Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - February 25, 2012

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RiverIsland Cold Storage, Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Production Credit Association (2013) 55 Cal.4th 1169.  This is a case in which borrowers sued a lender for fraud and negligent misrepresentation and the lender relied upon an integration clause in the written loan agreement.  The Supreme Court opened a door, which the court indicated was consistent with the requirements of CCP §1856, for parole evidence to come in despite an integration clause in the written loan agreement.  The court stated that CCP §1856(f) provides an exception to the operation of the parole evidence rule, which exception encompasses allegations that the validity of the agreement in which the integration clause is contained is in fact in dispute and while the integration clause would protect the terms of a valid written contract, it doesn't bar evidence challenging the validity of the agreement itself.  Evidence which would tend to prove that the written agreement is void or voidable due to fraud, duress, undue influence, illegality, alteration, lack of consideration, or other invalidating cause can all come into evidence notwithstanding an integration clause.  In doing so, the court overruled an earlier Supreme Court decision in 1935 called Bank of America v. Pendergrass (1935) 4 Cal.2d 258.

So v. Shin (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 652.  In this case plaintiff contended that she was administered inadequate anesthesia during a hospital procedure and sued the anesthesiologist, the anesthesiologist medical group and the hospital where the surgery was performed asserting causes of action for negligence, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Demurrers and a motion for judgment on the pleadings were filed, all of which were granted with the case dismissed by the trial court.  The court of appeal reversed concluding that the negligence was not undertaken in the rendering of professional services and therefore did not constitute professional negligence within the meaning of CCP §340.5.  The tortious conduct alleged was that the anesthesiologist had tried to persuade the plaintiff not to report that she had awakened during the surgery, not the improper anesthesia itself.  The court also found that not all post-operative contact between a doctor and a patient constitutes care and the nature of the contact between the plaintiff and the anesthesiologist was a factual question for a finder of fact to decide.

Dwight R. v. Christy B. (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 697.  This is a SLAPP case.  A family therapist had prompted an investigation by Child Protective Services of a father who the therapist suspected had been sexually abusing his daughter.  The therapist was a mandated reporter who demonstrated that she knew or suspected child abuse or neglect and was required to report it.  The father's allegation that the therapist had engaged in unlawful coaching and conspiracy activities was insufficient to render the therapist's actions unlawful as a matter of law and outside the protection of CCP §425.16.  The father did not establish a probability of prevailing on the "state actor" component of his claims and his speculation that the therapist had conspired with others to fabricate false allegations of sexual abuse against him was insufficient to support his theory, with the SLAPP motion therefore being granted.

Stump's Market, Inc. v. Plaza De Santa Fe Limited, LLC (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 882.  This is a case in which after a court had found in favor of a grocery store tenant on a number of lease issues that were in dispute between the owner and the tenant, including a series of options which the tenant contended existed under the provisions of the lease which extended over a period of seventeen years, the court at the trial level reserved jurisdiction to make further orders as it felt necessary to effectuate and enforce its judgment.  The court of appeal felt this was improper, and struck the portion of the judgment in which the court reserved jurisdiction.  The court otherwise affirmed the judgment, but noted that reserving jurisdiction over what could be a period of seventeen years was unjustified.  The trial court had resolved the issues before it and at that point in time there were no continuing disputes.  There was therefore no justification for the trial court to interject itself into the contractual relationship between the two parties to resolve future hypothetical disputes.

Comstock v. Ber (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 931.  This is another SLAPP case.  Plaintiff sued defendant for sexual assault and the defendant filed a cross-complaint alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Plaintiff then brought a SLAPP motion with respect to the cross-complaint.  The order was granted by the trial court and affirmed by the court of appeal.  The statements which the plaintiff had made to the police, healthcare practitioners, and the HR manager of her employer were statements made in connection with matters under review by an official body or proceeding.  Her further generic statements made to friends were incidental to the essence of cross-complainant's defamation claims.  Cross-complainant also failed to show a probability of prevailing because he did not specifically deny the truth of any of plaintiff's statements, nor did he deny that he had sexually assaulted the plaintiff.  It was insufficient that the cross-complaint alleged generally that the statements were false.  The court also found the plaintiff's statements to be privileged under Civil Code §47 in that they were made to interested persons.

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