Legal Memos

Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Court (2023) 14 Cal.5th 758. This is a California Supreme Court matter which deals with the issue of whether a school district can have imposed against it any form of enhanced damages. The Court notes that a governmental entity is immune under Civil Code § 3294 from punitive or exemplary damages, and that the concept of enhanced damages authorized under CCP§ 340.1(b)(1) is not sufficiently distinguished from the prohibition against punitive or exemplary damages, and therefore also cannot be recovered against a public entity.

Collins v. Waters (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 70. This is a SLAPP case. A challenger in an election campaign sued the incumbent alleging the incumbent had defamed him during the campaign when she accused him of having a dishonorable discharge from the Navy. The incumbent filed a SLAPP motion. The SLAPP motion had been granted by the trial court, but that was reversed and remanded by the Court of Appeal. The incumbent had been put on notice by the challenger of his actual discharge document, which disproved the accusation that he had been dishonorably discharged. The incumbent had failed to check the evidence and yet kept repeating the accusation. In the face of the facially valid proof of error, this failure created what the Court described as a “permissible inference of willful blindness” which if believed by the fact-finder could amount to clear and convincing evidence of subjective actual malice, requiring denial of the SLAPP motion.

Hastings College Conservation Committee v. Faigman (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 323. This is another SLAPP motion, involving the name change at Hastings. The Court denied the SLAPP motion, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal finding that the claims did not arise from protected activity, even if future speech using the new name would be protected activity, because the claim actually arose from the legislative enactment changing the name of the college, and not from the speech implementing it. Because the challenge was based on a speech-related enactment, rather than on other activities undertaken by public entities or officials in furtherance of their rights to free speech or to petition, the SLAPP motion would have to be brought by the State and not by the Dean and Directors of the College. The SLAPP motion also was not authorized simply because a claim would have an adverse effect on protected activity.


Related Attorney(s):
Gregory L. McCoy