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Ghadrdan v. Gorabi

February 25, 2010

SAM GHADRDAN, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
ALEX GORABI ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles, Robert L. Hess, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC350052).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mosk, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

INTRODUCTION

Defendants and appellants Alex Gorabi and Angelino Men's Wear, Inc. (defendants)*fn2 appeal from a monetary judgment entered against them and in favor of plaintiff Sam Ghadrdan (plaintiff) after a jury trial. In the published portion of this opinion, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded evidence of a plea agreement and conviction of a corporation, of which plaintiff was the chief executive officer and sole shareholder, to impeach plaintiff and show plaintiff's motive and knowledge. In the unpublished portion of this opinion, we reject defendants' other contentions. We therefore affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This litigation arose out of a longstanding business relationship between plaintiff and defendant that originally involved a textile business. Plaintiff financed the business and defendant handled the day-to-day operations. At some point, the original business became a men's clothing business that, among other things, purchased a parcel of commercial property. In 2006, a dispute arose over the ownership of the clothing business and the commercial property. As a result, plaintiff sued defendants alleging multiple causes of action, and the case proceeded to a jury trial. After a lengthy trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff on his breach of oral contract cause of action in the amount of $2,396,404.50. Plaintiff did not obtain further relief on any of his other claims.

DISCUSSION

A. Order Denying Motion for Summary Adjudication

Defendants contend that the trial court erred when it denied their motion for summary adjudication of plaintiff's breach of oral contract claim, which motion was based on the statute of limitations. Plaintiff counters that because the jury determined the statute of limitations defense against defendants after trial on the merits, defendants cannot show on appeal the requisite prejudice from the trial court's ruling on the summary adjudication motion. We agree with plaintiff.

Defendants filed a summary adjudication motion asserting, inter alia, that plaintiff's breach of oral contract cause of action was barred by the statute of limitations. In denying defendants' motion, the trial court found that there were "triable issues of material fact . . . and that the motion must be denied in its entirety for that reason. Such triable issues include the following: [¶] 1. Whether the Doctrine of Estoppel bars Defendants from raising the Statute of Limitations as a defense; . . . ."

At trial, plaintiff provided testimony on direct examination to support his argument that defendants were equitably estopped from asserting the statute of limitations defense. As discussed below, the jury found in favor of plaintiff on this issue, rendering any purported error in the denial of the summary adjudication motion harmless.

Plaintiff testified on the equitable estoppel issue as follows:

"Q: And can you tell me, did you have any discussion with [defendant] with respect to him giving you a series of checks?

A: Yes.

Q: And do you recall what was said?

A: Yes, I told [defendant] that I invest so much money in the company and I need to be repaid for initial investment and also the promissory note and I told [defendant] if I do not receive a payment I have to see a lawyer.

Q: This was at the end of - what did you say 2000?

A: 2000.

Q: And do you recall whether [defendant] said anything in reply to you?

A: Yeah, [defendant] says `come on, we are partners, don't go to lawyers. The business is getting stronger and I will pay for the promissory note initial investment just have patience with me.' And that's why [defendant] gave me 15 checks. [¶] . . . [¶]

Q: Was this the first time that you and [defendant] had discussed your wanting to be repaid?

A: No.

Q: Had you talked about it before then?

A: Yes.

Q: And can you recall what was said in any prior conversation?

A: Same things. I told [defendant] that I spent so much money and so much time had passed and he didn't make any payment and basically the discussion started around 2000.

Q: And were there any discussions after the second discussion that you just testified about?

A: Yes.

Q: Can you estimate how many discussions you had with [defendant] where you were wanting to be repaid?

A: I can't give you exact number, but like once a month or so, I would bring up the conversation with [defendant] that I have to be paid for initial investment and promissory note and [defendant] all of the time says `have patience with me business is getting stronger and I will pay you.' [¶] . . . [¶]

Q: And can you tell me - you said starting in 2000 you had these conversations with [defendant], when do you think the last of these conversations was?

A: 2000 it started and then until end of 2005.

[¶] . . . [¶]

Q: And did you have any conversation with [defendant] in connection with receiving this check?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you recall what was said?

A: Yes, I told [defendant] that I had a conversation with [defendant] and I told him that I need to be paid for promissory note and also the initial investment and I told him he doesn't leave me any choice other than to see an attorney. That's why he paid this check to me.

Q: Okay. Did he say anything in connection with your statement to him that you would need to see an attorney?

A: Constantly he says `don't use an attorney, the business is getting better and I will pay you all money for promissory note and initial investment.'

[¶] . . . [¶]

Q: Now, did you ever have a conversation with [defendant] in January of 2006?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you recall what [defendant] ...


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