Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - April 15, 2019

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Sweetwater Union High School District v. Gilbane Building Company (2019) 6 Cal.5th 931.  This is a SLAPP action which reached the California Supreme Court.  The court allowed certain evidentiary offers in connection with a SLAPP motion which included a grand jury transcript and plea forms because they met the requirements for declarations signed under penalty of perjury.  The trial court had denied the SLAPP motion and the Court of Appeal and then subsequently the Supreme Court affirmed.  The school district had sued to avoid contracts arising out of a criminal bribery investigation and to obtain disgorgement.  Defendants filed the SLAPP motion.  Although a footnote indicates that the case had been resolved, the Supreme Court decided to publish its opinion in any event in order to resolve the issue of what type of evidence may be submitted in connection with a SLAPP motion.

Richmond Compassionate Care Collective v. 7 Stars Holistic Foundation, Inc. (2019) 32 Cal.App.5th 458.  This is another SLAPP case in which the complaint alleged a conspiracy to restrain trade and monopolize a local medical marijuana market by the conduct of approaching landlords to dissuade them from renting to competing businesses.  The trial court denied the motion and the Court of Appeal affirmed on the basis that any protected activity that may have occurred was no more than “incidental.”  The court noted that the essence of the complaint was that private actions were taken to restrain trade and monopolize a market and the action did not involve the protected activity envisioned by the SLAPP statute.

Orchard Estate Homes, Inc. v. Orchard Homeowner Alliance (2019) 32 Cal.App.5th 471.  This is a case where an amendment to make a change to CC&Rs came up short of the required percentage, but the association sought court approval nonetheless on the basis of “voter apathy.”  The court found that “voter apathy” was not a prerequisite for relief under Civil Code Section 4275, and the association did not have to plead and prove voter apathy but was entitled to seek its petition in the superior court without doing so.

Laker v. Board of Trustees of California State University (2019) 32 Cal.App.5th 745.  This is another SLAPP case, and in it a district sought to eliminate a claim by public employee concerning defamation and retaliation.  The Court of Appeal held that the motion should have been granted.  The statements were made in connection with an internal investigation of public employee misconduct, which was an official proceeding.  The litigation privilege protected the statements from which the defamation claims arose, and there was no probability that the plaintiff could prevail, therefore the SLAPP motion was appropriate.

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