New Cases Of Interest – January 31, 2020

Bernstein v. LaBeouf.  (2019) 43 Cal.App.5th 15.

This is a SLAPP case in which a Defendant who is an actor called Plaintiff, who was a bartender, a “racist” after Plaintiff had refused to serve Defendant and his companion alcohol. Plaintiff sued for assault, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and Defendant filed a SLAPP motion.  The motion was denied with the Court finding that the conduct did not fall within the scope of the SLAPP statute in that statements were not directed at someone in the public eye, and Defendant being an actor didn’t make this a matter in the public eye.

Long Beach Unified School District v. Margaret Williams, LLC (2019) 43 Cal.App.5th 87.

A contractor sued a school district that the contractor had worked for, alleging that the District unlawfully caused arsenic poisoning and also discharged the contractor in retaliation for her efforts to prevent violations of environmental requirements.  The District cross-complained for breach of indemnity for requirements alleged to have existed in the contract.  Plaintiff sought to strike the cross-complaint under the SLAPP statute, which is what happened.  The Court noted that the indemnity provision at issue would have required the Plaintiff to fund the District’s defense against the very litigation which was being brought by the contractor against the District, and the indemnity agreement was also procedurally and substantively unconscionable.

Wong v. Wong (2019) 43 Cal.App.5th 358.

This is another action involving a SLAPP motion for claims seeking indemnity for litigation expenses.  In this case, the SLAPP motion was denied, with the Court holding that although the claims necessarily were incurred in connection with litigation, the claims did not arise from the protected activity of litigation itself, because the alleged injury-producing conduct was not the pursuit of the underlying litigation but was the breach of the obligation to indemnity for expenses incurred in the litigation.

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