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Horvitz & Levy is a solutions-based firm focused on appellate success. We are distinguished by our commitment to responsive service and on-going innovation in the areas of civil appellate litigation, amicus curiae support, and trial strategy consultation.

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Horvitz & Levy persuaded the Court of Appeal to reverse trial court’s determination that it did not have jurisdiction over a personal representative who resolved a decedent’s lawsuit before formally substituting into the action. 

Defendants offered to buy 86-year-old Takako Mikuriya’s home for below market value. After her caregivers realized she had signed paperwork transferring the property, she brought an action for elder abuse and fraud against defendants. Mikuriya died, and her granddaughter, Ashley Cooley, was appointed special administrator of her estate and was authorized to continue the fraud action against defendants. Cooley and defendants negotiated a settlement, and Cooley dismissed the case.

Cooley moved for judgment under the settlement after defendants failed to make required payments, and the court entered judgment for her. It then vacated the judgment on defendants’ motion that argued the court had no jurisdiction over Cooley because she had never formally substituted as plaintiff and thus was not a “party.” Cooley moved to substitute into the action as Mikuriya’s personal representative and, again, to enforce the settlement. The court denied both motions, ruling that Cooley had failed to comply with procedural pertaining to successors in interest. Cooley appealed and Horvitz & Levy agreed to represent her pro bono on appeal, through a referral from Public Counsel. 

The Court of Appeal reversed. The court adopted Horvitz & Levy’s argument that Cooley was entitled to continue litigation on behalf of the estate in her capacity as special administrator, and that Code of Civil Procedure section 377.32, pertaining to successors in interest, did not apply. The court also adopted Horvitz & Levy’s position that Cooley’s failure to formally substitute did not deprive the court of jurisdiction because it caused no prejudice to defendants. It explained that defendants and the trial court recognized Cooley’s authority as special administrator and treated her as a party, and defendants only benefitted from entering settlement with Cooley. It also held that, despite the strict requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 664.6 pertaining to enforcement of settlements, the statute’s requirements had been satisfied because: (i) Cooley was effectively a party who was authorized to enter settlement on behalf of the estate, and (ii) by signing the settlement requiring that Cooley request the court to retain jurisdiction under section 664.6, defendants “unambiguously agreed” to the court retaining jurisdiction.