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Christine Suh was not an attorney and was not otherwise authorized to represent Allstate’s insureds. She overcame that obstacle by creating and, with help from Christina Chang (Suh’s mother), and others, operating eight sham law offices.

Suh paid several individual attorneys a monthly fee of $3,000 to use their names and state bar numbers. Suh and Chang procured Allstate’s insureds as “clients,” filed 318 insurance claims on their behalf (not authorized by and without the knowledge of the individual attorneys), and diverted insurance proceeds to their personal use.

Allstate Insurance Company and several related companies (collectively, Allstate) brought this action under Insurance Code section 1871.7 (Insurance Fraud Prevention Act) on behalf of the People of the State of California against Christine Suh, Christina Chang (Suh’s mother), and others for insurance fraud in violation of Penal Code section 550 (section 550), which makes it unlawful to submit false or fraudulent claims to an insurance company.

A jury found in favor of Allstate and imposed over $6 million in civil penalties. Suh appeals from the ensuing judgment, arguing the trial court should have stayed this action pending the resolution of a criminal investigation of her conduct. Suh, joined by Chang, also argues that the insurance claims they submitted to Allstate were not fraudulent because, although the insureds were not actually represented by attorneys, the information in the claims forms was accurate.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in the published case of People v Suh.

Suh argues the trial court’s ruling in response to her ex parte motion for stay “forced [her] to have to choose between asserting her Fifth Amendment privilege and risking substantial monetary jeopardy in the civil action on one hand, and waiving her Fifth Amendment privilege and subjecting herself to criminal jeopardy on the other hand.”

Suh made her request for a stay, not in a regularly noticed motion, but in an ex parte application. A court will not grant ex parte relief in any but the plainest and most certain of cases. The rules governing ex parte applications in civil cases require that “[a]n applicant . . . make an affirmative factual showing . . . of irreparable harm, immediate danger, or any other statutory basis for granting relief ex parte.”

The trial court here acted well within its discretion in denying Suh’s application. Suh did not make a showing of irreparable harm, immediate danger, or any other basis for ex parte relief.”

Suh and Chang argue Allstate’s theory that the insurance claims they submitted “were false or fraudulent was based solely on the testimony that the claims submitted to it were submitted by a [sic] ‘sham law firms.’ No evidence was presented that the claims were ‘false or fraudulent’ in any other regard.

“Suh and Chang read the insurance fraud statutes too narrowly. Unlawful conduct under section 550 does not require a misstatement of fact in the insurance claim.”

An insurance claim is fraudulent under section 550 and section 1871.7, subdivision (b), when it is “characterized in any way by deceit.”