Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - June 20, 2017

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Cross v. Superior Court (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 305.  This case involved an administrative subpoena for patient records as part of a disciplinary investigation into a psychiatrist and whether the psychiatrist properly or improperly described certain controlled substances.  The court held that the psychotherapist-patient privilege did not protect individual patient records from disclosure because of a statutory exception found in Business & Professions Code § 2225(a) (see also Evidence Code § 994) which had abrogated the physician-patient communications privilege for the purpose of investigations consistent with their statutory purpose.  Obtaining information about potential misconduct and prescribing controlled substances was a compelling interest sufficient to overcome the patient's privacy rights.

Park v. Board of Trustees of California State University (2017) 2 Cal.5th 1057.  This is a SLAPP case which reaches the Supreme Court level.  Plaintiff brought a national origin discrimination claim against the Defendant Board of Trustees after the Plaintiff was denied tenure.  The university brought a motion to strike under the SLAPP statute.  The Supreme Court concluded that the claim should not have been struck because the tenure decision was not a protected activity.  Even though the tenure decision was communicated orally or in writing that communication did not convert the lawsuit to one arising from speech.  Plaintiff could have omitted all allegations regarding communicative acts or filing a grievance and still have stated the claims which were the basis of the lawsuit.

San Diegans for Open Government v. San Diego State University Research Foundation (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 477.  This is again another SLAPP case which challenged a contract pursuant to which an independent news company provided news gathering and reporting services to a state university while also leasing space from the university.  The SLAPP motion was granted at the trial court level and affirmed by the appellate court, finding that the news media exception in Code of Civil Procedure § 425.17(d)(1) to the public interest exception in CCP § 425.17(b) applied.  The cause of action arose from protected activity of news reporting in connection with public issues and there was no evidence of illegality to support an exception.  Plaintiff was unable to show a probability of prevailing because no admissible evidence was presented to support an allegation that the company's founder had a conflict of interest. 

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