. The court of appeal reversed. The plain language of the bequests indicates the testators' intentions to benefit only the organization now known as Breathe. Sharing the bequests with the ALA is incompatible with those intentions and is not required under the Affiliate Agreement. View "Breathe Southern California v. American Lung Association" on Justia Law
Community Action Agency of Butte County v. Super. Ct.
The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review in this case centered on whether petitioner, The Community Action Agency of Butte County (CAA), had to produce its business records pursuant to the California Public Records Act (CPRA), the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and/or a regulation promulgated by real party in interest, California’s Department of Community Services and Development (the Department). After considering the arguments presented (including those of amici curiae), the text and history of CPRA, and other applicable authorities, the Court concluded: (1) a nonprofit entity like CAA might be an “other local public agency” only in exceptional circumstances not present here; (2) under a four-factor test adopted based on persuasive out-of-state authority, there was not substantial evidence for the trial court’s ruling that CAA was an “other local public agency”; (3) FOIA did not apply to CAA; and (4) the Department’s regulation did not require CAA to provide public access to its records generally. Accordingly, the trial court’s order was vacated. View "Community Action Agency of Butte County v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Canyon Vineyard Estates I v. DeJoria
Canyon Vineyard Estates I, LLC (CVE) appealed from a grant of summary judgment in favor of Mountains Restoration Trust (MRT), John Paul DeJoria, the County of Los Angeles, and the California State Attorney General. CVE also appeals from an injunction in favor of MRT and from an award of attorney fees and costs in favor of MRT and the Attorney General. The Second Appellate District affirmed the summary judgment order finding that there is no genuine issue of material fact that the property is subject to a valid conservation easement. However, the court concluded that the injunction is overbroad in that it improperly bars CVE from filing further litigation to challenge the conservation easement without regard to the potential merits of a future claim. Thus, the court reversed the injunction and remanded the matter to the trial court to enter a new injunction that is more narrowly tailored so that it does not enjoin future lawful actions by CVE. The court reasoned that CVE has not demonstrated a triable issue of fact as to whether Tuna Canyon remains subject to a conservation easement held by MRT. The court explained that the grant of a fee title subject to a condition subsequent did not preclude the grant of a conservation easement. Moreover, the court held that the trial court must ensure the injunction does not preclude CVE from exercising its right to seek relief in court. View "Canyon Vineyard Estates I v. DeJoria" on Justia Law
Turner v. Victoria
Debra Turner, formerly a director and president of the Conrad Prebys Foundation (Foundation), appealed judgments of dismissal in favor of the Foundation and its directors, following orders sustaining demurrers to her probate and civil actions. In those actions, Turner alleged the other Foundation directors breached their fiduciary duties in preapproving a settlement range for Laurie Victoria, who served both as a Foundation director and as the trustee of the Conrad Prebys Trust (Trust), to negotiate a settlement of a trust challenge by a disinherited heir. Turner also challenged Victoria’s actions as trustee. Several months after commencing her action, Turner’s term as a Foundation director and officer expired when she was not reelected to her positions during the annual election process. The civil and probate courts determined that Turner lost standing to maintain her causes of action. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether a director of a nonprofit public benefit corporation who brings an action on behalf of the nonprofit public benefit corporation could lose standing to pursue its claims if the director was not reelected during the litigation. The Court of Appeal concluded the statutory scheme and public policy considerations required a continuous relationship with the public benefit corporation that was special and definite to ensure the litigation was pursued in good faith for the benefit of the corporation. "If a plaintiff does not maintain such a relationship, the statutory scheme provides the nonprofit public benefit corporation with protection through the Attorney General, who may pursue any necessary action either directly or by granting an individual relator status." Because Turner lost standing to pursue her causes of action, the Court affirmed the judgments of dismissal as to Turner acting in her capacity as a former director and officer. The case was remanded, however, with directions for the civil and probate courts to grant 60 days leave to amend, limited to the issue of whether a proper plaintiff could be substituted to pursue the existing claims. The Attorney General could consider during that 60-day period whether granting relator status to Turner, or another individual, for these claims was appropriate. View "Turner v. Victoria" on Justia Law
Wang v. Fang
Plaintiffs Zhi An Wang, Yu Liu, Bo Xu, Yanhong Sun, Yong Li, Tao Chen, Lina Tao, Bin Qu, Qingjiang Li, Tao Jing, Xingchuan Wu, Jun Shi, Ke Zhang, Zhuo Xiao, and Yugang Xie appealed a trial court order granting defendants Shimin Fang and his spouse, Juhua Liu's motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ complaint on the grounds of forum non conveniens (motion). Fang and Juhua Liu resided in San Diego County. Plaintiffs all resided in the People’s Republic of China. Fang created a website in China that published articles and other content regarding purported examples of fraud, corruption, and bureaucratic inefficiency affecting the scientific and academic communities in China. In about 2005, Fang publicly criticized a urologist who claimed to have a developed a treatment for a rare disease. A year later, the urologist sued Fang, and a Chinese court ruled in the urologist's favor. In 2010, Fang was attacked by individuals purportedly hired by the urologist as revenge for his public criticism of the doctor. As a result of the attack, Fang established a business in China called “Personal Safety Foundation for Scientific Anti-Fraud Individuals” (Foundation). Fang used the Foundation’s website among other methods to obtain donations. Fang represented that donated funds “would be used solely for the protection of the personal safety of individuals engaged in anti-fraud activities,” and that any such awards could be used by recipients for the “purpose of protecting their personal safety.” As an inducement to obtain donations, Fang publicly represented that no monies collected to fund the Foundation would be used to pay for his personal living expenses. For approximately eight years, the Foundation collected donations from “several thousand donors” including plaintiffs. The complaint alleged defendants misused Foundation funds “for personal transactions” in contravention of the stated mission and purpose of the Foundation. Defendants in their motion argued the complaint should have been dismissed on the ground of inconvenient forum because the matter should be litigated in China, where all plaintiffs resided and where the Foundation was located. The Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that China was a suitable forum. However, the California Court agreed with plaintiffs that in the interest of justice, the case should have been stayed and not dismissed, with the U.S. court to retain jurisdiction over the matter pending the outcome of the case in China. View "Wang v. Fang" on Justia Law
Brown v. Pacifica Foundation, Inc.
Pacifica, a California non-profit corporation, owns and operates public radio stations, including KPFK in Los Angeles. Brown was elected to be a “Delegate” of KPFK and subsequently to a position on Pacifica’s National Board of Directors. Pacifica notified Brown she was ineligible for those positions because she was a Los Angeles Small Business Commissioner. Pacifica bylaws bar individuals from serving in board positions while they hold any public office. Claiming her removal was instigated by a rival faction of Pacifica’s National Board, Brown and others with similar complaints sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, finding that Brown’s position on the Commission is not a public office. The court of appeal reversed. The term “public office” has more than one legal definition. The common law definition has two elements: a fixed and permanent tenure of office in which incumbents succeed one another and delegation to the officer of some portion of the sovereign functions of government, either legislative, executive, or judicial. The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors has delegated tasks to the Commission that it would otherwise perform itself; the Commission clearly serves a function that aids the Board. The fact that a body serves an advisory function does not preclude it from being a public office. View "Brown v. Pacifica Foundation, Inc." on Justia Law
Nat. Grange of the Order etc. v. California Guild
In this declaratory relief action, the trial court granted summary judgment to the plaintiff, The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (the National Grange), declaring that property at issue in the underlying dispute belonged to the California State Grange when the National Grange revoked the California State Grange’s charter in 2013 belonged to a newly chartered California State Grange. At the annual convention of the National Grange in November 2010, an amendment to the National Grange’s by-laws was proposed to expand the National Master’s power to suspend or revoke the charter of a State Grange, allowing the National Master to take that action in various situations, including when “the State Grange is working in violation of the law and usages of the Order.” The Master of the National Grange, Edward Luttrell, ordered an investigation of Robert McFarland, then Master/President of the California State Grange, based on allegations that McFarland had engaged in various instances of misconduct. McFarland ordered the consolidation of two subordinate granges. At some point, McFarland was suspended and an Overseer was supposed to act in his place. McFarland refused to acknowledge the Overseer’s authority to act in his stead. Put to a vote of the State Grange, the Executive Committee refused to honor Luttrell’s suspension of McFarland, arguing the State Grange was a California corporation governed by California state law, Luttrell did not have the power to suspend either McFarland or the State Grange. The California State Grange did not appeal the suspension of its charter within the organization as allowed by the by-laws of the National Grange. This declaratory relief action followed. The Court of Appeal was persuaded that the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the National Grange in this declaratory relief case. View "Nat. Grange of the Order etc. v. California Guild" on Justia Law