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

March 2018 Archives

A recent employment discrimination lawsuit filed against Cal Fire alleges that a gay male firefighter was told to stop flaunting his sexuality, was shunned, and even told his "kind" were not welcome.

While these allegations may seem rather wild, the case is also filed against Division Chief John Paul Melendrez, who has a reputation for being "psychotic," "tyrannical," and "yelling for effect." Melendrez was also the subject of an official investigation while leading the Owens Valley camp, where an investigator found that "The environment is so bad at Owens Valley camp it is beginning to affect people physically." Nevertheless, Melendrez didn't seem to suffer any real consequences as a result.

A recent ruling of the California supreme court is likely sparking even more controversy among California's universities' administrators over what should be done to protect students from violence.

The court ruled that when a university is aware of a threat or foreseeable violence towards a student, it has a duty to protect and warn, and can be held liable for injuries that result. In the case at bar, the state high court remanded the matter to the appellate court to allow the case to move forward to trial if it finds triable issues of material fact.

Court: Competency Hearing a Due Process Right

Derek Antonio Johnson was waiting in his cell for trial when he was beaten -- by himself.

A guard said he was "head-butting" the ground, and slapping and punching himself at the same time. Bleeding from his eyebrow, his eye socket swollen and lacerated, Johnson did not make it to trial that day.

Johnson's attorney said the man had a history of psychiatric problems, but the trial judge didn't buy it. Johnson was just trying to work the system, the judge said.

The California Supreme Court has just settled one hotly disputed overtime issue by deciding that a flat sum bonus is calculated as part of the regular rate of pay for overtime purposes.

If you're not a labor and employment attorney (or even if you are), this is probably pretty confusing. But it actually seems to make quite a bit of sense once it is unpacked, and particularly after the facts of the underlying case, Alvarado v. Dart, are understood.

Sanctuary Cities Case: Sessions v. California Lawyers

In President Trump's war on immigration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions may go down in history as his greatest weapon.

One day, Trump is calling the attorney general a cartoon character. The next, Trump's main lawyer is calling out California for frustrating the president's policy.

If it comes down to a contest between White House lawyers and California lawyers, you might want to lay down your bets soon. Sessions, and Trump for that matter, might not make it to the playoffs.

Judge Tells 'A Shakespearean Tragedy, to Be Sure'

With a cue from Shakespeare, Justice Eileen Moore told the tragic tale of a wine collector who lost $18 million on his investment.

"Poor," if not "unfortunate," David Doyle insured his collection for $19 million, only to learn that a dealer had sold him counterfeit wine. And in a deeper cut, the insurance did not cover the loss in Doyle v. Fireman's Fund Insurance.

"A Shakespearean tragedy, to be sure," Moore wrote for California's Fourth District Court of Appeal. Playwrights aside, the judge knows about tragedy.

Dissolved Firm Has 'Narrow Interest' in Fees From Exiting Partners

In a lawyerly-watched case, the California Supreme Court said dissolving law firms have no right to fees for unfinished hourly matters that partners take to new firms.

Heller Ehrman v. Davis Wright Tremaine is a significant bankruptcy case because it involved a dispute between a bankrupt law firm and its departing partners. A bankruptcy administrator made claims for fees against more than a dozen other law firms in the case.

The court decision may be more important to lawyers who leave their firms than to bankruptcy attorneys, however. The last thing most lawyers want to do is pay their old law firms.

California's controversial Waterfix project, estimated to cost over $16 billion, is facing a new legal challenge from a few cities and counties as well a environmental groups. The Waterfix project will basically reroute water from the Sacramento river delta all the way down to the Bay Area and even to Southern California.

The project involves diverting water and constructing two massive aqueducts, each 30 miles long and 40 feet in diameter. Naturally, environmental and agricultural groups in northern California are none too pleased about the plan as the state has been facing critical water shortages and droughts. But rather than speaking to those concerns, the lawsuit alleges that the responsible agencies have colluded behind closed doors, to the detriment of the public, to ensure the project will move forward.

Court: Trader Joe's Can't Interfere with Middleman's Contract

(Hey, there's an open secret about Trader Joe's products: they aren't all Trader Joe's.)

It started to come out in a book several years ago, courtesy of a former company insider and marketing executive. Mark Gardiner spells out how "one of America's most secretive companies built the strongest brand in its category."

Now another Trader Joe's secret is out. In Redfearn v. Trader Joe's Company, a California appeals court said the company may be liable for interfering with a food broker's contract to go directly to suppliers.