In re: Alpha Media Resort Investment CasesAnnotate this Case
The Elliotts were defendants in six civil fraud actions based on an international investment scheme through which they fraudulently induced hundreds of individuals and organizations to invest in Dominican Republic resorts. The actions were coordinated for discovery but remained separate for trial. Criminal charges were brought against the defendants based essentially on the same facts. Elliott reached a plea deal with respect to some issues. In most of the civil actions, there was no stipulation regarding the five-year statutory period to bring an action to trial (Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310); despite being served with the summons and complaint, the Elliotts had not answered, In May 2015, Elliott filed an answer in the two matters under appeal. The trial court lost jurisdiction over one matter for 17 months, during an appeal. Elliott engaged in multiple delaying strategies. Plaintiffs reached settlements with other defendants. In August 2016, weeks before trial was to begin, Elliott first (unsuccessfully) raised the issue of dismissal under section 583.310. In both cases, the trial court awarded the plaintiffs damages, with no appearance from the Elliotts. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of Elliott’s motion to dismiss for want of prosecution within the five-year statutory period and, alternatively, for a stay of proceedings pending resolution of his criminal case. Notwithstanding plaintiffs’ failure to secure a default judgment, there were extenuating circumstances: the undisputed complexity of the cases and the Elliotts’ reluctance to engage in resolution efforts. The court properly allowed Elliott’s civil trials to go forward, with the understanding that he could object on Fifth Amendment grounds to any questioning.