Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc. (2020) 9 Cal.5th 1130.
Plaintiff had entered into an agreement with a drug company to develop a drug for the treatment of a particular disease. The drug company terminated its contract with plaintiff, which it was allowed to do under the terms of the agreement. Plaintiff sued the defendant for tortuously interfering with plaintiff’s contractual and perspective economic relationship with the drug company and claimed that the defendant had done so in violation of Business and Professions Code §16600. The case was filed in federal court and the 9th Circuit certified two questions for the Supreme Court: 1) does Business and Professions Code §16600 void a contract by which a business is restrained from engaging in a lawful trade or business with another business; 2) is a plaintiff required to plead an independently wrongful act in order to state a claim for intentional interference with a contract that can be terminated by a party at any time, or does that requirement apply only to at-will employment contracts.
The Supreme Court held that to state a claim for interference with an at-will contract by a third party, the plaintiff must allege that the defendant engaged in an independently wrongful act. The Supreme Court noted that rule of reason applies to determine the validity of a contractual provision by which a business is restrained from engaging in a lawful trade or business with another business. The contract between the defendant and the drug company was such a restraint because it prevented the drug company from collaborating with the plaintiff and had to be evaluated under the rule of reason as to whether this constituted a violation of Business and Professions Code §16600.
Golden State Seafood, Inc. v. Schloss (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 21. This is a SLAPP case. The underlying action was a malicious prosecution claim against an attorney. The SLAPP motion was denied as the court of appeal upheld a finding that the claim necessarily arose out of protected activity. The court noted the underlying evidence indicated liability on behalf of the attorney, and the case was allowed to proceed.
- B. v. County of Los Angeles (2020) 10 Cal.5th 1. This was a matter in which a deputy in the LA County Sheriff’s Department in making an arrest did so with unnecessary force and committed a battery in doing so. The issue was whether the noneconomic damages awarded, $8,000,000, were subject to apportionment. The court held that Civil Code §1431.2(a) does not authorize a reduction in the liability of intentional tortfeasors for noneconomic damages based on the extent to which the negligence of other actors, including the plaintiff, contributed to the injuries in question. The Supreme Court concluded that under existing legal principles and statutory interpretation the statute at issue did not entitle the defendant to reduce his liability for noneconomic damages based on the acts of the decedent or the other defendants.
Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 431. This is a case in which the trial court summarily adjudicated causes of action for strict product liability in favor of a company operating a shopping website. The court of appeal however reversed and remanded, concluding the policy considerations which underlaid the doctrine of strict liability indicated that the doctrine could apply to a company alleged to be a direct link in the chain of distribution, because that company could exert pressure on its third party sellers to enhance safety and to adjust the cost of liability between itself and its third party sellers.
Gregory L. McCoy