The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rivera, J.
Spielman v. Ex'pression Center for New Media CA1/4
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS
California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
In these consolidated appeals, plaintiffs in consolidated actions against Ex'pression Center for New Media (Ex'pression) contend the trial court misinterpreted a portion of the Education Code, wrongly granted Ex'pression's demurrer on the theory that certain of their claims were barred by the statute of limitations, and wrongly denied their motions for a directed verdict. We agree the trial court misinterpreted Education Code former section 94877, subdivision (a), and shall remand for further proceedings. In all other respects, we shall affirm.
Ex'pression is a private post-secondary educational institution in Emeryville, California, which offers courses in sound arts, digital visual media, and Web design and development. In 1998, Ex'pression received temporary approval to operate from California's Bureau for Private Post-secondary and Vocational Education (the Bureau), a part of the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Bureau approved Ex'pression as a California private post-secondary degree-granting institution in January 2001, authorizing it to offer bachelor of applied science degrees in comprehensive sound, comprehensive digital visual media, and Web design and development; and diplomas in comprehensive sound arts, digital visual media, and Web design and development.
On September 13, 2004, Rebecca Spielman, Anna Navone, Christopher Friend, Amanda Instone, Jillian Meador, and Bobby Cochran (collectively the Spielman plaintiffs), all Ex'pression graduates, filed an action against Ex'pression and others (collectively Ex'pression) for violation of Education Code*fn1 former sections 94312, 94832, and 94875, as well as various other causes of action not relevant to this appeal. (Spielman v. Ex'pression Center for New Media (Super. Ct. Alameda County, 2008, No. RG04174927).) On the same date, Lawrence Yu, Brian Clarke, Brian Toomajian, Yuki Ikeda, Matthew Morales, Michael Elias, and Deron Delgado (collectively, along with Jason Ho, the Yu plaintiffs), all former students at Ex'pression, filed an action against Ex'pression. (Yu v. Ex'pression Center for New Media (Super. Ct. Alameda County, 2008, No. RG04175490.) Jason Ho was added to this action as a plaintiff in a first amended complaint filed December 1, 2004. The Yu plaintiffs' second amended complaint alleged a cause of action for violations of the Maxine Waters School Reform and Student Protection Act of 1989 (former §§ 94850-94882) (the Waters Act),*fn2 as well as other causes of action not at issue in this appeal.
The Spielman plaintiffs alleged that Ex'pression misrepresented to them that it would soon be nationally accredited, that they would graduate from Ex'pression with degrees from a nationally accredited institution, that their degrees and credits would be transferable to other accredited institutions, that Ex'pression had a " '100 percent' " job placement rate, that it was highly regarded by Bay Area employers and would provide meaningful career placement assistance, that its education would allow plaintiffs to obtain employment in their fields of study, that plaintiffs would be eligible for government student loans or that they could apply for such loans retroactively, and that when Ex'pression became accredited, plaintiffs' degrees would retroactively be deemed accredited. The Yu plaintiffs similarly alleged that before they enrolled, defendants made various false representations, including that Ex'pression was or soon would be fully accredited, that the Yu plaintiffs would receive valid associate of science or bachelor's degrees, and that the units earned at Ex'pression were legitimate and transferable.
Ex'pression demurred to the Yu plaintiffs' second amended complaint, contending, as pertinent here, that the cause of action for violations of the Waters Act was barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Ex'pression argued that some of the plaintiffs (Toomajian, Morales, Elias, and Delgado) last attended Ex'pression on May 12, 2001, and that Ikeda last attended Ex'pression on July 20, 2001. According to Ex'pression, these plaintiffs were barred from pleading any claim with a three-year statute of limitations. The trial court sustained the demurrer to this cause of action without leave to amend as to Toomajian, Morales, Elias, Delgado, and Ikeda.*fn3
Ex'pression cross-complained against the Spielman plaintiffs and Yu, Ho, Ikeda, Elias, and Delgado, alleging they had defaulted on their tuition loan payments and asserting causes of action for breach of contract, open book account, account stated, money had and received, and quantum meruit.
The Yu and Spielman actions were consolidated. During trial, Ikeda and all the Spielman plaintiffs except Instone moved for a directed verdict on Ex'pression's cross-complaints on the ground that their tuition had been paid to Ex'pression by a third party, EJW, which was not a party to the consolidated actions, and that there was no evidence EJW had assigned to Ex'pression its right to collect on the loan amounts due to EJW. The trial court denied the motion.
The jury returned separate special verdicts as to each plaintiff.*fn4 We here summarize the special verdicts to the extent they are relevant to the issues on appeal.
On plaintiff's claims under section 94877, subdivision (a),*fn5 the jury was asked to make several findings.
Question No. 9(a): The jury was asked whether, in connection with an agreement for a course of instruction, Ex'pression had presented to plaintiffs "information that was false or misleading relating to the school, to employment opportunities, or to enrollment opportunities in institutions of higher learning after entering into or completing courses offered by the school." The jury answered "[y]es" to this question as to Meador. It answered "[n]o" as to Cochran, Friend, Instone, Navone, Spielman, Clarke, Ho, and Yu.*fn6
Question No. 9(b): The jury was asked whether Ex'pression had "[m]ade or caused to be made any statement to [plaintiffs] that was in any manner untrue or misleading, either by actual statement, omission, or intimation." The jury answered "[y]es" to this question as to Cochran, Friend, Instone, Meador, Navone, Spielman, Clarke, Ho, and Yu.
Question No. 9(c): The jury was asked whether Ex'pression had "[e]ngaged in any false, deceptive, misleading, or unfair act with [plaintiffs] in connection with any matter, including Ex'pression's advertising and promotion, the recruitment of students for enrollment in Ex'pression, the offer or sale of a program of instruction, course length, course credits, the withholding of loan or grant funds from a student, training and instruction, the collection of payments, or job placement." The jury answered "[y]es" to this question as to Cochran, Friend, Instone, Meador, Spielman, Clarke, and Ho. It answered "[n]o" as to Navone and Yu.
Question No. 10: The jury was asked whether "any of the acts that [it had] found to have occurred in [its] response to Question No. 9 related to an important fact to [plaintiffs]." The jury answered "[y]es" to this question as to Meador. It answered "[n]o" as to Cochran, Friend, Instone, Navone, Spielman, Clarke, Ho, and Yu, and did not go on to answer the remaining questions.
Question No. 11: The jury was asked whether plaintiffs "actually rel[ied] on any of the act[s] that [it had] found to have occurred in [its] response to Question No. 9." It answered "[y]es" as to Meador.
Question No. 12: The jury was asked whether plaintiffs' "reliance on any of the acts that [it had] found to have occurred in [its] response to Question No. 9 [was] a substantial factor in causing [them] to enroll at, or remain enrolled in, Ex'pression." The jury answered "[n]o" as to Meador.
Ex'pression's Cross-Complaints: On Ex'pression's cross-complaints, the jury found the following plaintiffs had breached their contracts with Ex'pression and that Ex'pression had suffered damages: Cochran (damages of $29,143.24); Friend (damages of $45,273.57); Instone (damages of $32,331.40); Meador (damages of $40,370.41); Navone (damages of $45,382.09); Spielman (damages of ...