Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
Plaintiff Carl Taswell, M.D., who is certified in nuclear medicine, filed a complaint against the Regents of the University of California (the Regents). Taswell alleged he was retaliated against for his whistleblowing activities regarding patient safety at the brain imaging center during his employment by the University of California, Irvine. Taswell appealed after the trial court granted the Regents’ motion for summary judgment and summary adjudication. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding that, following an administrative hearing, Taswell was not required to exhaust his judicial remedies (by seeking a writ of mandamus) to challenge the University’s rejection of his claims of retaliation. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Taswell was statutorily authorized to file this civil action and seek damages based on his statutory whistleblower retaliation claims; the administrative decision had no res judicata or collateral estoppel effect on this action. Also, a triable issue of material fact existed as to whether the University’s decisions to place Taswell on an investigatory leave of absence and to not renew his contract had a causal connection to Taswell’s whistleblowing activities. Therefore, summary judgment and/or summary adjudication should not have been granted on the theory that no triable issue of fact existed. View "Taswell v. The Regents of the Univ. of Cal." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Alysia Webb filed a verified petition for mandamus relief with the superior court, alleging the City of Riverside (Riverside) violated Propositions 26 and 218 when it began transferring additional revenue from electric utility reserve fund accounts into the general fund without approval by the electorate. Webb contended the court improperly dismissed her case without leave to amend on a demurrer because the 120-day statute of limitations arising under Public Utilities Code section 10004.52 did not apply to her challenge of Riverside's change in calculation of its electric general fund transfer. She further argued the fund transfers constituted a tax increase because they altered the methodology used to calculate the amount of money Riverside transfers from the electric utility reserve to the general fund. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the superior court. View "Webb v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeals’ review centered on the trial court’s partial denial of a special motion to strike pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute, directed at causes of action arising out of the manner in which defendants, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Robert Barton, in his capacity as Inspector General, conducted interviews with five correctional officers who previously worked at High Desert State Prison. The interviews were conducted as part of an investigation into that institution’s “practices . . . with respect to (1) excessive use of force against inmates, (2) internal reviews of incidents involving the excessive use of force against inmates, and (3) protection of inmates from assault and harm by others.” As relevant here, these officers and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) alleged in their first and second causes of action that defendants violated Penal Code section 6126.5 and Government Code section 3300 et seq. (the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights or the Act) by refusing the officers’ requests to be represented during the interviews. The trial court denied the anti-SLAPP motion as to these causes of action, concluding: (1) defendants carried their threshold burden of demonstrating the gravamen of these causes of action arose from protected activity; but (2) plaintiffs established a probability of prevailing on the merits of these claims. The Court of Appeal agreed defendants carried their burden on the threshold issue, but concluded plaintiffs failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of these causes of action. The Court therefore reversed the portion of the trial court’s order denying the anti-SLAPP motion with respect to the first and second causes of action and remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to enter a new order granting the motion in its entirety and dismissing the complaint. View "Blue v. Cal. Office of the Inspector General" on Justia Law

by
Government Code 1090, which prohibits conflicts of interest in the making of public contracts, applies to independent contractors. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment for an LLC in an action alleging that the district breached a contract with the LLC. The district cross-complained to recover money paid under the alleged void contracts. The jury awarded millions in damages to the LLC. The court held that the trial court misinterpreted section 1090 when it instructed the jury that the LLC's contracts did not violate section 1090 on the theory that the statute did not apply to independent contractors, and erred in not instructing on the competitive bidding statutes. View "Strategic Concepts, LLC v. Beverly Hills Unified School District" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment of dismissal based on the sustaining of a demurrer to plaintiffs' class action complaint under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, challenging the Proposition 65 warning provided by defendants for wines that contain purportedly unsafe levels of inorganic arsenic. The court held that the trial court properly sustained the demurrer based on the trial court's reasoning that disclosure of chemical ingredients in alcoholic beverages was not a requirement of the Act, and compliance with Proposition 65 was established as a matter of law where, as here, it was undisputed that the safe harbor warning for alcoholic beverages was provided to consumers of defendants' wines. The court also held that the demurrer would properly be sustained on res judicata grounds. View "Charles v. Sutter Home Winery, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Contractors’ State License Board sought a writ of mandate and a stay to prevent the “apex deposition” of Forg, the Board’s Registrar of Contractors, a position which makes him the Board’s secretary and chief executive officer. Reversing the trial court, the court of appeal held that under well-established California law, the head of a government agency, such as Fogt, generally is not subject to deposition. “An exception to the rule exists only when the official has direct personal factual information pertaining to material issues in the action and the deposing party shows the information to be gained from the deposition is not available through any other source.” The exception does not apply in this case. View "Contractors' State License Board v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-homeowners alleged the copper piping in their homes was damaged by a chemical the defendant water districts added to tap water. Adding the chemical was authorized by regulation, however, and it was undisputed that the water districts complied with all statutory and regulatory standards. After a bifurcated bench trial on certain legal issues, the trial court entered judgment for the water districts, finding plaintiffs’ causes of action for nuisance and inverse condemnation were preempted by federal and state laws, and otherwise insufficient on the merits. The plaintiff homeowners appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs’ causes of action failed on the merits, and thus affirmed. View "Williams v. Moulton Niguel Water Dist." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-homeowners alleged the copper piping in their homes was damaged by a chemical the defendant water districts added to tap water. Adding the chemical was authorized by regulation, however, and it was undisputed that the water districts complied with all statutory and regulatory standards. After a bifurcated bench trial on certain legal issues, the trial court entered judgment for the water districts, finding plaintiffs’ causes of action for nuisance and inverse condemnation were preempted by federal and state laws, and otherwise insufficient on the merits. The plaintiff homeowners appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs’ causes of action failed on the merits, and thus affirmed. View "Williams v. Moulton Niguel Water Dist." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Marisa Hernandez worked for defendant Rancho Santiago Community College District on and off for a number of years without any complaints about her performance. In 2013, she was hired as an administrative assistant. During her one-year probationary period, her performance was to be evaluated at three months, seven months, and 11 months. At the completion of 12 months of probation, she would be considered a permanent employee. Eight months into her probationary period and with the district’s consent, she went on a temporary disability leave to have surgery to replace a knuckle on a finger she injured while working for the district prior to her most recent hiring. She was scheduled to return to work on, or shortly after, the anniversary of her hiring date. The district, however, terminated her while she was on the approved leave, because her performance had not been reviewed. Hernandez sued the district under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA, Gov. Code, sec. 12940(m), (n)), contending it failed to make reasonable accommodation for her medical condition and failed to engage in an interactive process. At the conclusion of the court trial, the court found in Hernandez’s favor and awarded her $723,746 in damages. The trial court found the district could have accommodated her by extending her probationary period, by deducting the four months she was on disability leave from her probationary period, or by adding the time away from work to the probationary period, and, contrary to the district’s position, the district would not have been required to make Hernandez a permanent employee on the anniversary of her hiring. The district appealed, contending it had to terminate Hernandez’s probation and employment because if it did not, she would have become a permanent employee without having had her performance evaluated. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Hernandez v. Rancho Santiago Community College Dist." on Justia Law

by
The San Lorenzo Valley Water District acquired real property in Boulder Creek, California from the Dildines. Holloway, a taxpayer within District, filed suit claiming the contract was void under Government Code section 1090, because one of District’s directors, Vierra, had an interest in the contract by nature of his partial ownership in Showcase Realty, which facilitated the property sale, and the fact that his wife was the listing agent for the property. The trial court dismissed on the ground that Holloway lacked standing to assert a claim for conflict of interest. The court of appeal reversed. Holloway has taxpayer standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 526a to challenge the contract and has standing under Government Code section 1092 to bring an action for conflict of interest. There is no challenge to District’s bonds, warrants or other evidence of indebtedness; Holloway was not required to bring a validation action under Water Code section 30066. View "Holloway v. Showcase Realty Agents, Inc." on Justia Law