Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - April 15, 2013

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Zamora v. Lehman (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 193.  This was an action that was brought by the trustee in bankruptcy against executives of a dissolved corporation for alleged breach of fiduciary duty.  The executives' employment agreements had a one year period for giving notice of any breach or alleged breach of the agreement.  The complaint that was filed by the trustee in bankruptcy was more than one year after the date of the discovery of the claim.  The complaint filed by the trustee alleged a specific date on which the corporation became aware of the facts which underlay the breach of fiduciary duty claim, but the trustee did not give written notice of that claim within one year of the date alleged in the complaint.

Both the trial court and the court of appeal upheld summary judgment in favor of the executives on the grounds that the contractual one year notice provision had not been satisfied, and that shortening the four year statute of limitations which would otherwise apply was permissible because the statutory provision incorporated a delayed discovery rule and its inclusion in the employment agreement did not violate public policy.  The trustee's ignorance of the provision did not excuse compliance with that provision.

MinCal Consumer Law Group v. Carlsbad Police Department (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 259.  In this case plaintiff sought a writ of mandate seeking to compel a police department to disclose records relating to identity theft incidents.  The trial court denied the petition, and an appeal was subsequently filed.  The court of appeal dismissed the appeal determining that it lacked jurisdiction because a timely filed writ petition was the exclusive means to challenge the order granting or denying disclosure of information under the California Public Records Act (Government Code §2650 et seq.).  In this case, plaintiff had filed a notice of appeal, but did not file a petition seeking the issuance of an extraordinary writ, and plaintiff's notice of appeal was filed after the expiration of the time to file the writ petition.

Vivian v. LaBrucherie (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 267.  This is a SLAPP case.  A deputy sheriff brought an action for fraud , breach of a settlement agreement, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy to commit a civil wrong.  One of the defendants was the deputy's ex-wife.  The gist of the action was that the ex-wife had breached the terms of a settlement agreement by making voluntary statements to the county sheriff's office with respect to an internal affairs investigation regarding the plaintiff deputy.  The court concluded that the litigation privilege barred the deputy's breach of contract claim and that the dispute involved a significant public concern, i.e., a governmental investigation into inappropriate conduct by a police officer.  This public purpose was served by the application of the litigation privilege.  Because the litigation privilege applied, the deputy could not prevail on his breach of contract cause of action, and a SLAPP motion should have been sustained.  The trial court also had granted the motion with respect to the fraud cause of action, but denied it as to other causes of action, which was upheld by the appellate court.

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