Loyd v. Loyd, B285512

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtHOFFSTADT
Decision Date29 November 2018
PartiesDEBRA LOYD, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. TAMIKO LOYD, Plaintiff and Respondent.
Docket NumberB285512

DEBRA LOYD, Plaintiff and Appellant,
TAMIKO LOYD, Plaintiff and Respondent.



November 29, 2018


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. Nos. JCCP4788 & BC569593)

APPEAL from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. John Shepard Wiley, Jr., Judge. Affirmed.

Dermot Givens for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Law Office of Herb Fox, Herb Fox and Gnau & Tamez Law Group, Daniel Roman Tamez for Plaintiff and Respondent.

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After a tragic traffic accident that took the life of a 29-year-old man chaperoning a group of prospective college applicants to Humboldt State University, the man's mother and grandmother filed wrongful death claims against the group's bus driver and the company that employed the driver of the big rig that struck the bus. The trial court ruled that only the mother had standing to pursue the wrongful death claim. The grandmother appeals, challenging that ruling as well as the court's subsequent refusal to reconsider its ruling after it withdrew the pro hac vice status it had conferred upon one of the mother's three lawyers. We conclude there was no error and affirm.


I. Facts

A. The Accident

On a late Sunday afternoon in April 2014, a Federal Express big rig crossed the center divider of the I-5 freeway in Orland, California. The big rig struck the front end of a bus transporting several prospective applicants and several alumni chaperones back from Humboldt State University. Among those killed in the collision were Michael Myvett, Jr. (decedent) and his fiancée.

B. Decedent's Birth and Upbringing

Decedent was born in March 1985. Decedent's biological mother is plaintiff and respondent Tamiko Loyd (Tamiko)1, and, by DNA tests, his biological father is Andre Island (Island). On decedent's birth certificate, however, Tamiko listed another man as decedent's father.

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From days after his birth until his 18th birthday, decedent lived with plaintiff and appellant Debra Loyd (Debra) who is his grandmother and Tamiko's mother. During his years as a minor, decedent always lived with grandmother. Tamiko lived in the household only intermittently. Soon after decedent's fifth birthday (in 1990), Debra became decedent's legal guardian. Tamiko nevertheless threw or attended several of decedent's birthday parties and attended other family events as he grew up (as evidenced by photographs of Tamiko and decedent when he was seven, 14, and 17 years old). At no point did Debra adopt decedent. Debra paid for most of decedent's living expenses while he was growing up in her household. Tamiko provided occasional financial support by buying shoes, clothing, and school supplies.

II. Procedural History

A. Dueling Wrongful Death Actions

In June 2014, Tamiko sued Federal Express and Silverado Stages, Inc. for the wrongful death of decedent.

In January 2015, Debra sued the same two parties as well as Volvo of North America, for (1) the wrongful death of decedent, (2) a survival claim, and (3) negligence.

B. Litigating Standing to Sue for Wrongful Death

Recognizing that only one claim for wrongful death may be brought, the trial court consolidated the actions, and the parties stipulated to a procedure for litigating which of decedent's relatives—Tamiko or Debra—could bring a claim for wrongful death. The parties filed written briefs and presented testimony at a July 19, 2017 hearing.

On July 20, 2017, the trial court issued a written ruling which concluded that only Tamiko had standing to sue for

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decedent's wrongful death.2 The statutes authorizing a wrongful death claim, the court noted, apply the rules of "intestate succession" where, as here, the decedent dies without a spouse, domestic partner, or any children or grandchildren. The rules of intestate succession, the court went on, provide that a decedent's mother has standing over the decedent's grandmother unless, among other things, the mother (1) made no effort to provide for the decedent's support, and (2) acted with the intent to abandon the decedent. The court "accept[ed] Tamiko's . . . testimony that she made at least continuing, albeit intermittent, efforts to support her son and that she had no intent to abandon him." Because Debra could not establish two of the requirements for "skipping over" Tamiko, the court ruled that Tamiko was the relative with standing to sue for decedent's wrongful death.

C. Debra's Post-ruling Motion to Disqualify Tamiko's Counsel

In September 2017, Debra filed a motion aimed at disqualifying (1) the two lawyers who served as Tamiko's local counsel, and (2) the Texas lawyer whom the trial court had admitted pro hac vice prior to the July 19, 2017 hearing. In her moving papers, Debra argued that all three lawyers were part of a "scheme" to present false evidence that minimized Debra's relationship with decedent and that the Texas lawyer had not disclosed to the court that he was being sued by the Tennessee Attorney General. Debra did not ask the court to vacate its earlier July 2017 ruling on this basis.

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On September 19, 2017, the trial court issued an order denying the motion to disqualify Tamiko's local counsel but denying the Texas lawyer's application to appear pro hac vice. The court declined to disqualify Tamiko's local counsel because Debra's motion was untimely and because it lacked evidentiary support. The court nonetheless ruled that it was "not in the interests of justice" to allow the Texas lawyer to appear pro hac vice because he had "demonstrate[ed] ignorance or disregard for California procedure" in (1) submitting his application to appear pro hac vice late, (2) not completely filling out the application, and (3) not disclosing his history of bar discipline in Texas or the pending lawsuit against him in Tennessee regarding unlawful solicitation of clients in that state.

D. Notice of Appeal and Subsequent Events

On October 5, 2017, Debra filed a notice of appeal to appeal the court's July 20 and September 19 orders.

On March 19, 2018, the trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants in Debra's case on her remaining claims for survival and negligence.


In this appeal, Debra argues that the trial court erred in (1) ruling that she lacked standing to sue for wrongful death, and (2) not vacating its ruling on standing when it subsequently denied the Texas lawyer pro hac vice status.3 Tamiko responds

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that we may lack jurisdiction to consider Debra's appeal, but urges us to do so anyway.

I. Appealability

Neither of the orders that Debra appeals—the July 20, 2017 order determining her standing to sue for wrongful death or the September 19, 2017 order denying Tamiko's Texas lawyer permission to appear pro hac vice—finally disposes of all of Debra's affirmative claims for relief. As such, they are interlocutory and not subject to appeal where, as here, they fall outside any of the statutory exceptions allowing for the appeal of an interlocutory order. (Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara (1994) 7 Cal.4th 725, 741 ["a judgment disposing of fewer than all causes of action between the parties was nonappealable"]; Code Civ. Proc., § 904.1, subd. (a).) However, because a final judgment disposing of all of Debra's claims was issued in March 2018, we may treat Debra's appeal of the two interlocutory orders as a premature appeal of the final judgment. (E.g., Hummel v. First National...

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