Robinson v. U-Haul Co. of California

Trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting a permanent injunction against U-Haul’s enforcement in California of an unlawful non-competition clause in its dealer agreements, which affected 1,000 U-Haul dealers in California as well as U-Haul’s competitors, customers and the general public, since U-Haul’s proposed voluntary non-enforcement of the clause would have allowed it to re-start its former policy anytime.  While voluntary compliance may be a reason for the trial court, in its discretion, to deny an injunction, here the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting a permanent injunction against U-Haul’s enforcement in California of an unlawful non-competition clause in its dealer agreements.  The trial court found that U-Haul had included the clause in the contract and aggressively enforced it despite knowing it was unlawful.  Only when threatened with a permanent injunction did it change its tune, and then only by half measures which would have allowed it to re-start its former policy any time it wanted to do so.  Furthermore, the court did not abuse its discretion in not dismissing the case as moot because the unfair practice of enforcing the noncompetition clause affected 1,000 U-Haul dealers in California as well as U-Haul’s competitors, customers and the general public—thus showing the matter affected a broad public interest.  Plaintiff had UCL standing as U-Haul had sued him for violating the non-competition clause, and he had incurred attorney fees in defending that litigation.  A trial court has broad discretion under Rule 3.1702(d) to allow the late-filing of a motion for attorney fees—even if the application to file late is made after the normal deadline for the motion has expired.  The section allows the trial court considerably more leeway than CCP 473(b) does, so the 473(b) standard of surprise, inadvertence, mistake or excusable neglect should not govern an application to file a late attorney fee motion.  Here, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting a late filing as the moving attorney gave a convincing reason for his delay based on his misunderstanding of the trial court’s possibly ambiguous statements.  Also, the opposing party was not prejudiced by the delay since it knew before entry of judgment not only the basis of the motion but also had been given the moving party’s timesheets.

California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 4 (Streeter, J.); October 18, 2016; 2016 WL 6081757

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