Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - May 21, 2018

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Area 51 Productions, Inc. v. City of Alameda (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 581.  This is another SLAPP case.  Plaintiff is an event promotion company and had a long standing license relationship for the use of certain city property for events which the plaintiff would then plan and promote with other third parties.  The city determined that it was no longer going to do business with the realty group that managed these license arrangements which caused plaintiff to be potentially liable to a number of these third parties who had previously relied on the city's willingness to license event space.  Plaintiff then sued and defendant demurred and filed a SLAPP motion.  The city's SLAPP motion was denied as to five of the six causes of action, concluding that those causes of action did not arise from protected activity under CCP §425.16.  The act of reneging on a commitment to license the use of certain property was not a protected activity.  The communication activity was merely incidental to the injury producing activity.  Plaintiff, however, did not demonstrate a prima facie case of liability on its sixth cause of action for negligent misrepresentation.

Bel Air Internet, LLC v. Morales (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 924.  This is a SLAPP matter.  Plaintiff was a service provider who sued others who had worked for the Plaintiff as field installers alleging that they had interfered with Plaintiff's contractual relationship with other employees by encouraging them to leave their jobs and turn around and sue the Plaintiff.  Defendants filed a SLAPP motion which the trial court initially denied but the court of appeal reversed and remanded.  In the remand, the trial court was instructed that the Defendants could rely on the Plaintiff's allegations that that Defendants urged other employees to quit and sue even though the Defendants denied engaging in this conduct and Defendants' alleged conduct in encouraging other employees to sue was protected pre-litigation conduct.  Defendants were therefore entitled to prevail and to receive their attorney's fees and costs on appeal.

Herterich v. Peltner (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 1132.  In this matter Plaintiff filed a complaint against the executor of the decedent's estate and the attorney who represented the executor in prior litigation in which the Plaintiff had unsuccessfully sought to obtain a share in the estate under the theory that he was the son of the decedent who had been unintentionally omitted from the estate.  Summary judgment was granted in favor of the Defendants and upheld on appeal on the basis that the claim for damages were based entirely on representations made by the named Defendants in connection with a Probate proceeding, and therefore were privileged communications pursuant to Civil Code § 47(b).

Dean v. Friends of Pine Meadow (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th 91.  This is another SLAPP action.  This seems to be more of classic SLAPP situation with a SLAPP motion granted with respect to a complaint that alleged interference and other claims against opponents of a real estate development project.  The court found that the complaint arose from protected activity in connection with public proceedings and relating to an issue of public interest.  The speech was political rather than commercial in nature.  Plaintiff was also unable to show a probability of prevailing on the merits because the litigation privilege applied and the petitioning activity involved was not within the sham exception to the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.

MMM Holdings, Inc. v. Reich (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th 167.  Another SLAPP case.  Here a complaint alleged conversion, civil theft and other claims against an attorney.  The SLAPP motion was granted and upheld on appeal with the court of appeal noting that the attorney's conduct in distributing documents obtained in Qui Tam litigation to other attorneys in litigation for use in related cases was protected activity in that protected litigation activity is not limited to activity on behalf of a single client and the Qui Tam action and related matters concerned a public issue and an issue of public interest pertaining to the use of government funds.  Once again the Plaintiff was unable to show a probability of prevailing because of the litigation privilege, Civil Code § 47(b).

Newport Harbor Ventures, LLC v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism (2018) 4 Cal.5th 637.  Another SLAPP case but this one in the Supreme Court.  The court found that subject to a trial court's discretion under CCP § 425.16(f) that allows for late filing of a SLAPP motion, a defendant must make the SLAPP motion within 60 days of service of the earliest complaint that contains a cause of action subject to the SLAPP statute.

Hayes v. Temecula Valley Unified School District (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th 735.  Here a Principal was removed pursuant to Ed Code § 44951 but the school board had not authorized the March 15 notice to be given before it was given and served on the principal.  The court of appeal nonetheless held that the Notice of Reassignment was sufficient when the Plaintiff had received a timely notice from the superintendent before March 15, stating that she may be released from her position the following year.  The statute did not require that the Governing Board give approval prior to March 15 for such a notice.

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