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New Cases of Interest - April 13, 2010
Pellegrino v. Robert Half International, Inc. (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 87. Defendant is a temporary staffing firm which was sued by employees for alleged wage and hour violations and unfair competition. A provision in the employment agreements which the plaintiffs had with defendant specified that the statute of limitations for employee claims would be limited to six months. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeal found that these provisions were unenforceable. Providing for limitations of statutory claims is precluded by Labor Code section 219 and cannot be shortened pursuant to a contractual provision specifying a time which is less than that set forth by statute.
Lobo v. Tamco (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 297. In this case wrongful death actions were brought by the survivors of a deputy sheriff killed in a vehicular collision alleging negligent operation of a motor vehicle by an employee while acting in the course and scope of employment, and naming both the employee and the employer. The court found that the evidence supported a finding in favor of the plaintiffs against the employer, with the evidence indicating that the employer required the employee to make his car available whenever it was necessary for him to visit customer sites, and that the employer derived a benefit from the availability of the employer’s car. This evidence was sufficient to avoid summary judgment in favor of the employer, and the matter was returned to the trial court for trial.
Diaz v. Carcamo (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 339. This is another case involving potential employer vicarious liability in an automobile collision in which the plaintiff claimed that a truck driver’s employer was liable for its negligence in the hiring and retention of the truck driver who had caused an accident. The court here found that evidence as to the truck driver’s prior employment and driving accident history was properly admissible even when the employer admitted that it was vicariously liable. The negligent hiring of an employee gave rise to a theory of direct liability independent of the vicarious liability theory allowing the admission of such evidence.
Clearlake Riviera Community Association v. Cramer (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 459. Homeowners had constructed a home within a common interest development that exceeded the height limit for homes in the development and an action was brought by the community association to abate the violation. The Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court finding that it was proper to infer that the Community Association had properly adopted a guideline on height limitations based on circumstantial evidence of long enforcement of that guideline, even though no evidence was provided that the use restrictions were initially properly adopted. There was also no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision to require compliance with these guidelines rather than to award monetary damages and substantial evidence supported the court’s finding that the height violation was an intentional act by the homeowner.