California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

August 2014 Archives

Cal. Sup. Ct: Domino's Not Liable for Franchisee Sexual Harassment

A divided California Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the idea that a franchise parent company can be automatically held liable for the acts of a franchisee. The 4-3 decision will surely make waves, as the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel decided last month that McDonald's could be held liable for labor violations of franchisees.

The case involves a Domino's franchise and an employee claiming that a manager had been sexually harassing her. She complained about the harassment to corporate headquarters, took a week off work, then resigned soon afterward, believing that the manager had reduced her hours as retaliation for reporting the harassment.

Gun Owners Won't Have to Wait 10 Days to Add to Arsenals

"For those who already own a firearm and are known to be trustworthy due to the licenses that they hold and a history of responsible gun ownership, there is no justification for imposing the full 10-day waiting period."

That's District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii's holding: For Californians who already lawfully own guns, or for those who are licensed concealed carry permit holders, there is no justifiable reason to have a strict 10-day waiting period before they can exercise their Second Amendment rights.

5 Tips to Earthquake-Proof Your Law Office

Sunday's 6.0 earthquake in Napa County proved fairly destructive near the epicenter, toppling wine bottles, knocking out power, and shearing bricks off buildings. It was the strongest quake to hit the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989.

Even if earthquakes aren't that likely where you are, plug the magnitude of harm into Judge Learned Hand's cost-benefit analysis and you'll quickly discover it's worthwhile to take some steps to make your office more earthquake-resistant -- especially here in California.

Here are five tips not only for making your physical office more earthquake-proof, but also for making your practice earthquake-proof:

Post-Arrest, Pre-Miranda Silence Can Be Used Against You: Calif. Sup. Ct.

Richard Tom crashed into a car in 2007 and killed one of the occupants. He was tried and convicted of manslaughter. As part of its case, the prosecution brought up the fact that Tom hadn't once inquired about the other car's passengers at the scene of the accident. Though Tom didn't bring the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination issue up on appeal, the Court of Appeal did, and reversed his conviction.

So, was Tom's Fifth Amendment privilege violated when the trial court admitted evidence that he "failed to inquire about the welfare of the occupants of the other vehicle"? Yes, said the Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision.

Scott Dekraai Won't Dodge Death Penalty Despite DA's 'Negligence'

The snitch scandal at the Orange County District Attorney's Office is nearly over, but it won't bring relief for the mass murderer whose attorneys brought the scandal to light.

Scott Dekraai is the man who walked into a Seal Beach salon in 2011 and opened fire, murdering eight people. He pleaded guilty in May, but the death penalty is still on the table, despite the best efforts of his public defender, Scott Sanders, and a scandal in the district attorney's office.

The "Inmate F" snitching scandal, which we covered earlier this year, has already led to one reversed conviction and harsh criticism by Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, who denied the defense's request to take the death penalty off the table and recuse the D.A.'s office from the case, reports the Orange County Register.

Cell Phone 'Kill Switch' Bill Ready for Gov. Brown's Signature

Governor Jerry Brown is poised to make California the second state in the nation to require "kill switches" in cell phones, reported The Washington Post.

Apple's iPhone and some Android devices already have technology built in that allow a user to mark a phone as stolen, preventing it from ever connecting to a cell phone network until it's unlocked. Previously, thieves could wipe the phone and re-sell it as a functional phone; a kill switch would block the phone from connecting to a cell phone network even after being wiped, providing a disincentive to steal phones in the first place.

Voter Initiatives Not Subject to CEQA Review: Calif. Sup. Ct.

When a city council wants to engage in land use planning, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a study (which can take months) before the city council can do anything. Ah, but not so when citizens themselves propose a land use initiative: there, an abbreviated environmental impact study will suffice. It must be completed in 30 days, if at all.

This issue arose after Walmart wanted to open a new 27,000 square foot "Supercenter" in Sonora (Tuolumne County). But before it could, the city had to conduct a full CEQA study. In response, Sonora resident James Grinnell began a voter initiative (authored by Walmart, according to the Sonora Union-Democrat) that ultimately garnered the requisite number of votes. After the city council adopted the ordinance without submitting it to an election, a local small business group sued to stop it on the grounds that the city had to conduct a full environmental review first.

Last week, the California Supreme Court, unanimously overruling an appellate court decision, ruled that the city does not have to conduct a full CEQA analysis when the initiative comes from voters, as opposed to the legislature.

Alzheimer's Patients Not Liable for Injuring In-Home Caregivers in Calif.

Alzheimer's is a pretty terrible, debilitating disease. Those afflicted are often not in control of their actions. Recognizing this, California already has a rule that Alzheimer's patients in institutional facilities like nursing homes aren't responsible for injuries they inflict on caregivers.

What about in-home caregivers? They had no special protection until Monday, when the California Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that, yes, the rule also applies to them under the doctrine of assumption of risk.

But really, this case presents a legislative, not a judicial, problem.

Calif. High-Speed Rail's Bond Sales Can Proceed: Court of Appeal

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, authorizing the sale of bonds to fund a high-speed train that would run from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Ever since, the project has stalled due to lawsuits filed by everyone from the ever-present Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to Central Valley farmers who object to rights of way through their land.

Opponents of the bullet train breathed some relief in 2013 when a Sacramento County Superior Court judge found the California High Speed Rail Authority's plan to sell bonds didn't comply with legal requirements and ordered signed contracts for construction to be rescinded.

But on July 31, it was the opponents' turn to sulk: The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento reversed the Superior Court decision, allowing the rail project to proceed. This is a dense opinion, so we're going to try to run down the basics.