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California Case Summaries: Free™ New California Civil Cases

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

Civil Procedure

Sweetwater Union High School Dist. v. Gilbane Bldg. Co. (2019) _ Cal.5th _ , 2019 WL 962324: The California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision that affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. In the second stage of an anti-SLAPP hearing, when determining a plaintiff’s probability of success, a court may consider statements that are the equivalent of affidavits and declarations because they were made under oath or penalty of perjury in California. In this case, change of plea forms, factual narratives, and excerpts from grand jury testimony satisfied this requirement. A court may consider affidavits, declarations, and their equivalents only if it is reasonably possible the proffered evidence set out in those statements will be admissible at trial. Conversely, if the evidence relied upon cannot be admitted at trial, because it is categorically barred or undisputed factual circumstances show inadmissibility, the court may not consider it in the face of an objection. If an evidentiary objection is made, the plaintiff may attempt to cure the asserted defect or demonstrate the defect is curable. (February 28, 2019.)

Employment

Cal Fire Local 2881 v. Cal. Pub. Employees’ Retirement System (2019) _ Cal.5th _ , 2019 WL 1008413: The California Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Court of Appeal and the trial court that concluded that the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013’s (PEPRA; Stats. 2012, ch. 296, § 15; see Government Code, sections 7222 et seq.) elimination of the opportunity to purchase additional retirement service (ARS) credit did not violate the Constitution. The California Supreme Court ruled that the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was not a right protected by the contract clause. There was no indication in the statute conferring the opportunity to purchase ARS credit that the Legislature intended to create contractual rights. Unlike core pension rights, the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was not granted to public employees as deferred compensation for their work, and the Court found no other basis for concluding that the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was protected by the contract clause. In the absence of constitutional protection, the opportunity to purchase ARS credit could be altered or eliminated at the discretion of the Legislature. (March 4, 2019.)

Goonewardene v. ADP, LLC (2019) _ Cal.5th _ , 2019 WL 470963: The California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal decision that had allowed an employee to bring causes of action for unpaid wages against a payroll company for the employer for breach of the payroll company’s contract with the employer under the third party beneficiary doctrine, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. The California Supreme Court ruled that an employee may not be viewed as a third party beneficiary who may maintain an action against the payroll company for an alleged breach of the contract between the employer and the payroll company with regard to the payment of wages. Moreover, an employee who alleges that he or she has not been paid wages that are due cannot maintain tort causes of action for negligence and negligent misrepresentation against a payroll company. (February 7, 2019.)

CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL

Arbitration

Bravo v. RADC Enterprises, Inc. (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 1417852: The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court’s order regarding defendants motion to compel arbitration. The trial court properly severed and stayed the PAGA claims. The trial court properly compelled arbitration on three of plaintiff’s individual claims. The Court of Appeal reversed the portion of the trial court order denying the motion to compel as to plaintiff’s remaining six individual claims by plaintiff on the basis that California Labor Code section 229 prohibited arbitration of those wage claims. The Court of Appeal ruled that the California choice of law provision in the arbitration agreement required that all of plaintiff’s individual claims be arbitrated. (C.A. 2nd, March 29, 2019.)

Correia v. NB Baker Electric, Inc. (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 910979: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order granting a petition to compel arbitration of all causes of action in a wage and hour case, except the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA; Labor Code, section 2699 et seq.) claim, and staying the PAGA claim until the conclusion of the arbitration. The trial court acted within its discretion in considering plaintiffs’ response to the arbitration petition even though plaintiffs filed the response after the statutory deadline. The California Supreme Court decision of Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348 (Iskanian), which held unenforceable agreements to waive the right to bring PAGA representative actions in any forum, remains binding on California courts. The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis (2018) __ U.S. __ [138 S.Ct. 1612] (Epic), does not change this result. While Epic reaffirmed the broad preemptive scope of the Federal Arbitration Act, it did not address the specific issues before the Iskanian court involving a claim for civil penalties brought on behalf of the government and the enforceability of an agreement barring a PAGA representative action in any forum. The trial court also properly declined to compel arbitration of the PAGA claim and stayed that issue until after the arbitration. (C.A. 4th, February 25, 2019.)

Civil Procedure

Sunrise Financial, LLC v. Super. Ct. (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 476095: The Court of Appeal denied a writ petition challenging the trial court’s denial of a Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6 challenge by several defendants to the trial judge on the basis that it was untimely filed. The Court of Appeal ruled that the trial court properly found defendants’ section 170.6 challenge was untimely because it was filed more than 15 days after they made an appearance in the action by filing an opposition to a Code of Civil Procedure section 403 transfer/consolidation motion in the judge’s department. While the section 170.6 time deadlines were not written with section 403 transfer motions in mind, this conclusion best effectuates the legislative intent when viewing the specific words of the statute and the statutory purpose and objectives. (C.A. 4th, February 7, 2019.)

Elder Abuse

Darrin v. Miller (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 337088: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying a petition for a restraining order under Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (Elder Abuse Act; Welfare & Institutions Code, section 15600 et seq.). The trial court erred in denying the petition because the restraining order was requested against a neighbor. The Court of Appeal ruled that the plain language of the Elder Abuse Act authorizes a trial court to issue a restraining order against any individual who has engaged in abusive conduct, as defined by statute, toward a person age 65 or older regardless of the relationship between the alleged abuser and victim. (Welfare & Institutions Code, sections 15610.07(a)(1) and 15657.03.) (C.A. 1st, filed January 28, 2019, published February 21, 2019.)

Employment

Su v. Stephen S. Wise Temple (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 1091112: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff’s action for wage and hour law violations regarding preschool teachers employed by defendant was barred by the “ministerial exception.” The Court of Appeal ruled that while defendant’s preschool curriculum had both secular and religious content, its teachers were not required to have any formal Jewish education, to be knowledgeable about Jewish belief and practice, or to adhere to defendant’s theology. Moreover, defendant did not refer to its teachers as “ministers” or the equivalent, nor did the teachers refer to themselves as such. Accordingly, the teachers were not “ministers” for purposes of the ministerial exception. (C.A. 2nd, March 8, 2019.)

Partnerships

Jarvis v. Jarvis (2019) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2019 WL 1254013: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order granting a motion to disqualify lawyer William Roscoe, III, who had been hired by one partner to represent the partnership in an action brought by the other partner for partition by sale of a two-acre parcel owned by the partnership. Each partner owned a 50 percent interest in the partnership, and they could not agree on what to do about the two-acre parcel. The trial court properly granted the motion to disqualify because there was not a majority of partners in this two-partner business that agreed on hiring an attorney for the partnership. (C.A. 6th, March 19, 2019.)

Monty A. Mcintyre

Monty A. McIntyre follows his passions for the law and serving others by serving as a mediator, arbitrator and motion referee to help individuals, businesses and lawyers obtain rapid, reasonable resolution of disputes. He is also the Publisher of McIntyre’s California Civil Law Update and can be reached at 619-990-4312 or monty.mcintyre@gmail.com.

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About the Author: Monty A. McIntyre follows his passions for the law and serving others by serving as a mediator, arbitrator and motion referee to help individuals, businesses and lawyers obtain rapid, reasonable resolution of disputes. He is also the Publisher of McIntyre’s California Civil Law Update and can be reached at 619-990-4312 or monty.mcintyre@gmail.com.

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