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Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Eight
March 2, 2021, Opinion Filed
BIGELOW, P. J.—This case arises from an ownership dispute over a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. In essence, plaintiff Jamie Kersey claims defendant Christopher Stark transferred his ownership in Holistic Supplements, LLC (hereafter the LLC), to her in April 2015. Unbeknownst to Kersey and despite that alleged transfer, he later converted the LLC from a limited liability company to a corporation and then a mutual benefit corporation in his name called Holistic Supplements Inc. (the corporation) and changed the business address. In that process, he claimed rights to a business tax registration certificate (BTRC), a city-issued tax document that enabled the dispensary to operate.
Kersey and the LLC sued Stark and the corporation for conversion, unfair competition, [**2] and declaratory relief, among other claims. The case went to a jury trial, presenting the core factual dispute of whether Stark validly signed the April 2015 transfer documents or whether his signatures were forged. The jury ultimately decided only a single claim of conversion asserted by the LLC against the corporation, returning a defense verdict. The trial court removed the rest of the claims from the jury by granting nonsuit to defendants.
On appeal, plaintiffs argue nonsuit was improper and the trial court committed prejudicial instructional error on the conversion claim decided by the jury. We agree on both points. We conclude: (1) nonsuit was erroneous on Kersey's individual claims because she has standing to sue for conversion of [*537] her personal property membership interest in the LLC; (2) nonsuit was erroneous on claims against Stark in his individual capacity, since he can be held liable for personally participating in the tortious conduct of the corporation; (3) nonsuit was erroneous on plaintiffs' claims under the unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.; the UCL) because we reject the only two grounds for nonsuit defendants raise on appeal; and (4) the BTRC is property subject to conversion, [**3] so the trial court prejudicially erred when it instructed the jury it was not.
We also reject defendants' contention Kersey lacked standing because she failed to file a petition for reinstatement of the LLC pursuant to Government Code section 12261. The plain language of that provision permits a court to order reinstatement of a falsely or fraudulently terminated business entity upon either submission of “a petition to the superior court containing the legal and factual basis for reinstatement or as part of a civil action for damages or equitable relief.” (Gov. Code, § 12261, subd. (c), italics added.) Plaintiffs permissibly sought reinstatement as part of this lawsuit, so they did not need to file a separate petition in the superior court.
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61 Cal. App. 5th 530 *; 2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 176 **; 275 Cal. Rptr. 3d 791; 2021 WL 790711
HOLISTIC SUPPLEMENTS, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CHRISTOPHER STARK et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Prior History: [**1] APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC599796, Rupert A. Byrdsong, Judge.
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
dispensary, conversion, ownership, reinstatement, license, trial court, converted, medical marijuana, transferred, nonsuit, entity, certificate, plaintiffs', membership, shareholder, documents, declaratory relief, marijuana, fraudulent, Ordinance, parties, personal property, individual claim, stock, business tax, limited liability company, instruct a jury, mutual benefit, defendants', purposes
Civil Procedure, Pretrial Judgments, Nonsuits, Involuntary Nonsuits, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Voluntary Nonsuits, Business & Corporate Law, Shareholder Actions, Actions Against Corporations, Direct Actions, Derivative Actions, Enforcement of Corporate Rights, Procedural Matters, Limited Liability Companies, Member Duties & Liabilities, Torts, Intentional Torts, Conversion, Defenses, Types of Transactions, Transfers of Stock, Duties & Liabilities, Negligent Acts of Agents, Liability of Agents, Management Duties & Liabilities, Causes of Action, Negligent Acts of Directors & Officers, Shareholders, Shareholder Duties & Liabilities, Personal Liability, Dissolution & Winding Up, Elements, Management Duties & Liabilities, Antitrust & Trade Law, Trade Practices & Unfair Competition, State Regulation, Scope, Consumer Protection, Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices, State Regulation, Tax Law, Income Taxes, Corporations & Unincorporated Associations, Imposition of Tax, Governments, Local Governments, Ordinances & Regulations, Corporations, Dissolution & Receivership, Termination & Winding Up, State & Territorial Governments, Employees & Officials, Legislation, Interpretation, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Relief, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint, Claims By & Against