New Cases Of Interest – December 23, 2019

Miller v. Zurich American Insurance Co. (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 247.

This is another in a long succession of SLAPP cases.  An insurer moved to strike a complaint in an insurance coverage dispute which the trial court denied and the Court of Appeal affirmed the denial.  The cause of action dealing with a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing as well as allegations regarding communications with counsel did not concern the substantive issues of the insured’s liability, but only provided context for the allegation that the insurer unreasonably and without cause interfered with a defense against a counterclaim, and this therefore was not protected speech within the meaning of the SLAPP statute.

MGA Entertainment, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc. (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 554.

This is a misappropriation of trade secrets case in which the defendant filed for summary judgment on the basis of the statute of limitations.  The motion was granted and the court found that the “suspicions” acknowledged by the plaintiff in requesting information previously was sufficient to trigger the three-year statute of limitations because the plaintiff had a suspicion that the defendant had misappropriated trade secrets at that time.

Handoush v. Lease Finance Group, LLC (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 729.

This case involved a forum selection clause in a personal property lease agreement which selected New York law and then waived the right to a jury trial. The Court of Appeal refused to enforce the jury trial waiver finding it to be a matter California public policy with the case involving a California resident and therefore declined to enforce the forum selection clause which would have moved the case to New York, applied New York law and allowed the jury trial waiver.

Lee v. Kim (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 705.

This is a SLAPP case in which a malicious prosecution claim was brought by a business against an attorney and also by an owner of the business.  The court denied the SLAPP motion as to the business, finding that the business demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the underlying action but that as to the owner of the business, the owner lacked the grounds to make a direct claim and was not able to make the showing of a probability of prevailing.

Bakersfield College v. California Community College Athletic Assn. (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 753.

This is a case in which a college in order to participate in an intercollegiate football league had to agree to be bound by an athletic association’s bylaws and constitution, which included a provision stating that any sanctions and penalty disputes be resolved by binding arbitration.  The court found that the arbitration remedy was not enforceable because there was procedural unconscionability.  The college had no ability to negotiate the particular arbitration provision’s terms and its only real option was to agree to everything or to opt out of intercollegiate athletics.  The arbitration also limited the universe of covered disputes that could be brought against the association, and it lacked mutuality as the association was not accepting the same limitations which were imposed upon individual community colleges.  The manner in which the arbitration panel was selected was also evidence of unconscionability.

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