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Courts Are Conflicted As To Whether "Good Faith" Settlement Determinations Can Be Reviewed Via Writ Petition Or Appeal

July 10, 2012 — Stephen A. Sunseri and Aarti Kewalramani, Gatzke Dillon & Ballance LLP

The Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Three, ruled in Oak Springs Villas Homeowners Association v. Advanced Truss Systems, Inc., et al., (June 14, 2012, B234568) __ Cal.App.4th __ [2012 WL 2149923], that a non-settling defendant cannot appeal a trial court's good faith settlement determination. Instead, a non-settling defendant may only file a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 877.6 to challenge a good faith determination. This decision comes on the heels of a 2011 ruling in Cahill v. San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 939, which found that a writ petition is not the sole means of challenging a trial court's good faith settlement determination.

In Oak Springs Villas, supra, the condominium homeowners' association sued a developer, general contractor, and various subcontractors for alleged construction deficiencies and resultant property damage. The association eventually settled with the developer, but not with a truss manufacturer. The trial court approved the developer's motion for good faith settlement determination, and the truss manufacturer immediately appealed, instead of filing a writ petition. On appeal, the developer argued the good faith determination was not an appealable order. The truss manufacturer argued Cahill applied, as well as an older case, Justus v. Atchison (1977) 19 Cal.3d 564, which allowed for appeals when no remaining issues exist as to the appealing party.

The Court of Appeal ruled in the developer's favor and declined to follow Cahill, stating the truss manufacturer should have filed a writ petition, as expressly required under Section 877.6, subdivision (e). The Court also believed Justus was inapplicable because a non-settling party should not be allowed to have two review opportunities ?Äì one after an adverse good faith ruling, and then another after the ultimate conclusion of the case.

However, the greater effect is that Cahill and Oak Springs Villas simultaneously stand in conflict and appear to be valid law. One case allows for an appeal of a good faith settlement determination, while the other requires strict adherence to the statute. The Supreme Court is likely to review the issue. In the meantime, parties challenging good faith rulings are advised to consult the statutory requirements under Section 877.6, subdivision (e).

Printed courtesy of Stephen A. Sunseri and Aarti Kewalramani, Gatzke Dillon & Ballance LLP. Mr. Sunseri can be contacted at ssunseri@gdandb.com and Ms. Kewalramani can be contacted at akewalramani@gdandb.com.

Courts Are Conflicted As To Whether "Good Faith" Settlement Determinations Can Be Reviewed Via Writ Petition Or Appeal