Rel v. Pacific Bell Mobile ServicesAnnotate this Case
Tucker filed suit in December 2003, under the unfair competition law, challenging Cingular’s marketing of mobile phone monthly rates. Plaintiff Hodge was added after Tucker lost standing. After several years of motions, discovery, and appellate proceedings, Hodge filed a fifth amended complaint in 2011. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the class allegations without leave to amend and sustained the demurrer to the individual fraud claims with leave to amend. Following a remand, the operative seventh amended complaint was filed in August 2013. Cingular successfully moved to strike the class claims, arguing Hodge had changed her plan and lacked standing. The court of appeal again remanded. The trial court then dismissed for failure to comply with Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310, which requires an action to “be brought to trial within five years after the action is commenced.” Plaintiffs argued that the pretrial order dismissing the class claims qualified as a “trial” for purposes of section 583.310. In class action lawsuits, such a pretrial order is treated as a final judgment and is immediately appealable under the “death knell doctrine.” The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal. A death knell order does not constitute a trial under the five-year dismissal statute and an appellate decision reversing such an order does not trigger the statute’s three-year extension.