Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiffs, three Laotian correctional officers, filed suit against the County pursuant to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12900 et seq., while simultaneously pursuing their workers' compensation remedies. Administrative law judges denied plaintiffs' claims in separate workers' compensation proceedings. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the County, holding that res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims. The court reasoned that, while workers' compensation was not plaintiffs' exclusive remedy, once they elected to pursue that remedy to a final, adverse judgment instead of insisting on the primacy of their rights under the FEHA, the WCAB became the exclusive forum to recover for their injuries. View "Ly v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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The plain language of the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, applies to a petition to enforce a no contest clause. In this case, a beneficiary filed a petition for instructions as to whether the no contest clause of his mother's trust had been violated after his sister sought to reform the trust to eliminate his interest. The sister, as trustee, filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the petition. The trial court granted the motion to strike and awarded attorney fees to the sister. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the anti-SLAPP motion should have been denied because the beneficiary established a reasonable probability of prevailing on the merits. Therefore, the order granting attorney fees was also reversed. View "Urick v. Urick" on Justia Law

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Dr. Leah Levi, a neuro-ophthalmologist, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of her former employer, the Regents of the University of California (Regents), and Dr. Robert Weinreb, the chair of the department of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego (University). Levi asserted various causes of action against the Regents and Weinreb related to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and due process violations. The retaliation claims alleged protected conduct under both California's Whistleblower Protection Act, and Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Levi contended the trial court granted summary judgment based on its mistaken application of the law. The Court of Appeal concluded Levi raised triable issues of fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment on: whether she made a protected disclosure of improper governmental activity or a condition threatening the health and safety of the public to support her CWPA retaliation claim and whether the Regents and Weinreb denied her due process by failing to issue reports on grievances she had filed, failing to provide her notice before reducing her salary and appointment, and failing to provide her an opportunity to cure deficiencies and return to good standing. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's order granting summary judgment and directed the court to grant Weinreb and the Regents' alternative motion for summary adjudication on Levi's remaining causes of action for retaliation under the FEHA, gender discrimination, gender harassment, failure to prevent harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and Tom Bane Civil Rights Act violations. View "Levi v. Regents of the University of Calif." on Justia Law

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Adolf Gonzalez was shot and killed in an incident with two Anaheim police officers. Plaintiffs were the Decedent’s mother and minor daughter, who filed a complaint in federal court against the City of Anaheim (the City) and the two officers (collectively, Defendants). The Federal Complaint ("F.E.V. I") asserted four claims for violation of civil rights pursuant to title 42 United States Code section 1983 and state law claims for false arrest/false imprisonment, battery, negligence, and violation of the Bane Act, Civil Code section 52.1. The federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on the civil rights claims, and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, dismissing them without prejudice. Following that dismissal, Plaintiffs filed a State Complaint, which overlapped the Federal Complaint, but provided more detail. After the Court of Appeal held oral argument in the prior appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its panel opinion in Gonzalez v. City of Anaheim, 2013 U.S.App. Lexis 9607, affirming F.E.V. I. On its own motion, the Court of Appeal took judicial notice of that opinion, which confirmed what would have been the outcome based on the status of the judgment at the time of oral argument. Based on Hernandez v. City of Pomona, 46 Cal.4th 501 (2009), the Court of Appeal held that the federal court judgment collaterally estopped Plaintiffs from pursuing their state law causes of action based on both the shooting and on theory the officers’ conduct before the shooting was negligent, and their battery and false arrest/false imprisonment causes of action. Nine months after we issued our opinion, the Ninth Circuit issued its en banc opinion reversing the federal court judgment as to claims of excessive force. In February 2015, Plaintiffs filed a new complaint (the Second State Complaint) asserting the same five causes of action as in the first State Complaint. Plaintiffs filed a motion to vacate the prior state court judgment. The trial court denied the motion. Plaintiffs brought a petition for writ of mandate to challenge the order denying their motion to vacate the judgment. A panel of the Court of Appeal summarily denied the writ petition. Defendants demurred to the Second State Complaint on the ground the claims were barred by collateral estoppel, jurisdiction, and the applicable statute of limitations. After oral argument, the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. The Court of Appeal found: (1) the Ninth Circuit en banc opinion did not nullify F.E.V. I; (2) plaintiffs could not collaterally attack the judgment affirmed by F.E.V. I; and (3) it would have been manifestly unjust to give claim preclusion effect to the judgement affirmed by F.E.V. I. As such, the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "F.E.V. v. City of Anaheim" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the jury's verdict in favor of two officers in an action alleging that the Police Department discriminated against the officers. The court held that, while the evidence that the officers produced at trial might have been sufficient to support the theory of discrimination that they presented, that theory was legally flawed. In this case, the officers' theory was that the jury could and should consider whether the officers were treated differently, not simply because of their race, but because of the race of their victim. The court reasoned that this theory did not support the discrimination claim the officers brought. In deciding whether to return the officers to the field, the City could assess the political implications of doing so without violating employment discrimination laws. The City was not prohibited from assessing the risk management implications of returning officers of any race to the streets of Los Angeles who had been involved in a fatal shooting of an innocent, unarmed and autistic African-American man. Furthermore, the officers did not provide sufficient evidence to support their claim that the City retaliated against them for filing this action. The court remanded with instructions to enter judgment for the City. View "Diego v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits arbitrary discrimination in public accommodations with respect to trained service dogs, but not to service-dogs-in-training. The Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action alleging violation of the Unruh Act, violation of the Disabled Persons Act, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff claimed that Fortune, the owner and operator of a chain of Seafood City markets, illegally denied him service when he tried to enter two different stores with his service dog. The court held that defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the Unruh Act claim because plaintiff did not offer any evidence, let alone substantial evidence, that his dog was a fully trained service animal at the time. The court also held that "persons authorized to train service dogs" under the DPA means any person who is credentialed to do so by virtue of their education or experience, and plaintiff failed to make this showing. Finally, defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the emotional distress claims because there was no evidence that defendants intended to cause plaintiff any emotional distress. View "Miller v. Fortune Commercial Corp." on Justia Law

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In Romano v. Rockwell Int'l, Inc., 14 Cal.4th 479, the court held that under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12900 et seq., a party alleging that a discriminatory act led to the termination of his or her employment has until one year from the date the employment terminated to file an administrative claim. In light of Romano, the Court of Appeal held that the one year limitations period for plaintiff to file a timely Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) complaint began to run from the last day of his employment. Because he filed his DFEH complaint within that period, his claim was timely. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the dismissal of the third amended complaint. View "Aviles-Rodriguez v. Los Angeles Community College District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against his employer, the school district, and two of his supervisors, alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The trial court granted defendants' special motion to strike the complaint pursuant to section 425.16 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the anti-SLAPP statute). Defendants argued that the gravaman of the complaint was based on protected activity—speech or communicative conduct either made as part of or as a precursor to the internal investigation that the school district undertook in response to a molestation allegation made against plaintiff. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that, on balance, plaintiffs' claims at issue were based on protected activity because they arose from statements for communicative conduct that were protected and were integral, not incidental, to plaintiffs' claims. The court also held that plaintiffs did not show a probability of prevailing on their race and national origin discrimination claim; plaintiffs' failure to prevent discrimination claim necessarily failed as well; plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing on their emotional distress claim, harassment claim, and federal civil rights claim; and plaintiffs forfeited their argument about the trial court's evidentiary hearings. View "Okorie v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging claims for damages against various defendants arising from his contraction of coccidioidomycosis (commonly known as valley fever) while incarcerated in the Kern Valley State Prison. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment on the pleadings against plaintiff on his Bane Act cause of action based on the ground that the State was immune from liability under Government Code section 844.6. The court held that the Bane Act did not create any exception to section 844.6, where a public entity is not liable for an injury to any prisoner. Regardless of the merits of plaintiff's claim, he may not assert it against the state. View "Towery v. State of California" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Melony Light appealed judgments in favor of her employer, defendant California Department of Parks and Recreation (Department), and her former supervisors, defendants Leda Seals and Kathy Dolinar, following orders granting defendants' motions for summary judgment. Light worked for the Department's Ocotillo Wells District. She alleged numerous claims against the Department, Seals, and Dolinar, including retaliation, harassment, disability discrimination, assault, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court disposed of several claims at the pleading stage. After two and a half years of litigation, the Department, Seals, and Dolinar moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims against them. As to the Department, the Court of Appeal concluded triable issues of material fact precluded summary adjudication of Light's retaliation claim, but not her disability discrimination claim. Light's claim against the Department for failure to prevent retaliation or discrimination therefore survived based on the retaliation claim. As to Seals and Dolinar, the Court concluded contrary to the trial court that workers' compensation exclusivity did not bar Light's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under the circumstances here. However, as to the merits of that claim, the Court concluded Light has raised a triable issue of fact only as to Seals, not Dolinar. Furthermore, the Court concluded Light raised triable issues of fact on her assault claim against Seals. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments in favor of the Department and Seals, and affirmed in full the judgment in favor of Dolinar. View "Light v. Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec." on Justia Law