California Case Law Update
Sanchez v. CarMax Auto Superstores California, LLC
Facts: Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer CarMax for wrongful termination. CarMax filed a motion to compel arbitration based on a dispute resolution agreement signed by Plaintiff as part of his application for employment. The trial court denied the motion finding the agreement unsconcionable, and Defendant appealed.
Holding: The Court of Appeal reversed, holding the arbitration agreement was not substantively unconscionable. In particular, the Court found the agreement’s provisions limiting discovery, requiring the employee to complete an arbitration request form, staying litigation, preventing the arbitrator from requiring “just cause,” permitting the arbitrator to include findings of fact and conclusions of law in its award, requiring confidentiality, and prohibiting consolidation of claims were not substantively unconscionable.
Brown v. American Bicycle Group, LLC
Facts: Plaintiff cyclist sued the designer/distributor of a bicycle fork for alleged injuries caused by failure of the fork. Plaintiff appealed following a defense verdict, contending that her due process rights were violated because the trial judge failed to disclose “significant financial ties with the insurance industry.”
Holding: The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment for defendant, holding the trial judge was not required to disclose his ownership interests in insurance related companies, as none of the companies was a carrier of the defendant or a party to the case.
Employment and Labor Law
Esparza v. County of Los Angeles
Facts: Action was brought by public safety officers for alleged improper termination/demotion when they were offered lower paid positions after the Office of Public Safety was dissolved and merged with the Sheriff’s Department.
Holding: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order sustaining demurrers on the grounds that the County had statutory immunity under Government Code section 818.2 from claims that its actions violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The appellate court concluded the remaining causes of action were barred by collateral estoppel.
Seahaus La Jolla Owners Association v. Superior Court
Facts: Plaintiff Seahaus La Jolla Owners Association sued the developers and builders of a common interest development in a construction defect action alleging water damage and other damage to the common areas. Defendants sought information in discovery regarding the content of litigation update meetings attended by homeowners held by the Association’s counsel, and the Association objected based on the attorney-client privilege and “common interest” doctrine. The Association brought a petition for writ of mandate after the superior court granted a motion to compel discovery responses over the Association’s assertion of the attorney-client privilege.
Holding: The Court of Appeal issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate its order compelling discovery, and to enter a new order issuing a protective order and denying the motion to compel. The Court concluded that the litigation meetings were held to accomplish the purpose for which the Association’s lawyers were consulted, and therefore the common interest doctrine applied.
North Counties Engineering, Inc. v. State Farm General Insurance Company
Facts: Plaintiff insured and insured’s President sued State Farm General Insurance Company for expenses incurred prior to State Farm’s agreement to provide a defense in underlying lawsuits arising out of construction of a dam, as well as other damages. The trial court granted State Farm’s motion for directed verdict, finding no evidence to support that State Farm had a duty to defend.
Holding: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s directed verdict, concluding there was evidence to support that State Farm had a duty to defend. The Court of Appeal ordered that on remand judgment be entered determining State Farm had a duty to defend.
Mata v. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Facts: The heirs of decedent, who was electrocuted by a Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG & E) high voltage power line while trimming a redwood tree, sued PG & E and The Davey Tree Expert Company for negligence and premises liability. The superior court dismissed for lack for subject matter jurisdiction.
Holding: The Court of Appeal reversed, holding the trial court was not precluded by Public Utilities Code section 1759 from exercising jurisdiction over the matter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mina Miserlis is senior counsel at Tyson & Mendes LLP. She specializes in personal injury and high net worth insurance issues. Contact Mina at 858.263.4108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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