Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - August 7, 2018

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Turnbull v. Lucerne Valley Unified School District (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 522.  This is the latest SLAPP case.  In this case a school district board member sued a school district and other individuals, including another board member and the superintendent.  The basis of the allegations were that plaintiff had opposed a misappropriation of district funds as well as other misdeeds on behalf of the defendants.  The defendants brought a SLAPP motion, which the trial court denied, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court.  The Court of Appeal noted that the superintendent and the defendant board member did not establish protected activity as to the allegations that an agent of defendants gave plaintiff's off-work doctor's note to a volunteer who then published the information on the internet.  No protected activity was established concerning the allegations that the superintendent accepted this off work note from defendant's employee or that the defendant board member pressured plaintiff to resign and threatened to have her recall after she objected to various District misdeeds.

Coyle v. Historic Mission Inn Corporation (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 627.  This case involves the Riverside Mission Inn, and a contention by the plaintiff that the hotel knew that it was infested with black widow spiders and was negligent when she was bitten by a black widow spider while having lunch at a patio at the hotel.  Plaintiff contended the hotel had a duty to warn of the danger of the spiders or alternatively breached a duty by failing to take reasonable care to prevent the spiders from coming into contact with patrons.

While in this case the trial court granted summary judgment for the hotel, the Court of Appeal reversed.  The court held that the hotel in fact had a duty to exercise reasonable care in relation to black widow spiders that posed a risk of injury citing to Civil Code Section 1714(a) which specifies that in the management of property everyone is required to use ordinary care or skill to avoid injury to others.  The court reasoned that the risk of having a black widow spider come in contact with a patron is sufficiently likely that a reasonably thoughtful restaurant owner would take the risk into account on operating the restaurant.  This could be done by having normal pest control measures in place, as well as by providing for insurance.  Whether what the hotel did was reasonable or not remained for resolution by a trier of fact.

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