Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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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

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Plaintiff Aram Bonni, a surgeon, sued St. Joseph Hospital of Orange (St. Joseph), Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center (Mission), and other defendants for, inter alia, retaliation under Health and Safety Code, section 1278.5 (the whistleblower statute). Plaintiff alleged defendants retaliated against him for his whistleblower complaints by summarily suspending his medical staff privileges and conducting hospital peer review proceedings. In response to plaintiff’s complaint, defendants filed a special motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute) to strike plaintiff’s retaliation cause of action, asserting his claim arose from the protected activity of hospital peer review proceedings. The court granted defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion as to both St. Joseph and Mission. After review, the Court of Appeals concluded plaintiff’s retaliation claim under the whistleblower statute arose from defendants’ alleged acts of retaliation against plaintiff because he complained about the robotic surgery facilities at the hospitals, and not from any written or oral statements made during the peer review process or otherwise. “Discrimination and retaliation claims are rarely, if ever, good candidates for the filing of an anti-SLAPP motion. This case is no exception.” Defendants’ motion to strike failed on prong one of the anti-SLAPP test (probability to prevail), and the Court reversed the order granting defendants’ motion on that basis. View "Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System" on Justia Law

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FilmOn filed suit against DoubleVerify for trade libel, slander, and other business-related torts, alleging DoubleVerify falsely classified FilmOn's websites under the categories "Copyright Infringement-File Sharing" and "Adult Content" in confidential reports to certain clients that subsequently cancelled advertising agreements with FilmOn. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of DoubleVerify's motion to strike pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute. The court held that the trial court properly found DoubleVerify engaged in conduct in furtherance of its constitutional right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest. View "FilmOn.com v. DoubleVerify, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Pitchess statutes, which require a criminal defendant to file a written motion that establishes good cause for the discovery sought, does not violate constitutional due process. In this case, the LASD created a so-called "Brady" list of deputies whose personnel files contain sustained allegations of misconduct allegedly involving moral turpitude or other bad acts relevant to impeachment. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that injunctive relief was proper in this case, but disagreed with its analysis of the constitutional question presented and thus with the limited scope of the injunction ordered. The court granted in part the petition for writ of mandate and modified the preliminary injunction. The trial court must strike from the injunction any language that allows real parties or any of them to disclose the identity of any individual deputy on the LASD's Brady list to any individual or entity outside the LASD, even if the deputy is a witness in a pending criminal prosecution, absent a properly filed, heard, and granted Pitchess motion, accompanied by a corresponding court order. The trial court must also strike any language that purports to address real parties' power or authority with respect to a Brady list involving non-sworn employees. View "Association for L.A. Deputy Sheriffs v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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There is no equal protection violation for the procedural difference between when a supervising agency files a petition to modify, revoke, or terminate a criminal defendant’s parole or postrelease community supervision, its petition must be accompanied by a written report containing information specified by statute and the California Rules of Court, and when a district attorney files such a petition, its petition need not be accompanied by such a report. Therefore, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court correctly overruled the demurrer in this case. View "People v. Castel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Toyota, for discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Gov. Code, 12900 et seq., as well as for wrongful discharge. The trial court granted summary judgment for Toyota. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that a substantial motivating factor for his termination was invidious sex or gender stereotyping related to his sexual orientation (the perception that he was "too gay"). However, the court held that plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of material fact to support his FEHA retaliation and related common law tort claim. Accordingly, the court remanded for the trial court to enter an order granting Toyota's alternative motion for summary adjudication as to these causes of action. View "Husman v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp." on Justia Law

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Defendant argued that the ability of a district attorney to petition for revocation of parole without first completing certain procedural steps and including in the petition information required when a revocation petition has been filed by the supervising parole agency violated his and other parolees' right to equal protection of the law under the state and federal constitutions. The Court of Appeal held that defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the parole revocation petition was properly denied; the statutory scheme under which the district attorney's petition was filed did not violate parolees' right to equal protection of the law; and thus the superior court did not err in overruling the demurrer and denying the motion for sanctions. View "People v. Zamudio" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a middle school math teacher, filed suit against various defendants after she was involuntarily detained for mental health evaluation and treatment. Plaintiff alleged that school defendants did not have probable cause to detain her under Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150, that hospital defendants lacked probable cause to continue to detain her and to admit her to the hospital where she spent one night before being released, and that she was entitled to monetary damages for various alleged violations of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, Welfare and Institutions Code 5000 et seq., and of her civil rights. The Court of Appeals concluded that there was no private right of action for the violations of the Act plaintiff alleged; the school district and the school police were immune from liability under 42 U.S.C. 1983; the individual officers were entitled to qualified immunity; the hospital and physician were not state actors for purposes of plaintiff's section 1983 claims; most of the provisions of the California Constitution plaintiff invoked did not create causes of action for damages; plaintiff failed to state a claim for violations of those provisions that might provide such a cause of action; and, because the hospital defendants were not state actors for purposes of section 1983, they cannot be liable for plaintiff's alleged violations of the California Constitution. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision sustaining the hospital defendants' demurrers to plaintiff's third amended complaint and granting the school defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Julian v. Mission Community Hospital" on Justia Law