Rivera v. ShiversAnnotate this Case
In 2008, appellants Robert and Linda Shivers rented a residential property in La Habra from respondent Wilfred Rivera. Almost seven years later, Rivera filed an unlawful detainer action against the Shivers, alleging they had not paid rent. He later amended his pleading to add causes of action based on the allegation they had damaged the property and taken appliances when they vacated it. The Shivers filed a cross-complaint, alleging Rivera had failed to make repairs to the property and had left it untenantable. The case was originally assigned to limited civil jurisdiction but was later reclassified to unlimited civil. Upon reassignment, the new trial judge ordered counsel to meet and confer regarding the appointment of a referee under Code of Civil Procedure section 638, and a status conference on the subject was scheduled for March 19, 2018. At the status conference, the parties advised the court they could not agree on a referee. The court took the matter under submission, but warned that a referee would be appointed if the parties could not agree on one. Thereafter, in a minute order dated one month later, the trial court, instead of appointing a referee, sua sponte ordered the matter to judicial arbitration. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the arbitration, originally statutory in nature, morphed into a contractual arbitration as the result of a vague stipulation by counsel for the parties. Neither side ever seemed to have entertained the notion that the completed arbitration was anything but binding, and treated it as such. The trial judge, however, decided on his own that the arbitration was not what the parties intended, a conclusion derived from their actions rather than their explicit words. As a result, the trial court denied the appellants’ petition to confirm, vacated the award, and set a trial date in the case. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in not confirming the arbitration award and reversed it.