Friday, December 15, 2017

No RJT for BFD.

Central Laborers Pension Fund v. MacAfee, Inc., No. H039508 (D6 Nov. 15, 2017)

This case—a stockholder suit alleging a breach of fiduciary duty in connection with a merger—is interesting because 90 percent of it is decided under Delaware law, but the court elected to publish it anyway. Having done a number of similar cases in California state courts, that’s pretty useful.

But there’s also an issue about the right to jury trial. In Delaware, there would be no jury trial right for these cases, because they are heard in the Court of Chancery, a court of equity that doesn’t use juries. But, as the court notes, the jury trial issue is a question of California procedure, even when Delaware substantive law applies under the internal affairs doctrine. Under California law, a claim for breach of fiduciary duty is inherently equitable, even if the remedy sought includes damages along with injunctive relief. Plaintiffs thus didn’t have a right to a jury trial in this case and the trial court did not err by striking their jury demand.

Reversed in part.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Public Forum Questions Under CCP § 425.16(e)(4)

Ralphs Grocery Co. v. Victory Consultants, Inc., No. D070804 (D4d1 Nov. 15, 2017)

The trial court in this case granted an anti-SLAPP motion, dismissing a case where a grocery store sued paid petition signature gathering company for trespassing when it gathered signatures right outside the entrances to two grocery stores in San Diego. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Coming Around, Slowly

Whitehall v. Cnty. of San Bernardino, No. E065672 (D4d2 Nov. 15, 2017)

Plaintiff sued her employer—a government Agency—for retaliating against her for being a whistleblower. The Agency responded with an anti-SLAPP motion asserting that the case arose from its internal investigation, which was an “other proceeding” protected under Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16(e)(1) and (2). Plaintiff then did something you should never, ever do. She conceded the “arising from” element was met, but argued that she could win on the merits. In a pleasant departure from the many cases that have gone wrong on that move, however the Court of Appeal here steps in to say that notwithstanding the concession, arising from isn’t met. 

Plaintiff isn’t claiming that the Agency defamed her or something during the investigation. She’s claiming it fired her for blowing the whistle. Under the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Park, official employment decisions like that are not, in themselves, protected activity, even if they might be proceeded by “official proceedings” like internal investigations. Because the element of the claim sounds in the termination for retaliatory reasons, and not the Agency’s investigation, the claim does not actually arise from anything protected.

And in any event, this time, Plaintiff did make out a prima facie case of wrongful termination, including by disputing the various immunity and privilege defenses raised by the Agency. 

Affirmed.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Voluntary Dismissal Is Enough Merit to Avoid Malpros SLAPP

Medley Capital Corp. v. Security Natl Guarantee Inc., No. A147726 (D1d2 Nov. 13, 2017)

A party that voluntarily dismissed some counterclaims in a prior real estate dispute got hit with a malicious prosecution case. The Dismisser responded with an anti-SLAPP motion. Given the subject matter, nobody argues the case doesn’t meet the first—“arising from protected activity”—element of the analysis. As far as potential for success goes, Dismisser claims that a voluntary dismissal doesn’t satisfy the favorable termination element of a malpros claim. But there’s no doubt that a voluntary dismissal can count as a favorable determination, even if that is not always the case. Given that disputes in evidence break in favor of the plaintiff on an anti-SLAPP motion, the voluntary termination was enough to make out a prima facie case, even if there were some circumstances where Dismisser could explain the dismissal in a way where it wouldn’t count as a favorable termination.

Affirmed.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Who You Givin’ Only One Star?

Yelp Inc. v. Superior Court, No. G054358 (D4d3 Nov. 13, 2017)

Discovery of anonymous poster information from Internet companies has been a hot topic in Court of Appeal lately. In the past year or so, there’s been a case about Google, and a pair of cases involving Glassdoor. This time it’s Yelp.

Following the first Glassdoor case—the court finds that Yelp had standing to raise its customer’s interest in remaining anonymous, because Yelps ability to maintain its reviewers anonymity is part and parcel of its very business. But then following the test from the second Glassdoor case, the court finds that the plaintiff has nonetheless made a sufficient prima facie showing of defamation to get at the information. So the court affirms the trial court’s order to produce the info. It reverses, however, on discovery sanctions. Given that the Glassdoor cases were decided after the trial court’s order, the issues presented in the dispute were novel enough that Yelp’s arguments in resisting the discovery were substantially justified.

Writ denied, sanctions order reversed.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fast and Loose Doesn’t Look Good on You

Padron v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of N.Y., Inc., No. D070723 (D4d1 Nov. 9, 2017)

In a child sex abuse case against a Church, the Church is stonewalling about producing documents detailing other abuse incidents. In another, related case, it previously convinced the Court of Appeal that terminating sanctions weren’t appropriate, in lieu of a coercive monetary penalty that could exceed the propounding party’s costs of litigating the discovery issue. See Lopez v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 246 Cal. App. 4th 566 (2016). So when the Church kept stonewalling in this case, following Lopez, the trial court found a willful refusal to comply with its discovery orders to produce exactly the same documents and by fined it $4,000 per day of noncompliance. The Church appeals, again.

But this time it doesn’t end well.