Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - September 27, 2010

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County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court (2010) 50 Cal.4th 35.  In this case the court holds that a public entity which retains a private law firm for a public nuisance abatement action, may retain counsel on a contingent fee basis so long as conflict-free government attorneys retain the ultimate power to control and supervise the litigation.  The court further articulated specific provisions for contingent fee agreements in such cases, and noted that the attorneys were subject to a heightened standard of ethical conduct applicable to public officials acting in the name of the public.

Rivera v. First DataBank, Inc. (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 709.  This is a SLAPP case.  The family of a consumer brought an action against an independent publisher of medication databases after the consumer had committed suicide.  The consumer had used a stress medication discussed on the independent publisher’s medication database.  Plaintiffs’ alleged that the database had confusing language and a confusing format.  The court granted the SLAPP motion finding that the claim arose out of free speech which was protected under the statute, that the speech involved did not describe either the defendant’s business, nor the consumers, but discussed the product of a third party drug manufacturer, and was not made to sell the publisher’s services or goods.  The publisher also was not an agent of the medication manufacturer.  Finally, the plaintiff did not show a probability of success on the merits because they failed to demonstrate that the publisher owed them any duty. 

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