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New Cases of Interest - June 21, 2010
All One God Faith, Inc. v. Organic Sustainable Industry Standards, Inc. (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 1186. This is a SLAPP case. A trade association wanted to develop a standard providing a definition of “organic” for beauty and personal care products that would allow its members to then advertise with the association’s seal on member products. A soap company sued, asserting unfair competition. The association filed a SLAPP motion which was denied. The court held that the challenged speech was not an exercise of free speech in connection with a public issue, but was instead commercial speech and not protected activity on an issue of public interest. (This is a 2-1 decision.)
Runyon v. Board of Trustees of California State University (2010) 48 Cal.4th 760. A professor at a California State University filed a retaliation claim which was rejected, and thereafter sued the University and a dean of the University under the Whistleblower Protection Act. The Supreme Court allowed the case to go forward, holding that the professor had met the prerequisites for bringing an action under Government Code Section 8547.12(c) by first having filed a complaint with a University officer and the University having failed to “satisfactorily address” the complaint within eighteen months. The Court held in interpreting the latter provision that the term “satisfactorily addressed” refers to being to the satisfaction of the complaining party, and since the CSU investigation resulted in an adverse decision to the complaining party, he was authorized to proceed with legal action, and did not first have to seek a writ of mandate before filing the legal action.
USA Waste of California, Inc. v. City of Irwindale (2010) 184 Cal.App.4th 53. This is another SLAPP case. A corporation filed a cross-complaint against a city alleging causes of action for declaratory relief, breach of contract and equitable estoppel, to which the City filed a SLAPP motion. The court found that the cross-complaint was not subject to the SLAPP statute. The allegations were not based on the City’s issuance of a notice of violation, as the City contended, and while the City’s issuance of the notice of violation may have been a factor, that did not establish that the substantive basis of the cross-complaint was only the notice of violation. The central issue in the cross-complaint was also a private matter concerning the City’s land use guidelines for landfill operations, and did not trigger the public concern elements of the SLAPP statute.