Business Procedural Posture
Procedural Posture

Plaintiff, a manufacturer of roof shingles, sued defendant, a supplier of asphalt coating, alleging that the supplier stopped performing after the price of the oil on which the pricing formula was based fell, while the price of the oil used in the coating remained constant. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, granted summary adjudication for the manufacturer as to liability and a defense. The supplier sought writ review.

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The court of appeal held that plaintiffs may, despite the confusing language of Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (f)(1), move for summary adjudication of a cause of action if the plaintiff asserts there is “no defense” to that cause of action; the plaintiff must prove each element on that cause of action. In the current case, it was improper to grant summary adjudication as to the supplier’s liability for breach of contract, with the specific understanding that damages would be determined at trial, because damages are an element of a breach of contract cause of action; thus, a plaintiff cannot obtain judgment on a breach of contract cause of action in an amount of damages to be determined later. However, summary adjudication was proper as to mistake of fact under Civ. Code, § 1577, because the mistake was one of judgment, not fact. The supplier was mistaken as to whether the correlation in price between the two types of oil would continue but not as to the value of the price-formula oil at the time of the contract; it could have protected itself by providing that the continued use of the formula pricing depended on the continuation of the price relationship, but it failed to do so.


The court of appeal granted writ relief as to summary adjudication on liability and denied relief as to summary adjudication on the defense of mutual mistake.

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