Corder v. Corder, No. G033608.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtIkola
Citation132 Cal.App.4th 1261,34 Cal.Rptr.3d 294
PartiesShaoping CORDER, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Lisa R. CORDER, Defendant and Respondent. Lisa R. Corder, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Shaoping Corder, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. G033608.
Decision Date26 September 2005
34 Cal.Rptr.3d 294
132 Cal.App.4th 1261
Shaoping CORDER, Plaintiff and Appellant,
Lisa R. CORDER, Defendant and Respondent.
Lisa R. Corder, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Shaoping Corder, Defendant and Appellant.
No. G033608.
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three.
September 26, 2005.

[34 Cal.Rptr.3d 296]

Davis & Heubeck and John C. Heubeck for Plaintiff, Defendant and Appellant Shaoping Corder.

[34 Cal.Rptr.3d 297]

Law Office of Ronald E. Harrington and Ronald E. Harrington, Ventura, for Plaintiff, Defendant and Respondent Lisa R. Corder.



Shaoping Corder (Sherry) appeals a judgment that apportioned the proceeds of a settlement made with one of the defendants in a wrongful death action. The court apportioned the proceeds of the settlement 10 percent to Sherry, the decedent's surviving spouse, and 90 percent to Lisa R. Corder (Lisa), the decedent's adult daughter.1 Sherry asserts the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to apportion the proceeds, and argues the court committed other errors as well, which, although variously phrased, amount to a challenge to the adversary system of justice and to the sufficiency of the evidence. We reject all of Sherry's contentions and affirm the judgment.


Sherry met Raymond Corder (Raymond) in August 1999; he proposed marriage to her in December 1999; and they married in September 2000. Eight months later, in May 2001, Raymond was killed in a construction accident.

In a consolidated wrongful death action originally brought separately by Sherry and Lisa, one of the defendants settled with both plaintiffs for an unapportioned lump sum of $1.1 million. On the same day the stipulated settlement was signed, Sherry and Lisa entered into another stipulation regarding the apportionment of their recovery. Their apportionment stipulation provided: "Following the verdict or settlement of the [wrongful death] case, should the Plaintiffs fail to agree on an allocation or apportionment of damages between the heirs, that either Plaintiff shall have the right to a further trial regarding the allocation or apportionment of damages among or between the Plaintiffs. Furthermore, either party may supplement their witness list by identifying witnesses not previously disclosed and that those witnesses may be called as witnesses at the further trial proceeding."

Following the settlement, plaintiffs went to trial against two remaining defendants, but the jury found neither was negligent and judgment was entered in favor of those defendants. Shortly after the trial, the parties commenced discovery proceedings in preparation for a further trial to apportion the settlement proceeds. In the midst of these discovery proceedings, all conducted under caption of the Orange County wrongful death case, Sherry filed a separate lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking to "quiet title" to the settlement proceeds. Lisa responded by moving to set a trial date in the Orange County case, contending the Orange County court had jurisdiction to apportion the proceeds, and, in any event, Sherry's filing of a separate suit in Los Angeles County violated their stipulation. The court ruled it had jurisdiction to apportion the proceeds and set the trial date.

At the apportionment trial, the court honored the parties' stipulation by hearing evidence not presented at the wrongful death trial. The court also made clear, however, it would consider all of the evidence, including the evidence it had heard in the earlier proceeding. Most of the additional evidence at the apportionment trial was about Lisa's contention

34 Cal.Rptr.3d 298

that at the time of Raymond's death he was contemplating dissolving his marriage to Sherry because he suspected she was engaging in prostitution. Evidence was also presented to show the close relationship between Raymond and Lisa, his daughter. The court's written statement of decision sets forth a brief summary of the conflicting evidence and explains the court's resolution of those conflicts. We quote a portion of that statement as a succinct description of the basis for the court's decision.

"Evidence at the allocation trial demonstrated two conflicting views of the decedent's relationship to his wife, [Sherry] Corder. Lisa Corder, decedent's daughter, presented witnesses who testified that the decedent intended to divorce his wife. According to them the decedent felt that his marriage was a mistake because his wife had continued to work as a prostitute despite her promises to stop. Witnesses also testified that Lisa and her father had a very close relationship. Lisa Corder's argument was that since decedent was on the verge of divorcing his wife, the wife's share of the proceeds should be reduced drastically from what it would otherwise have been.

"On the other hand, [Sherry] Corder's witnesses indicated that the marriage was a good one and there was no intent manifested by the defendant to divorce his wife. Thus, the argument goes that because [Sherry] Corder would have been legally entitled to support from the decedent during their marriage, the lion's share of the proceeds should go to her.

"Having considered the conflicting evidence presented the court finds most persuasive the evidence that the marriage between [Sherry] Corder and decedent was on the verge of ending. While it is true that decedent had not yet filed for divorce or contacted an attorney, the court finds that had the decedent lived the marriage would have lasted a relatively short period of time given decedent's belief, expressed to several persons, that his wife was working as a prostitute against his wishes. Decedent may not have expressed his state of mind to all of those close to him, but such is life. For reasons that are usually unknown, people often keep secrets from some close friends or relatives and not from others. The court finds unpersuasive the contention that Lisa Corder's witnesses came into court to commit perjury regarding the prostitution allegations.

"Given the above findings the court makes the following allocation as to the settlement proceeds: Lisa Corder 90%. [Sherry] Corder 10%. In making these findings the court has considered the total loss that each plaintiff suffered from the decedent's death."

Judgment was entered accordingly. Sherry's motions to vacate the judgment and enter a different judgment or for new trial were denied. She appeals the apportionment judgment and the denial of her posttrial motions. Lisa moves for sanctions. We affirm the judgment and denial of the motions to vacate or for new trial, and deny Lisa's request for sanctions.


The Orange County Superior Court Had Jurisdiction to Apportion the Settlement Proceeds

Sherry contends the entry of judgment in favor of the nonsettling defendants following the jury trial deprived the Orange County Superior Court of its jurisdiction to apportion the settlement proceeds between the two plaintiffs. Sherry argues the "one judgment rule" precluded the court from entering a "second judgment," and Code of Civil Procedure section

34 Cal.Rptr.3d 299

377.612 only authorizes the court to apportion the award of a jury, not the proceeds of a settlement. Sherry is mistaken.

Sherry misapprehends the "one judgment rule." "The theory [of the one final judgment rule] is that piecemeal disposition and multiple appeals in a single action would be oppressive and costly, and that a review of intermediate rulings should await the final disposition of the case." (9 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (4th ed. 1997) Appeal, § 58, p. 113.) For that reason, "an appeal cannot be taken from a judgment that fails to complete the disposition of all the causes of action between the parties even if the causes of action disposed of by the judgment have been ordered to be tried separately, or may be characterized as `separate and independent' from those remaining." (Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara (1994) 7 Cal.4th 725, 743, 29 Cal.Rptr.2d 804, 872 P.2d 143.) But it is also settled that "`the rule requiring dismissal [of an appeal] does not apply when the case involves multiple parties and a judgment is entered which leaves no issue to be determined as to one party.'" (Nguyen v. Calhoun (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 428, 437, 129 Cal.Rptr.2d 436.) An appeal thus could have been taken from the judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of the nonsettling defendants. But that does not deprive the court of its jurisdiction to determine the issues remaining between other parties.

Here, the court had both the power and the duty to adjudicate all remaining issues in the wrongful death case including the allocation of settlement proceeds between adverse plaintiffs. (§ 377.61 ["The court shall determine the respective rights in an award of the persons entitled to assert the cause of action"]; Watkins v. Nutting (1941) 17 Cal.2d 490, 498, 110 P.2d 384 ["it is ... the duty of the court, in a separate proceeding, to apportion the amount to be awarded each heir"]; § 578 ["when the justice of the case requires it, [the judgment may] determine the ultimate rights of the parties on each side, as between themselves"].) Indeed, the court is required to "decide any proceeding in which he or she is not disqualified" (§ 170), and "[m]andamus will ... lie to compel the court to assume and exercise its jurisdiction, i.e., to hear and determine the case on its merits." (2 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (4th ed. 1996) Jurisdiction, § 345, p. 934.) Accordingly, the court would have abdicated its clear duty had it failed to exercise its jurisdiction to apportion the settlement funds.

Sherry's other argument, that the court's jurisdiction to allocate a monetary recovery extends only to a jury award, and not to settlement proceeds, is unsupported by any apt authority. She relies on Changaris v. Marvel (1964) 231 Cal.App.2d 308, 41 Cal.Rptr. 774 (Changaris), a case that is easily distinguished. ...

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1 practice notes
  • In re Aryanna C., C049254.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 26, 2005
    ...that a parent is not entitled to a prescribed minimum period of services.6 It remains within the discretion of the juvenile court to 34 Cal.Rptr.3d 294 determine whether continued services are in the best interests of the minor, or whether those services should be ended at some point before......
1 cases
  • In re Aryanna C., No. C049254.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 26, 2005
    ...that a parent is not entitled to a prescribed minimum period of services.6 It remains within the discretion of the juvenile court to 34 Cal.Rptr.3d 294 determine whether continued services are in the best interests of the minor, or whether those services should be ended at some point before......

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