Appellate Cases - Contract Law

Many cases involve contracts in some way, although the legal disputes often do not involve contract law. But in many cases, some issue of contract law is central, and Mr. Adelstein has handled several appeals where the contract issues were central.

Ambartsumyan v. Atalla

This case involved a contract dispute over a lease.  Mr. Adelstein represented Mr. Ehab Atalla, his partner, and their corporation.  They owned land, building, and equipment where a truck stop was located, and they leased these to the plaintiff who rant he truck stop.  The truck stop had 11 diesel dispensers and one gasoline dispenser.  The law required all gasoline dispensers (but not diesel dispensers) to be upgraded with a vapor recovery system.  The plaintiff, not wishing to comply with this rule, wanted to covert the gasoline dispenser to diesel. After being cited for years for regulatory violations, he tried to temporarily shut  down the gasoline dispenser.  When the defendants learned of this, they refused permission to covert, wishing to keep their gasoline dispenser as a gasoline dispenser.  The lease gives them this option.  The plaintiff sued for breach of lease, and the defendants filed a cross-complaint on other claims.

The plaintiff prevailed at trial.  Mr. Ehab Atalla decided to take the case up on appeal.  Mr. Adelstein obtained a reversal on the breach of contract claim, unfortunately did not obtain a reversal on the breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and obtained a reversal on damages.  The plaintiff's evidence of damages was simply his testimony -- with no other supporting evidence or expert testimony -- that he thought he lost a specified amount per month.  The Court of Appeal held this was legally insufficient.

However, the Court of Appeal reversed for a new trial instead of reversing with directions to enter judgment for the defendant, which is the typical disposition when the plaintiff has had a full and fair opportunity to present evidence and simply fails to do so.  This seems like the incorrect disposition, and Mr, Atalla decided that he wanted to continue to work for the correct decision.  Mr. Adelstein filed a petition for rehearing, which the Court of Appeal denied, and then a petition for review in the California Supreme Court, which is currently pending.

Case Data

Court of Appeal Opinion.
Court: California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One (San Diego)
Case No. D074704
Author: Justice Patricia Guerrero
Opinion Date: February 20, 2019
Trial Counsel: Alan Klein and Daniel Germain.

Zweig v. Kwon

This case involved a fee dispute between two lawyers and their two clients. The lawyers represented the clients and filed a lawsuit for defamation. They won a judgment of approximately $2 million. However, the lawyers did not have a signed written fee agreement. Business & Professions Code, section 6147 requires that a contingency fee agreement be in writing, contain certain mandatory terms, and be signed by the parties. If these requirements are not met, the lawyers may recover only a "reasonable fee." The client had already paid the lawyers a fixed amount representing more than their hourly fees.

The lawyers here asserted that their reasonable fee was a 40% contingency fee, not an hourly fee. The trial court disagreed, but the lawyers appealed. Mr. Adelstein represented the clients on appeal, and was successful in having the trial court's judgment affirmed.

Case Comment

This is another case where Mr. Adelstein represented the client in two related appeals and prevailed on both.

Case Data

Court of Appeal Opinion.
Court: California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three (Los Angeles)
Case No. B153064
Author: Justice Patti Kitching
Opinion Date: January 22, 2003
Trial Counsel: B. Casey Yim.

Harrison v. O'Brien

This one was a loss.

George Harrison (the Beatle) sued his former business manager for a variety of claims, including breach of an oral contract. Harrison prevailed on summary judgment. Mr. Adelstein represented the business manger and appealed, arguing that the case should have been tried in England not Los Angeles, and in any case there were triable issues of fact. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court and affirmed.

Case Data

Court: California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division One
Case No. B100692
Author: Justice Reuben A. Ortega
Opinion Date: February 9, 1998
Trial Counsel: Daniel Germain.