Profile Structures, Inc. v. Long Beach Bldg. Material Co.

Citation226 Cal.Rptr. 192,181 Cal.App.3d 437
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Decision Date14 May 1986
PartiesPROFILE STRUCTURES, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. LONG BEACH BUILDING MATERIAL COMPANY, Defendant and Respondent. B015945.
Edward Firestone, for plaintiff and appellant

Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth, Richard C. Goodman and Nancy Rader Whitehead, for defendant and respondent.

LILLIE, Presiding Justice.

Plaintiff, Profile Structures, Inc. (Profile), appeals from judgment dismissing its action for damages for abuse of process entered after the demurrer of defendant, Long Beach Building Material Company (LBBMC), to the complaint was sustained without leave to amend.


The complaint included the following allegations: In an action commenced by LBBMC against Profile, LBBMC obtained a temporary protective order (Code Civ.Proc., § 486.010 et seq.) for $54,704.32 in lieu of an ex parte right to attach order. LBBMC did not personally serve Profile with a copy of the protective order as required by law but instead misused the process by willfully and wrongfully serving copies of the order on Lloyds Bank of California (bank) and the University of California at San Diego (university). Pursuant to such service the bank withheld from Profile the sum of $54,704.32 in its account with the bank and the university withheld the sum of $23,451 due Profile under its contract with the university. The total of Profile's assets withheld as a result of LBBMC's conduct was $78,155.32, whereas the protective order covered but $54,704.32. A temporary protective order is personal to the defendant against whom it is issued; it does not attach his funds or assets in the hands of third persons. LBBMC knew, or should have known, that service of the temporary protective order on the bank and the university had no legal effect; such entities were served solely to make them believe that they had a duty to withhold funds of Profile in their hands. LBBMC's ulterior motive in so misusing the temporary protective order was to coerce Profile into paying LBBMC the full amount of the damages sought in its complaint although LBBMC knew that Profile was liable for less than that amount. As a proximate result of the wrongful acts of LBBMC, Profile was deprived of the sum of $78,155.32 together with interest thereon which, at the date of expiration of the temporary protective order, will amount to $868.40. 1

Defendant demurred generally to the complaint on the ground that its service of the temporary protective order on the bank and the university was a publication made in a judicial proceeding and, as such, was absolutely privileged (Civ.Code, § 47, subd. 2). The demurrer was sustained without leave to amend and the action dismissed. This appeal followed.


Under Civil Code section 47, subdivision The absolute privilege attaches if all of the following conditions are met: the publication (1) was made in a judicial proceeding; (2) had some connection or logical relation to the action; (3) was made to achieve the objects of the litigation; and (4) involved litigants or other participants authorized by law. (Costa v. Superior Court (1984) 157 Cal.App.3d 673, 677, 204 Cal.Rptr. 1; Brody v. Montalbano (1978) 87 Cal.App.3d 725, 733, 151 Cal.Rptr. 206; Bradley v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. (1973) 30 Cal.App.3d 818, 825, 106 Cal.Rptr. 718.) Once such conditions are shown to exist the privilege applies "even though the publication is made outside the courtroom and no function of the court or its officers is invoked.... [I]t is not limited to the pleadings, the oral or written evidence, to publications in open court or in briefs or affidavits." (Albertson v. Raboff, supra, 46 Cal.2d 375, 381, 295 P.2d 405.)

                2, 2 a publication made in a judicial proceeding is absolutely privileged (Albertson v. Raboff (1956) 46 Cal.2d 375, 379, 295 P.2d 405), i.e., the privilege attaches even though the publication was made with actual malice or with intent to do harm.  (Younger v. Solomon (1974) 38 Cal.App.3d 289, 300, 113 Cal.Rptr. 113;  Rader v. Thrasher (1972) 22 Cal.App.3d 883, 887, 99 Cal.Rptr. 670.)   The privilege created by section 47, though part of the statutory law dealing with defamation, has been applied by case law to defeat a variety of tort actions, including abuse of process.  (Rosenthal v. Irell & Manella (1982) 135 Cal.App.3d 121, 125, 185 Cal.Rptr. 92;  Umansky v. Urquhart (1978) 84 Cal.App.3d 368, 371, 148 Cal.Rptr. 547;  Younger v. Solomon, supra, 38 Cal.App.3d at p. 300, 113 Cal.Rptr. 113.)   Accordingly, if the complaint herein shows on its face that the privilege is applicable, the demurrer was properly sustained.  (See Code Civ.Proc., § 430.30, subd.  (a);  SKF Farms v. Superior Court (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 902, 905. 200 Cal.Rptr. 497;  Garton v. Title Ins. & Trust Co.  (1980) 106 Cal.App.3d 365, 375, 165 Cal.Rptr. 449.)

Citing Code of Civil Procedure sections 486.050 and 486.080, 3 appellant contends the second and third conditions for application of the privilege are not met because respondent's publication of the temporary protective order by service on the bank and the university had no logical relation to the action and was not made to achieve the objects of the litigation. Specifically, appellant argues that under such statutes respondent had no right to specify which of appellant's assets were to be retained under the provisions of the temporary protective order; appellant alone had the right to select which of its assets to hold in satisfaction of the order. Accordingly, respondent's publication of the order to the bank and the university "could not be pertinent or have any reasonable relation to the action" (emphasis omitted); further, such publication "could not possibly have achieved the objects of the litigation--the holding of assets until a right to attach order could issue."

Appellant takes too narrow a view of the conditions necessary for application of the privilege. "The publication need not be pertinent, relevant or material in a technical sense to any issue if it has some connection or relation to the proceedings." (Pettitt v. Levy (1972) 28 Cal.App.3d 484, 489, 104 Cal.Rptr. 650. See also Ascherman v. Natanson (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 861, 865, 100 Cal.Rptr. 656; Thornton v. Rhoden The temporary protective order, a copy of which was attached to the complaint and incorporated therein by reference, described the following property subject to its provisions: "All property of a corporate defendant. Specifically, all corporate bank accounts and accounts receivable, including funds due to defendant by the University of California at San Diego." Appellant was ordered not to transfer, directly or indirectly, any interest in the described property. Contrary to appellant's reading of Code of Civil Procedure section 486.050, the purpose of the requirement that the temporary protective order adequately describe the property subject to its provisions is to enable the defendant to comply with the prohibition against transfer of his property described in the order (see 16 Cal.Jur.3d (Rev.) Part 2, Creditors' Rights and Remedies, § 153, p. 215), not to permit the defendant to select portions of such property which eventually may be attached in satisfaction of judgment. The bank and the university held property of appellant described in the order; respondent's act of furnishing copies of the order to those entities served the purpose of informing them of the prohibition against appellant's transfer of its property in their hands. Accordingly, it cannot be said that publication of the order to the bank and the university had no logical relation to the action and was not made to achieve the object of preserving appellant's property subject to the order.

                (1966) 245 Cal.App.2d 80, 90, 53 Cal.Rptr. 706.)   Any doubt as to whether such relationship or connection existed must be resolved in favor of a finding of privilege.  (Costa v. Superior Court, supra, 157 Cal.App.3d 673, 678, 204 Cal.Rptr. 1;  Izzi v. Rellas (1980) 104 Cal.App.3d 254, 263, 163 Cal.Rptr. [181 Cal.App.3d 443] 689;  Tiedemann v. Superior Court (1978) 83 Cal.App.3d 918, 925, 148 Cal.Rptrl

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