California’s Supreme Court recently ruled, in Reid v. Google, Inc., that a trial court’s failure to rule on evidentiary objections when ruling on motions for summary judgment did not waive those objections on appeal pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 437c.
Reid, a former employee of Google, Inc., filed an employment discrimination action against Google, Inc. In response, Google, Inc. filed a motion for summary judgment against Reid’s age discrimination claims and thereafter filed written objections to the evidence Reid submitted. The trial court did not specifically rule on the objections, but relied “on competent and admissible evidence” and granted Google, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals found that Google, Inc.’s filing of evidentiary objections before the summary judgment hearing was sufficient to preserve the objections on appeal. The Court of Appeals held that the objections were presumed to be overruled by the trial court, yet because they were preserved on appeal; it considered the evidentiary objections on the merits and reversed the trial court’s ruling. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals and affirmed its judgment.
Section 437c(b)(5) provides that “[e]videntiary objections not made at the hearing shall be deemed waived.” This section defines waiver in terms of a party’s failure to raise objections at the hearing, not in terms of trial court expressly ruling on such objections. Thus, even when a trial court fails to rule on evidentiary objections, they are not deemed waived, so long as the party made the evidentiary objections at the hearing.
This finding is contrary to the Supreme Court’s decisions in prior cases where it held that objections not ruled on are deemed waived on appeal. Specifically, the Supreme Court disapproved its prior rulings in Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center and Sharon P. v. Arman, Ltd., to the extent they hold that “when a trial court fails to rule on objections to summary judgment evidence, the objections are waived and are not preserved on appeal.”
The Supreme Court also turned to statute’s purpose and legislative history to determine that written evidentiary objections made before the hearing, as well as oral objections made at the hearing, are deemed “at the hearing” under section 437c(b)(5) and (d).
As a result, it is important for parties to submit evidentiary objections in support of, or in opposition to, motions for summary judgments to preserve them on appeal. Even when the trial court fails to rule on the evidentiary objections, the Court of Appeals can consider the merits of the objections, which can lead to a reversal of a summary judgment motion as it did in this case.
By C. Mina Kim, Esq., www.schorr-law.com, 310-954-1877, firstname.lastname@example.org.