Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - May 24, 2016

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Baughn v. Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 328.  This is a SLAPP matter.  It involved an action for alleged breach of a settlement agreement as well as other claims.  The underlying issue was that the former employer had banned a particular firefighter who had been accused of sexual harassment from entering the former employer's facilities under a temporary assignment from his current employer.  Both the former employer and his union brought the lawsuit and the former employer filed the SLAPP motion.  The Court held that the action of the former employer was not an exercise of speech concerning a public issue or a matter of public interest because the dispute concerned only a small number of people.  The Court also found that the plaintiff could not recover attorney's fees without a finding that the SLAPP motion had been frivolous or brought solely for the purpose of delay, and no finding of that nature was made by the trial court.

Crossroads Investors, L.P. v. Federal National Mortgage Assn. (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 529.  This is another SLAPP case.  In this case a borrower had filed a complaint against the beneficiary of a deed of trust alleging a failure to provide an accounting, a failure to accept a tender and failure to give proper notice of a trustee's sale.  The defendant's SLAPP motion was denied and the Court of Appeal affirmed holding that the borrower's causes of action involved both protected and unprotected activity with the protected activity being the beneficiary's response to an interrogatory, although the Court also noted that silence in response to an interrogatory is not a protected activity.  The Court additionally noted that the borrower's cause of action established a prima facie case with a probability of prevailing on its claim of failure to provide redemption information and the alleged promise to give notice of a trustee's sale was not protected activity.

DP Pham LLC v. Cheadle (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 653.  This was a motion to disqualify counsel for improper use of privileged attorney-client communications.  The trial court had conducted an in camera review and concluded that an email and letter sent were not privileged communications.  The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded noting that the court-ordered disclosure of an in camera review was prohibited when deciding whether the presumption of communications made in confidence has been overcome.

Almanor Lakeside Villas Owners Assn. v. Carson (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 761.  This is a case in which Rich Raines prevails on appeal for Plaintiff and Respondent who had also won at the trial court level.  The appellate court noted that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the Association was the prevailing party because it achieved its enforcement objectives under the CC&Rs and that while the trial court had the discretion to reduce the amount of the fee award sought by the Association in that the Association wasn't successful on all of its claims, the awarding of the full attorney's fees sought was not unreasonable.

Espejo v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 1047.  This was an action which alleged wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation and involved an employer's petition to compel arbitration of those claims.  The Court held that the employer had satisfied its initial burden of establishing the existence of the arbitration agreement by attaching a copy to their petition to compel arbitration pursuant to CRC Rule 3.1330 and that it was not further required to establish the authenticity of the former employee's electronic signature unless the employee challenged it.  The employer had late filed a supplemental declaration on that issue, but the supplemental declaration was not necessary, although it did sufficiently authenticate the signature.

Sanford v. Rasnick (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 1121.  In this case a settlement offer made under CCP 998 contained a condition requiring the parties enter into a settlement agreement, but no settlement agreement was attached to the offer.  The Court found that this omission invalidated the offer as a valid CCP 998 offer because the offeree would have to guess at the terms of the settlement agreement that was referenced as a condition to the 998 offer.

Abuemeira v. Stephens (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 1291.  This was another SLAPP motion.  In this case the Court found that the conduct of publicly describing a traffic altercation as a hate crime was not an act in furtherance of the constitutional right of petitioner's free speech in connection with a public issue or a matter of public interest, absent evidence that the dispute involved public figures, which was not the case here.  It was instead a private controversy.  The statute also did not apply to causes of action arising from false allegations of criminal conduct.  The SLAPP motion was properly denied.

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