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New Cases of Interest - September 21, 2015
Carlson v. Home Team Pest Defense, Inc. (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 619. This was a case in which an employer brought a motion to compel arbitration of a claim for wrongful termination and related causes of action. The trial court found the arbitration agreement to be unenforceable as unconscionable, and the court of appeal agreed, finding that the arbitration provision had procedural unconscionability because the employee was given no opportunity to review a policy which was incorporated into the arbitration agreement or the applicable arbitration rules. It was also substantively unconscionable because it included a cost-sharing provision and a requirement that the employee arbitrate all non-exempt claims while the employer retained the right to seek injunctive relief. The court also found that the Federal Arbitration Act did not preclude a finding of unconscionability which did not interfere with fundamental attributes of permitted arbitration. The court of appeal also found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to sever the cost-sharing provision in finding the entire agreement permeated by unconscionability.
The Inland Oversight Committee v. County of San Bernardino (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 671. This is a SLAPP case. A taxpayer organization filed a complaint alleging that the County had entered into a settlement agreement in an inverse condemnation case that had been permeated by conflicts of interest. The motion was denied by the trial court and the denial upheld by the court of appeal with the court finding that the public interest exception under CCP § 425.17(b) applied regardless of whether the taxpayer organization had made a demand on the County to seek disgorgement of the funds allegedly illegally paid in the settlement agreement or whether it was even possible that the County might do so. The court found that the nature of the allegations made and the scope of relief sought supported the denial of the SLAPP motion.