Western Mutual Ins. Co. v. Yamamoto

Decision Date03 November 1994
Docket NumberNo. D017580,D017580
Citation29 Cal.App.4th 1474,35 Cal.Rptr.2d 698
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesWESTERN MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Anthony YAMAMOTO, Defendant and Appellant.

Anthony F. Mournian, San Diego, and Alvin M. Gomez, Chula Vista, for defendant and appellant.

Bartlett & Kirch, Bradley A. Bartlett and Jacques J. Kirch, Escondido, for plaintiff and respondent.

HALLER, Associate Justice.

This insurance declaratory relief action arises from an incident in which Anthony Yamamoto was shot by a minor, Bruce B. (Bruce), who used his father's gun. Relying on factual findings of intentional conduct made in juvenile court and applying collateral estoppel, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Western Mutual Insurance Company (Western), the homeowners insurance carrier for Bruce's family. Yamamoto, who was named as a defendant in the declaratory relief action, appeals. His principal contentions are the elements necessary to apply collateral estoppel did not exist, and, even if they did, findings in juvenile court should not be utilized in subsequent civil proceedings.

We find the trial court properly concluded the findings in juvenile court were binding on the parties to this action and, having made that determination, the trial court also correctly decided there was no coverage because the policy excluded coverage for "expected or intended" bodily injury.


On November 2, 1990, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Yamamoto was skateboarding with a friend at a shopping center when a car drove into the parking lot. The car repeatedly sped up and slowed down, and the occupants, including Bruce, gave Yamamoto and his friend dirty looks. When Yamamoto approached the car and asked, "[w]hat's wrong with your driving?," Bruce, a passenger, pointed a gun at him. Yamamoto then asked, "[a]re you going to shoot me?" The car drove away.

Later that evening, Yamamoto and two friends went to Bruce's residence, where Yamamoto left a boulder in the driveway and threw eggs at the house. As Yamamoto drove off, Bruce followed in his mother's car, carrying his father's gun. Eventually Bruce and Yamamoto met in a cul-de-sac. Yamamoto On November 6, 1990, a petition was filed in juvenile court alleging that Bruce assaulted Yamamoto with a firearm (Pen.Code, § 245, subd. (a)(2)) and committed an act of misdemeanor hit and run driving (Veh.Code, § 20002, subd. (a)). The petition also specially alleged that Bruce used a firearm within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.5 and intentionally inflicted great bodily injury within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.7 in the commission of the assault. Following a four-day hearing, at which Bruce's counsel called witnesses favorable to Bruce and Bruce testified that he acted in self-defense, the petition was sustained in its entirety. Bruce was committed to a 24-hour school for the maximum term of 11 years and 6 months.

approached the car with his hands up. When Yamamoto was within six or seven feet of the car, Bruce shot him several times, hitting him in both arms.

Bruce appealed, raising several issues, including the validity of the great bodily injury finding (Pen.Code, § 12022.7), the rejection of his self-defense claim and the improper use of enhancements to set the maximum term. This court affirmed but modified the term imposed. (In re Bruce B. (Oct. 21, 1991) D013919 [nonpub. opn.].) 1

Specifically, we found "[r]epeatedly shooting a .38 caliber handgun at a victim at close range is substantial evidence supporting the [section] 12022.7 finding.... [Par.] Substantial evidence supports the rejection of the self-defense claim." (In re Bruce B., supra, D013919.) Because the trial court had improperly used two enhancements (Pen.Code, §§ 12022.5, 12022.7) in setting the maximum term, we struck the lesser Penal Code section 12022.7 enhancement, thereby reducing the term. (In re Bruce B., supra.)

On August 9, 1991, Yamamoto filed a personal injury action, naming Bruce and his parents as defendants. (Yamamoto v. Barcenal (Super.Ct. San Diego County, 1991, No. 641147).) Alleging both intentional and negligent causes of action, Yamamoto sought recovery for damages sustained as a result of the shooting incident.

Bruce's family tendered the matter to their homeowners carrier, Western. Western accepted the defense subject to a reservation of rights, filed the instant declaratory relief action against its insureds (Bruce and his parents) and Yamamoto, and subsequently sought summary judgment.

In its motion, Western argued the juvenile court's true finding was binding on Bruce's family as well as Yamamoto, and, because the issue of intentional conduct had been adjudicated as part of the true finding, there was no coverage. Western relied upon policy exclusions precluding coverage for injuries that were "expected or intended" and for injuries arising out of criminal acts, Insurance Code Section 533, which prohibits coverage for willful conduct, and case law authority interpreting the phrase, "an insured."

In opposition, Yamamoto set forth several arguments: Western had not met its burden of proof; it was improper to take judicial notice of the juvenile court findings; juvenile court proceedings have no collateral estoppel effect on civil proceedings; the "criminal acts" exclusion was ambiguous; there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether Bruce acted intentionally or in self-defense; and Bruce's parents were entitled to coverage even if Bruce was not. Bruce's family also opposed the motion, raising similar contentions.

At the first of two oral hearings, the trial court indicated it was inclined to grant summary judgment based on collateral estoppel, observing "juvenile proceedings ... are the functional equivalent of a judicial determination with regard to issues of fact that are binding on this Court and not subject to relitigation." However, the trial court wanted to know more about the scope of the At the second hearing, on August 28, 1992, the trial court informed counsel it had secured the juvenile court file, and, after reviewing it, was satisfied "that all of the issues with regard to whether or not the acts of the defendant [Bruce], in the juvenile matter, were intentional have been raised." Concluding the requisite elements of collateral estoppel were present, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Western and against Yamamoto and Bruce's family. The minute order reflects the trial court relied upon the insurance policy exclusion for bodily injury "expected or intended" by an insured, and Insurance Code section 533 in concluding there was no coverage. The minute order also reflects the trial court took judicial notice of the entire juvenile court file.

juvenile court proceedings before determining whether the doctrine was applicable.

In the formal order granting summary judgment, which was entered on September 17, 1992, the trial court concluded Bruce's acts were criminal and intentional and found: (1) the insurance policy's exclusion for bodily injury "expected or intended" by an insured applied to defeat coverage; (2) the exclusion for bodily injury resulting from any criminal act applied to defeat coverage; (3) Insurance Code section 533 prohibits coverage for Bruce; and (4) Bruce's parents are not covered because the policy excludes coverage for all insureds for any injury intentionally caused by an insured.

Yamamoto appealed; Bruce's family did not.


Initially, we reject Western's argument Yamamoto has no standing to pursue this appeal. Western named Yamamoto as a defendant in the declaratory relief action below, and therefore Yamamoto, as an aggrieved party, may appeal. (9 Witkin, Cal.Procedure (3d ed. 1985) Appeal, § 135, p. 145.) Clearly, Western's purpose in naming Yamamoto was to adjudicate Yamamoto's rights and bind him to the ultimate judgment. With that objective in mind, Western's suggestion Yamamoto cannot appeal an adverse judgment, is inherently unfair and contrary to basic equitable considerations.

Turning to the merits of the appeal, summary judgment is properly granted when the evidence in support of the moving party establishes there is no material issue of fact to be tried and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. (Code Civ.Proc., § 437c, subd. (c); Mann v. Cracchiolo (1985) 38 Cal.3d 18, 35, 210 Cal.Rptr. 762, 694 P.2d 1134.) "The trial court must decide if a triable issue of fact exists. If none does, and the sole remaining issue is one of law, it is the duty of the trial court to determine the issue of law." (B & E Convalescent Center v. State Compensation Ins. Fund (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 78, 88-89, 9 Cal.Rptr.2d 894.)

On appeal, this court must conduct de novo review to determine whether there are any triable factual issues. (Pearl v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 1023, 1027, 16 Cal.Rptr.2d 805.) Likewise, because the "interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law, [we must] make an independent determination of the meaning of the language used in the contract under consideration." (State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Eddy (1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 958, 965, 267 Cal.Rptr. 379.)

Moreover, where there is no genuine issue of material fact, the appellate court should affirm the judgment of the trial court if it is correct on any theory of law applicable to the case, including but not limited to the theory adopted by the trial court. (Lucas v. Pollock (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 668, 673, 8 Cal.Rptr.2d 918; Koch v. Rodlin Enterprises (1990) 223 Cal.App.3d 1591, 1593, 273 Cal.Rptr. 438.) Thus, we must affirm so long as any of the grounds urged by Western, either here or in the trial court, entitles it to summary judgment. (Maryland Casualty Co. v. Reeder (1990) 221 Cal.App.3d 961, 966-967, 270 Cal.Rptr. 719.)

Western's policy (Policy No. 1021703)...

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