Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another Per Se Reveral Rule Bites the Dust

Robert v. Stanford University, No. H037514 (D6 Feb. 25, 2014)

After plaintiff brought and lost an apparently frivolous employment discrimination case against Stanford University, the trial court awarded Stanford $100,000 for its fees. Although the trial court never made any express written findings in support of the fee award, it made oral findings on the record that supported an award under the governing Christiansburg/Cummings standard. Plaintiff appealed the fee award, relying on Rosenman v. Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro, 91 Cal. App. 4th 859 (2001), an earlier court of appeal case holding that a court commits per se reversible error when it awards fees to a prevailing defendant in a  FEHA case without making express written findings to support the award. But continuing a notable trend, the court departs from prior precedent and holds that Rosenman’s procedural error per se rule—like most rules mandating automatic reversal for procedural error—runs afoul of Article VI § 13 of the state constitution and Code of Civil Procedure § 475, which permit reversal of trial court rulings only when there is a miscarriage of justice or prejudice to the appealing party. Because it was clear from the trial court’s oral findings that it did not abuse its discretion in awarding fees to Stanford, reversal was not merited.


Further coverage here.

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