Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - September 3, 2019

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Monster Energy Company v. Schechter (2019) 7 Cal.5th 781.  In this matter the California Supreme Court takes up a SLAPP case.  A defendant brought a motion seeking to strike a breach of contract claim alleging that an attorney who approved a settlement agreement as to form and content had violated the agreement’s confidentiality provisions and the issue was whether the attorney by approving it as to form and content was subject to those confidentiality provisions.  The court held that when an attorney approves an agreement as to form and content that means that the attorney proves the agreement for the client’s signature, and does not as a matter of law however preclude a finding that the attorney also intended to be bound by signing the agreement.  The breach of contract claim was sufficient in its allegations to defeat the SLAPP motion on this basis.

Blaser v. State Teachers Retirement System (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 349.  In this case a trial court granted a petition for writ of mandate concerning a statute of limitations issue which is extremely opaque within the State Teachers Retirement System statutes.  The court of appeal reversed a trial court decision and found that the provisions of Education Code § 22008(c) reflected the continuous accrual theory which applied to each payment that was made of a retirement benefit and the teachers asserted good faith belief that the payments were correct did not defeat the continuous accrual theory which arose each time a payment was made.

Wilson v. Cable News Network, Inc. (2019) 7 Cal.5th 871.  The Supreme Court takes up another SLAPP issue here.  The court held that employment discrimination and retaliation claims in an underlying complaint alleged acts that qualified for SLAPP protection because the claims arose from adverse actions allegedly taken rather than from alleged improper motives.  Protected conduct can include speech on a matter of public interest.  Terminating an employee based on plagiarism was protected speech and gave rise to SLAPP protections.  The defamation claim however was not subject to SLAPP protections because the employee was not a public figure and the alleged privately made statements about the reasons for termination did not address a public controversy.

Dickinson v. Cosby (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 1138.  This is a SLAPP motion at the court of appeal level.  The motion challenged claims which were premised on alleged defamatory public statements made by an attorney on behalf of a client.  The SLAPP motion was denied in that a probability of prevailing was shown as to the claims made by the plaintiff and evidence of an attorney’s habit or custom of discussing public statements with clients was admissible to prove the client ratified the attorney’s statements.  Defending against this evidence did not waive the attorney-client privilege if no discussion had occurred to that effect.  Whether or not though the client approved of the statements in advance, there was evidence of ratification because the client did not discharge the attorney or disavow the statements.

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