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Case Summaries

Commercial Law

[05/04] G & W Warren's, Inc. v. Dabney
In a case concerning the scope of a guaranty given to secure a buyer's obligations under a master agreement and various subsidiary agreements involving the purchase and sale of a motorcycle dealership and the circumstances under which the liability of the guarantor, by virtue of subsequent actions by the seller, may be exonerated, the trial court's judgment is reversed where the court erred in concluding that defendant was liable under the Guaranty for Assignee's obligations under the covenant not to compete and two consulting agreements.

[04/14] Goethel v. US Dep't of Commerce
In a commercial action, brought by a commercial fisherman challenging various provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government is affirmed where plaintiff's suit was not filed within the thirty-day statute of limitations.

[04/06] McGill v. Citibank
In a dispute between a consumer and a credit card company involving the validity of a provision in a predispute arbitration agreement that waives the right to seek the statutory remedy of public injunctive relief in any forum, the Court of Appeals' decision is reversed where: 1) such a provision is contrary to California public policy and is thus unenforceable under California law; and 2) the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. section 1 et seq. does not preempt this rule of California law or require enforcement of the waiver provision.

[04/05] Maloney v. T3Media, Inc.
In an brought by former student-athlete plaintiffs, alleging that defendant exploited their likenesses commercially by selling non-exclusive licenses permitting consumers to download photographs from the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Photo Library for non-commercial use, the district court's order granting defendant's special motion to strike and dismissing plaintiffs' claims without leave to amend is affirmed where: 1) the federal Copyright Act preempts the plaintiffs' publicity-right claims and the derivative UCL claim; and 2) in light of that holding, plaintiffs' cannot demonstrate a reasonable probability of prevailing on their challenged claims.

[03/29] Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman
In a challenge to New York General Business Law section 518, which provides that no seller in any sales transaction may impose a surcharge on a holder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, filed by merchants who wish to impose surcharges for credit card use, arguing that the law violates the First Amendment by regulating how they communicate their prices and that it is unconstitutionally vague, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' conclusion that section 518 did not violate the First Amendment because price regulation alone regulates conduct not speech, is vacated and remanded where: 1) the Court's review is limited to whether section 518 is unconstitutional as applied to the particular pricing scheme that plaintiffs seek to employ (a single-sticker regime, in which merchants post a cash price and an additional credit card surcharge); 2) section 518 prohibits the pricing regime plaintiffs wish to employ; 3) section 518 regulates speech; and 4) section 518 is not vague as applied to plaintiffs.

[03/29] Real v. City of Long Beach
In an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983 alleging that the City?s zoning ordinances violate the First Amendment by unreasonably restricting plaintiff's ability to open and operate a tattoo shop in Long Beach, the district court's judgment to the City is reversed where: 1) plaintiff had standing to bring a facial First Amendment challenge to the zoning ordinances and that he was not required to apply for, and then be denied, a conditional use permit under a permitting system that allegedly gave City officials unfettered discretion over an expressive activity fully protected activity by the First Amendment; and 2) plaintiff raised a cognizable claim that the City's zoning ordinances constituted an unlawful prior restraint on speech.

[03/02] New York Pet Welfare Association, Inc. v. New York City
In a complaint challenging New York City animal welfare laws, alleging that one law -- requiring City pet shops to purchase dogs and cats directly from federally licensed breeders -- violated the dormant Commerce Clause and was preempted by the federal Animal Welfare Act, and that an other -- mandating that pet shops sterilize dogs and cats before releasing them to consumers -- was preempted by New York law, the district court's dismissal on preemption grounds is affirmed where he challenged laws do not discriminate against or unduly burden interstate commerce, and do not conflict with either federal or New York law.

[02/16] Roy Allan Slurry Seal, Inc. v. American Asphalt South, Inc.
In a government contracts dispute alleging the tort of intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, the Court of Appeals judgment overturning the trial court's judgment sustaining defendants demurrer, is reversed where plaintiffs' allegations -- that they had submitted the second lowest bids on several contracts awarded to defendant, and that their bids would have been accepted but for defendant's wrongful conduct during the bidding process -- are insufficient because: 1) public works contracts are a unique species of commercial dealings; 2) in the contracts at issue here, the public entities retained broad discretion to reject all bids; 3) the bids were sealed, and there were no postsubmission negotiations; 4) in awarding the contracts, the public entities could give no preference to any bidder based on past dealings, and were required to accept the lowest responsible bid; and 5) in these highly regulated circumstances, plaintiffs had 'at most a hope for an economic relationship and a desire for future benefit.' Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal.3d 311, 331.

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Workers' Comp

[04/26] City of Jackson v. WCAB
In a workers' compensation case, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board's decision disregarding the apportionment determination of the qualified medical evaluator (QME) on the ground the determination was not substantial medical evidence and directing the workers' compensation administrative law judge (ALJ) to make an award of unapportioned disability, is annulled where: 1) apportionment may be properly based on genetics/hereditability; 2) the QME properly apportioned disability; and 3) the QME's opinion Is based on substantial medical evidence.

[03/29] Marin Community Services v. WCAB
In a writ proceeding seeking to set aside the decision of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) holding that firefighter-petitioner was entitled to the benefit of the rebuttable presumption under Labor Code section 3212.1 that his cancer arose out of his employment, the WCAB's decision is affirmed where: 1) the WCAB's determination that petitioner was an employee of Marinwood was based on a reasonable interpretation of the relevant statutes; and 2) the WCAB's determination that the extension of the cancer presumption ran from the date petitioner last worked as a firefighter for any agency was based on a reasonable interpretation of the relevant statute.

[03/29] Ramirez v. WCAB
In a workers' compensation writ proceeding, seeking review of worker-petitioner's independent medical review on the ground the underlying utilization review was based on an incorrect standard, the order of the administrative law judge (ALJ) taking the matter off calendar is reversed and remanded for further proceedings where: 1) this is not a proper ground for appeal of a utilization review determination because it goes to the heart of the determination of medical necessity; 2) the independent medical reviewer is in the best position to determine whether the proper standard was used to evaluate the medical necessity of the requested treatment, and the statutory scheme requires the independent medical reviewer to use the proper standard in determining medical necessity; and 3) the Legislature's plenary power over the workers' compensation system precludes any separation of powers violation, and the process afforded workers under the system affords sufficient opportunity to present evidence and be heard.

[03/24] Co. of Riverside v. WCAB
In a workers' compensation case involving a sheriff, the findings by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board are affirmed over a County's challenge where: 1) plaintiff's the application for adjudication of claim was timely filed; and 2) Labor Code section 5500.5(a), did not bar liability on the County?s part.

[03/23] People v. Riddles
Conviction of workers' compensation insurance fraud in violation of Insurance Code section 11760(a) and restitution order are affirmed where: 1) a workers' compensation insurer may recover, as restitution under Penal Code section 1202.4, the premiums it would have earned in the absence of misrepresentations by an insurance applicant; and 2) the court did not err in imposing a fine.

[01/20] Metro Machine Corporation v. DOWCP
In a petition for review of an order of the Benefits Review Board affirming decisions of an ALJ granting a claim for medical benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. section 907, the petition is denied where: 1) the only error the ALJ committed was in failing to apply the 'naturally or unavoidably results' standard to the fracture claim; and 2) remand for application of that standard would be a futile exercise, given that there was no issue presented regarding avoidability.

[11/22] Gage v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board
In a workers' compensation action brought by petitioner, a deputy sheriff who sustained a job-related injury, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board's decision denying penalties for the unreasonable delay of advance disability pension payments is annulled and remanded where: 1) such payments qualify as compensation under Labor Code section 3207; 2) such penalties available under Labor Code section 5814 are available for unreasonable delay or denial of the payment of compensation; and 3) no other provision of the Labor Code excludes such payments from the penalty provisions of section 5814.

[11/15] Lee v. West Kern Water Dist.
In a case involving the applicability of the workers' compensation exclusivity rule, which governs the matter of when an injured worker can bring a civil action against the employer and when he or she is instead limited to the remedy of a workers' compensation award, brought by a former employee against a water district and four coemployees, alleging assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the coemployees staged a mock robbery with plaintiff as the victim, the trial court's judgment is: 1) reversed as to the grant of defendants' motion for a new trial where the jury instructions were not erroneous, and alternative grounds for affirmance proposed by defendants lack merit; and 2) affirmed as to the order denying the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

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