Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - April 18, 2012

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C. A. v. William S. Hart Union High School District (2012) 53 Cal.4th 861.  A minor sued a school district as well as a high school guidance counselor for damages arising out of sexual harassment and abuse by the counselor.  The District demurred contending that it could not be held liable for the negligence or supervisory failures of administrative personnel who knew, or should have known, of the counselor’s activities.  The Supreme Court disagreed, concluding that the theory advanced by the minor of vicarious liability for negligent hiring, retention and supervision was a legally viable theory.  The court did not fully explore the issue of immunity, however, and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

Nesson v. Northern Inyo County Local Hospital District (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 65.  This is a SLAPP case in which a physician brought an action against a hospital arising from the hospital’s termination of the physician’s contract to provide services at the hospital.  The hospital suspension took place after the medical executive committee had summarily suspended the physician’s medical staff privileges.  The physician did not timely request a hearing to challenge the suspension by the deadline which was set forth in the medical staff bylaws.

The court upheld the trial court’s granting of the SLAPP motion, finding that the suspension and the resulting termination of the physician’s contract and privileges were “official proceedings” because they were protected activity as medical peer review proceedings under Business and Professions Code §800 et seq.  In addition, the physician could not establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of the controversy.

Steed v. Department of Consumer Affairs (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 12.  This is another SLAPP action.  In this matter, a veterinarian brought an action against the California Veterinary Medical Board and other individuals alleging various tort theories of liability in connection with disciplinary proceedings.  The plaintiff in a parallel administrative action had obtained a writ of mandate directing that the California Department of Consumer Affairs and the Veterinary Medical Board vacate a fine and temporary suspension of the veterinarian’s license.  He submitted that minute order and sought judicial notice of the administrative proceeding.  The trial court nonetheless granted the SLAPP motion and struck the complaint.  The court of appeal upheld that determination, finding that the opposition which plaintiff had provided did not demonstrate that he had sufficient facts that would overcome the privileges and immunities found in Civil Code §43.8 and Government Code §820.2.  The request for judicial notice was the only evidence which was presented in opposition to the anti-SLAPP motion, and it was not sufficient to allow the Plaintiff to carry his burden that he would be likely to prevail on the merits of the complaint.

DeBrunner v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 433.  This was an action in which a bank initiated nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings but did not have possession of the original promissory note executed by the borrower.  The court concluded that possession of the original promissory note was not necessary under the applicable statutes, Civil Code §942 et seq.

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