Knight v. McMahon, No. B076098

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSTEVEN J. STONE; GILBERT; YEGAN
Citation26 Cal.App.4th 747,31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832
PartiesJoanna KNIGHT, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Linda McMAHON, as Director, etc., et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. B076098
Decision Date05 July 1994

Page 832

31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832
26 Cal.App.4th 747
Joanna KNIGHT, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
Linda McMAHON, as Director, etc., et al., Defendants and Respondents.
No. B076098.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 6, California.
July 5, 1994.

Review Denied Sept. 29, 1994.

Page 833

[26 Cal.App.4th 750] Channel Counties Legal Services Ass'n and Robert K. Miller, M. Carmen Ramirez, Grant R. Specht, Barbara Macri-Ortiz and Andrew Koenig, Oxnard, for plaintiff and appellant.

Tina L. Rasnow, Westlake Village, as amicus curiae on behalf of plaintiff and appellant.

Richard A. Weinstock, Ventura, as amicus curiae on behalf of plaintiff and appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., Charlton G. Holland, Asst. Atty. Gen., John H. Sanders, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., Robin T.

Page 834

Gertler, Deputy Atty. Gen., for defendants and respondents.

STEVEN J. STONE, Presiding Justice.

Here we hold that an administrative law judge awarding payment for retroactive In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) benefits, pursuant to WELFARE AND INSTITUTIONS CODE SECTION 109501 et seq., has the authority to award interest on retroactive payments. We also hold that appellant was an "aggrieved party" with standing to challenge the trial court's judgment which awarded her interest but did not determine whether the administrative law judge had authority to award interest.

Joanna Knight appeals from a judgment of the Ventura County Superior Court granting a peremptory writ of mandate ordering respondents to award her interest on her retroactive award of IHSS benefits at the legal rate of interest (10 percent). She asserts that the trial court erred as a matter of law in ruling that it did not have the jurisdiction to decide the other issue raised in her petition for writ of administrative mandamus (Code Civ. Prod., § 1094.5), i.e., whether administrative law judges have the power to award interest, and appeals from that part of the trial court's judgment.

We hold that an administrative law judge has the statutory authority to award interest under Civil Code section 3287, subdivision (a), and order the trial court to modify its judgment accordingly.

FACTS

Appellant is an indigent disabled person who receives IHSS benefits as a result of various medical problems. The IHSS program provides domestic [26 Cal.App.4th 751] in-home services to aged, blind, and disabled individuals. (§§ 12300-12308.) These services enable aged, blind, and disabled persons unable to perform the services themselves and otherwise unable to remain safely in their homes to avoid institutionalization. (§ 12300, subd. (a).) The IHSS program is administered locally by the county welfare department. (§§ 12301, 12301.1, 12302.)

Appellant has had several administrative hearings challenging welfare department determinations that have reduced her IHSS hours. (§ 10950.) In May 1990, an administrative law judge ruled that she was entitled to receive more hours pursuant to the IHSS program. The decision refused to give her interest on the retroactive award of benefits, ruling that "[t]he claimant's request for interest payments ... is better presented in a more appropriate forum."

The administrative law judge's decision was adopted by respondent Department of Social Services (DSS). (§ 10959.) Appellant filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus in the Ventura Superior Court. (§ 10962.) In her petition, appellant alleged that, as a matter of law, interest is available on retroactive awards of IHSS benefits and interest is properly awardable in administrative fair hearings before administrative law judges, and that "[t]o prevent administrative law judges from awarding interest in administrative proceedings would force recipients to have to file lawsuits to recover interest owed on [IHSS] awards which would cause a multiplicity of litigation. ... The failure to award interest deprives the petitioner from being made whole with respect to the loss of use of [IHSS] benefits during a period of deprivation...." She further contended that to award interest only in court proceedings was a denial of equal protection and due process, and that interest is awardable under Civil Code section 3287, subdivision (a).

Respondents did not file an answer to the petition. Instead they stated they were willing to allow the court to enter judgment awarding interest. Appellant insisted on a hearing on her petition. The trial court entered judgment awarding the interest requested but ruled that "[t]he petitioner's request that this court also decide the issue as

Page 835

to whether administrative law judges have the power to award interest is denied as this court does not have jurisdiction to decide that issue in this case." The court stated at the hearing that appellant perhaps should file a declaratory relief action in Sacramento.
DISCUSSION

1. Appellant Has Standing to Appeal

Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on grounds that appellant lacks standing. They contend that since the judgment was in [26 Cal.App.4th 752] appellant's favor, she is not an "aggrieved party." (Nevada County Office of Education v. Riles (1983) 149 Cal.App.3d 767, 779, 197 Cal.Rptr. 152.)

An "aggrieved party" within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 902 is one "who has an interest recognized by law in the subject matter of the judgment and whose interest is injuriously affected by the judgment...." (Winter v. Gnaizda (1979) 90 Cal.App.3d 750, 754, 152 Cal.Rptr. 700, emphasis in original; see also In re George B. (1991) 228 Cal.App.3d 1088, 1094, 279 Cal.Rptr. 388.) " '... [Appellant's] interest " 'must be immediate, pecuniary, and substantial and not nominal or a remote consequence of the judgment.' " ' " (Hensley v. Hensley (1987) 190 Cal.App.3d 895, 899, 235 Cal.Rptr. 684; County of Alameda v. Carleson (1971) 5 Cal.3d 730, 737, 97 Cal.Rptr. 385, 488 P.2d 953.)

Here appellant's petition specifically alleged that the administrative law judge erred in failing to award interest and that she was injured by having to litigate the issue which should have been resolved at the administrative hearing. Respondents filed no answer to the petition. Thus, all allegations are deemed admitted. (Code Civ. Proc., § 431.20, subd. (a); Cal. Administrative Mandamus (Cont.Ed.Bar 1989) § 10.9, p. 347.) Although the prayer of her petition may have requested a judgment of interest, the body of her pleading and the notice of hearing both sought an adjudication of the administrative judge's authority to grant interest on retroactive benefits. The administrative record establishes that she had other administrative hearings, and the administrative law judge's decision in issue indicated that she was not foreclosed from further hearings on her claims.

Respondents assert that trial courts make no binding precedents in any case. (Neary v. Regents of University of California (1992) 3 Cal.4th 273, 282, 10 Cal.Rptr.2d 859, 834 P.2d 119.) Nonetheless, " '... [t]he real value of the judicial pronouncement--what makes it a proper judicial resolution of a "case or controversy" rather than an advisory opinion--is in the settling of some dispute which affects the behavior of the defendant towards the plaintiff.' " (Ibid.) Here the court did not indicate that the issue was moot. It declined to decide the issue solely because it opined it lacked jurisdiction.

It is clear from the record that it is very likely appellant will be involved with further administrative hearings regarding her IHSS benefits. Appellant finds herself between the Scylla of the administrative judge who opined there was no authority to award interest and the Charybdis of the trial court that opined it had no jurisdiction to decide whether administrative judges could award interest. Appellant's "exclusive remedy" was to file an action for writ of administrative mandate in superior court pursuant to Code [26 Cal.App.4th 753] of Civil Procedure section 1094.5 to challenge the administrative judge's decision. (§ 10962; Green v. Obledo (1981) 29 Cal.3d 126, 143, fn. 12, 172 Cal.Rptr. 206, 624 P.2d 256.) Where issues on appeal affect the general public interest and the future rights of the parties, and there is a reasonable probability that the same question will be litigated again and appealed, an appellate court may adjudicate the issue involved even though the appeal would otherwise be subject to dismissal. (People v. West Coast Shows, Inc. (1970) 10 Cal.App.3d 462, 468, 89 Cal.Rptr. 290; see also Butt v. State of California (1992) 4 Cal.4th 668, 677, fn. 7, 15 Cal.Rptr.2d 480, 842 P.2d 1240.)

Page 836

As appellant states, she is locked into a perpetual relationship with the respondents and is subject to their refusal to award interest at the administrative level. She is dependent on the respondents to properly pay her what she is entitled to receive. She was given half a loaf. It left her unsatisfied. She was, and is, a party "aggrieved" by the trial court's judgment. Respondents' motion to dismiss is denied.

2. The Trial Court Had Jurisdiction to Decide the Issue

Respondents assert that the trial court did not err in refusing to make the finding requested because a court's determination "to refuse to grant declaratory relief will not be disturbed on appeal unless a clear abuse of discretion is shown." (Farmers Ins. Exchange v. Adams (1985) 170 Cal.App.3d 712, 723, 216 Cal.Rptr. 287, disapproved on other grounds in Garvey v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. (1989) 48 Cal.3d 395, 411-412, fn. 10, 257 Cal.Rptr. 292, 770 P.2d 704; Stevens v. Perkins (1979) 93 Cal.App.3d 69, 75, 155 Cal.Rptr. 482.) They further argue that a determination of whether justiciability exists in a jurisdictional sense in a declaratory relief action rests within the trial court's sound discretion. (Tehachapi-Cummings County Water Dist. v. Armstrong (1975) 49 Cal.App.3d 992, 998, 122 Cal.Rptr. 918.)

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17 practice notes
  • Dep't of Health Care Servs. v. Office of Admin. Hearings, F071023
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Noviembre 2016
    ...because its independent review of the record convinced it that the applicable standard was not satisfied, and Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 754, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832, in which the appellate court stated that while the trial court should have ruled on the merits of the issue, &q......
  • American Federation of Labor v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., No. S049642
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 29 Agosto 1996
    ...prejudgment interest after the Board determined that she was eligible for the additional benefits. Relying on Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832 (Knight ), the Court of Appeal awarded the interest as an additional benefit even though the Board had never wrongful......
  • Marquez v. Dep't of Health Care Servs., A140488
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 2 Septiembre 2015
    ...), quoting People v. Sims (1982) 32 Cal.3d 468, 493–494, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321 (Kaus, J., dis.); see Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 755, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832, disapproved on other grounds in American Federation of Labor v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1996) 13 Cal.4th......
  • Cal. Bldg. Indus. Ass'n v. Bay Area Air Quality Mgmt. Dist., A135335 & A136212
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 13 Agosto 2013
    ...208 Cal.App.4th at p. 923, 146 Cal.Rptr.3d 12), it would serve no useful purpose to remand the case. (Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 754, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832, disapproved of on other grounds inAmerican Federation of Labor v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1996) 13 Cal.4th 1017,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • Dep't of Health Care Servs. v. Office of Admin. Hearings, F071023
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Noviembre 2016
    ...because its independent review of the record convinced it that the applicable standard was not satisfied, and Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 754, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832, in which the appellate court stated that while the trial court should have ruled on the merits of the issue, &q......
  • American Federation of Labor v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., No. S049642
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 29 Agosto 1996
    ...prejudgment interest after the Board determined that she was eligible for the additional benefits. Relying on Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832 (Knight ), the Court of Appeal awarded the interest as an additional benefit even though the Board had never wrongful......
  • Marquez v. Dep't of Health Care Servs., A140488
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 2 Septiembre 2015
    ...), quoting People v. Sims (1982) 32 Cal.3d 468, 493–494, 186 Cal.Rptr. 77, 651 P.2d 321 (Kaus, J., dis.); see Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 755, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832, disapproved on other grounds in American Federation of Labor v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1996) 13 Cal.4th......
  • Cal. Bldg. Indus. Ass'n v. Bay Area Air Quality Mgmt. Dist., A135335 & A136212
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 13 Agosto 2013
    ...208 Cal.App.4th at p. 923, 146 Cal.Rptr.3d 12), it would serve no useful purpose to remand the case. (Knight v. McMahon (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 747, 754, 31 Cal.Rptr.2d 832, disapproved of on other grounds inAmerican Federation of Labor v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1996) 13 Cal.4th 1017,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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