Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - November 14, 2017

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Ponte v. County of Calaveras (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 551.  Plaintiff sought reimbursement for work purportedly performed on the County's behalf, pursuant to an oral contract.  Plaintiff contended that the trial court should have granted him a continuance due to purported discovery problems, but the Court noted that Plaintiff's counsel did not file an affidavit showing good cause for a continuance.  The Court also concluded that allowing promissory estoppel for work that Plaintiff purportedly performed pursuant to an oral contract would undermine ordinances setting rules for public contracts which is exactly what the oral contract limitations are designed to preclude.  It was not an exceptional case that acquired the application of estoppel against the County.

Okorie v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist. (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 574.  This is a SLAPP case.  Plaintiff sued a school district alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation.  The Defendant filed a SLAPP motion.  The Court found that the claims were based on protected activity.  Defendant's speech and communicative conduct regarding an internal investigation of purported molestation was integral to Plaintiff's complaint and each cause of action alleged in it.  The District therefore met its initial burden of showing that the claims arose out of protected activity that was not incidental to the claim.  Plaintiff did not then show a probability of prevailing on the claims and the motion was properly granted.

Grotheer v. Escape Adventures, Inc. (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 1283.  This involved a hot air balloon accident.  The Court held that the hot air balloon operator was not a common carrier and thereby had a duty only to exercise reasonable care as a matter of law.  The Court also found that the doctrine of primary assumption of risk applied and barred any claim of grossly negligent piloting absent an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.

Roth v. Plikaytis (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 283.  The Defendant appealed from an order awarding attorney's fees in a breach of contract action brought by the Plaintiff, contending that the trial court erred when it declined to consider previously filed documents that she'd incorporated by reference as part of her motion.  The Court of Appeal first applied the presumption of regularity in concluding that the trial court did not fail to consider billing records given that it made reference to billing records, but that the trial court did abuse its discretion when it declined to consider other previously filed documents which were incorporated by reference.

Mission Beverage Co. v. Pabst Brewing Co., LLC (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 686.  This is a SLAPP action seeking to strike a beer distributor's breach of contract and declaratory relief claims against a brewer.  The motion was denied and the denial was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, which held that the distributor's claims did not arise from protected activity in that the claims arose from the brewer's decision to repudiate a distribution contract, not the brewer's letter which communicated the decision.  Business & Professions Code § 25000.2(f) should not be read as conferring upon brewers a right to terminate a distribution contract and therefore the distributor's claim for anticipatory breach was sufficient. 

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