Kim v. R Consulting & Sales, Inc. (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 263. This was a SLAPP issue and arose in connection with an order to show cause regarding contempt in post judgment discovery disputes, with the court finding that an OSC was not a valid basis for malicious prosecution claims and was not a separate proceeding with an independent existence but was dependent upon the post-judgment proceedings. Because a malicious prosecution cause of action lacked the proper basis, the claimant could not demonstrate a probability of success in opposing the SLAPP motions.
Hom v. Petrou (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 459. In this case the court upheld an award of contractual attorney’s fees to lenders who had a security interest in a commercial leasehold, finding that although the lenders were not signatories to the lease agreement, they were intended third party beneficiaries and were given various rights and responsibilities, which coupled with the fee provisions broad language allowed for claims for an award of attorneys’ fees by the third party beneficiaries.
Gonzalez v. Mathis (2021) 12 Cal.5th 29. This is a case in which the supreme court holds that a land owner is not liable to the employee of an independent contractor who had been hired to clean a skylight and fell resulting in injury. The owner’s presumptive delegation to the contractor of responsibility for workplace safety under the “Privette doctrine” encompassed a duty to determine whether the work could be performed safely despite a known hazard on the worksite. An owner can be liable for failure to warn if it retained control over any part of the independent contractor’s work in a manner which affirmatively contributed to the injury, but those exceptions did not apply in the facts in the case.
Hedayati v. Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 833. In this case an insurer was found to be potentially liable for breach of good faith and fair dealing regarding a jury award which was in excess of policy limits because the insurer had breached its duty to communicate with the insured, thereby exposing the insured to a larger judgment.
Gallano v. Burlington Coat Factory of California, LLC (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 953. Another SLAPP case. A former store employee filed a putative class action complaint alleging that the defendant’s store forced its employees to pay for business losses incurred for common on the job mistakes by misusing California’s shoplifting statute (Penal Code § 490.5). The court of appeal held that plaintiff’s pleadings supported her claim that she personally incurred a loss in direct consequence of the discharge of her duties and obedience to the directions of her employer. She made a sufficient prima facia factual showing to survive the SLAPP motion. Plaintiff’s claim, however, under Labor Code § 1198 could not be maintained as a private cause of action was not available under that statute.
Morris Cerullo World Evangelism v. New Port Harbor Offices & Marina, LLC (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 1149. Another SLAPP case. A commercial sublessee had pled a setoff in its answer to a cross-complaint filed by the lessee. The court held that an anti-SLAPP motion could not be directed simply to an affirmative defense because only a cause of action can be the subject of a SLAPP motion.
Finato v. Keith A. Fink & Associates, Inc. (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 136. Another anti-SLAPP case. The court held that when a SLAPP motion was brought because a prior appellate decision had upheld the striking of allegations in an amended complaint of the paragraph challenged by the second motion to strike contained materially identical allegations, the SLAPP motion was an appropriate procedural method instead of an ordinary motion to strike.
Amjadi v. Brown (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 383. The court held that plaintiff’s attorney who had entered into a settlement over the objection of the plaintiff, and did so purportedly pursuant to a written representation agreement that gave the attorney the right to accept settlement offers on the client’s behalf in the attorney’s sole discretion so long as the attorney believed in good faith that the settlement offer was reasonable and in the client’s best interest, was unenforceable. The provision violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rule 1.2.
Sandoval v. Qualcomm Incorporated (2021) 12 Cal.5th 256. This was a premises liability case involving an injury sustained by a contractor with the employee suing both the contractor and the owner of the property. The supreme court determined that there was no tort duty owed by the owner to the contractor’s employee, even though the owner had performed a partial power-down process that preceded the contractor’s work and resulted in the presence of a live electrical circuit, which in turn led to the worker’s injury. On the record, the court found that the owner neither failed to sufficiently disclose the hazard nor affirmatively contributed to the injury and the evidence did not support the determination that the owner owed the contractor’s employee a duty under the retained control exception to the ordinary limitations on higher level liability.
Woodhill Ventures, LLC v. Yang (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 624. This is another SLAPP case in which a bike shop sued a customer alleging libel, slander, and violation of the unfair competition law in connection with the customer’s social media post and podcast when the customer filed the SLAPP motion which was denied. The court affirmed the denial finding that the statements did not involve public interest nor did they seek public discussion of anything.
Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System (2021) 11 Cal.5th 995. This is a SLAPP action in connection with a physician’s complaint alleging unlaw retaliation by hospitals. The court found that some of the alleged acts of retaliation qualified as protected activity because they were peer review proceedings and disciplinary reports filed with official bodies. The actual discipline which was imposed through the period in process was not speech and was therefore not protected. As a result the SLAPP motion should be granted in part and denied in part.
Huy Fong Foods, Inc. v. Underwood Ranches LP (2021) 66 Cal.App.5th 1112. This was an action for breach of contract and fraud arising out of a company’s decision to terminate its relationship with a grower. The court found that there was a confidential relationship between the two parties arising from long term business dealings which gave rise to a duty to disclose the company’s decision to terminate the parties’ relationship. A finding of fraud based on affirmative misrepresentation was supported because the company had induced the grower to obtain more land in reliance on the company’s assurance that it would buy all of the produce the grower provided, which a jury could reasonably have found the company had no intention in fact of doing. An award of punitive damages was further proper because fraud which incidentally involves breach of contract would support such an award.
Exline v. Gillmor (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 129. Another SLAPP case, this one involves a complaint that alleged that a city official had violated the Political Reform Act by failing to disclose information on statement of economic interest forms, particularly Form 700. The SLAPP motion was to be granted with the court finding that the political work exception to the public interest exemption applied to the completion of the Form 700.
Gregory L. McCoy