People v. Bankers Ins. Co

In People v. Bankers Ins. Co. (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 582, after defendant failed to appear and his lawyer told the court he had had no contact with defendant since his last court appearance, "the court found 'a willful failure to appear in both the felony and trailing misdemeanor case and issued warrants for the defendant's arrest with no bail . . . .'" (Id. at p. 584.) Although the minute order had been checked in the '"bail forfeited"' box (ibid.), the Court of Appeal concluded that the failure to make the appropriate statement in open court was fatal and ordered the bond exonerated. (Id. at p. 588.) The Court stated, "If a trial court fails to declare a forfeiture in open court, it 'no longer retains "statutory control and jurisdiction over the bond" citation' and the bond is exonerated by operation of law. Citation." (People v. Bankers Ins. Co., supra, 182 Cal.App.4th at p. 586.) Bankers, illustrates that a trial court's failure to declare a forfeiture in open court results in loss of jurisdiction over the bond, which is then exonerated as a matter of law. In People v. Bankers Ins. Co. (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 1, Bankers Insurance Company (Bankers) posted a $ 17,500 bond for Jaime Villa's custody release; the bond stated that Villa had been ordered to appear in court on charges arising under Health and Safety Code sections 11378 and 11379. (Bankers Ins. Co., supra, at p. 3.) Before Villa's appearance date, a criminal complaint was filed charging Villa under Health and Safety Code sections 11378, 11379, subdivision (a), and 11366.8, subdivision (a). (Bankers Ins. Co., supra, at p. 4.) Villa failed to appear at a later hearing, and the trial court ordered the bond forfeited. Summary judgment was entered against Bankers. In a motion to set aside the summary judgment, Bankers argued Villa's bail was improperly set too low, and should have been set at $ 115,000. "According to Bankers, the jail's mistake in improperly setting Villa's bail pursuant to the bail schedule prevented it from properly evaluating its risk in posting bail, thereby rendering the bond void." (Ibid.) The trial court denied Bankers's motion, and Bankers appealed. (Id. at p. 5.) The appellate court affirmed. First, the court rejected Bankers's argument that it had a common law defense to the bond forfeiture because its risk under the bond had been "materially increased." (Bankers Ins. Co., supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at p. 6.) Next, the court held, "even though the complaint included charges under Health and Safety Code sections 11378 and 11379 that would have resulted in a higher bail amount based on the amount of drugs involved and a third charge that was not listed on the bond, under the terms of the 'undertaking provision,' it cannot be considered to be a unilateral and material increase in the risk assumed by Bankers. Bankers was free to monitor the case and determine what charges ultimately were made in the original complaint, and free to surrender Villa pursuant to Penal Code section 1300 if it believed the bond was inadequate to cover the flight risk presented by the complaint." (Ibid.) Finally, the court held: "That Bankers may have analyzed its risk based on the bail set before the complaint was filed does not change the bond's language, which expressly states it undertook to guarantee Villa's appearance on 'any charge in any accusatory pleading based upon the acts supporting the complaint' and 'all duly authorized amendments thereof.' ... That higher bail might have been warranted, however, does not mean Bankers's risk materially increased, since the bond language encompassed the charges that ultimately were included in the complaint." (Id. at p. 7.)