The following is our summary of the Supreme Court’s actions on petitions for review in civil cases from the Court’s conference on Wednesday, November 12, 2014. The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted, (2) review has been denied but one or more justices has voted for review, or (3) the Court has ordered depublished an opinion of the Court of Appeal.
Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc., S220812—Review Granted—November 12, 2014
This case presents the following issue: Does the trial court or the arbitrator decide whether an arbitration agreement provides for class arbitration if the agreement itself is silent on the issue?
An African-American car salesman brought individual and class claims against his employer-dealership (among others) for discrimination, a hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. Relying on three arbitration agreements signed by the salesman on his first day of work, defendants filed a motion to compel individual arbitration and to stay or dismiss the proceedings with the trial court retaining jurisdiction to enforce any arbitration award. The trial court granted the motion, dismissing the class allegations because there was no contractual basis to compel class arbitration. It ruled, “Since the plaintiff himself is now going to be subject to individual arbitration, there would no longer be any representative in the lawsuit that would be able to adequately represent a class action to pursue the claims that are asserted by plaintiff.”
In a published opinion, Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 65, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Seven, reversed. Limiting its review to the order dismissing the class claims, the court ruled that the trial court erred by deciding whether the parties agreed to class arbitration, and that it should have submitted the issue to the arbitrator.
Shaw v. Superior Court (THC-Orange County, Inc.), S221530—Review Granted—November 12, 2014
This case presents the following issues: (1) Did the Court of Appeal err by reviewing plaintiff’s right to a jury by writ of mandate rather than appeal? (See Nesbitt v. Superior Court (1931) 214 Cal. 1.) (2) Is there a right to jury trial on a retaliation cause of action under Health and Safety Code section 1278.5?
An employee of a health facility filed suit, alleging that the facility employed unlicensed, uncertified, and insufficiently trained health care professionals, and retaliated against her by terminating her employment. She asserted two causes of action, one for wrongful termination in violation of public policy and one for violation of Health and Safety Code section 1278.5, which protects health care whistleblowers from their employers. Concluding that the statutory cause of action was purely equitable, the trial court denied the employee’s request for a jury trial and then stayed the matter for her to file a petition for writ of mandate.
In a published opinion, Shaw v. Superior Court (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 12, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Three, granted the petition and reversed. Despite the Supreme Court’s holding in Nesbitt (“mandate is not the proper remedy to test the right to a jury trial”), the court concluded that writ relief was appropriate because the case presented “a novel question of statutory interpretation, which is a matter of interest to all plaintiffs who may bring suit under Health and Safety Code section 1278.5.” In addition, because the statute provided for “any remedy deemed warranted by the court pursuant to this chapter or any other applicable provision of statutory or common law” (emphasis added), the court concluded that the Legislature allowed for both equitable and legal remedies, including a jury trial.
Mendoza v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, S220675—Review Granted & Held—November 12, 2014
The court ordered briefing deferred pending decision in Yvanova v. New Century Mortgage Corp., S218973 (#14-100), which presents the following issue: In an action for wrongful foreclosure on a deed of trust securing a home loan, does the borrower have standing to challenge an assignment of the note and deed of trust on the basis of defects allegedly rendering the assignment void?
After purchasing a home with proceeds of a loan secured by a deed of trust, a homeowner lost the home in a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. The homeowner filed suit, asserting causes of action for wrongful foreclosure, declaratory relief, and quiet title. She alleged that the trustee’s sale was void due to defects in the assignment of her deed of trust, irregularities in the substitution of trustees, and flaws in the securitization of her loan. The trial court sustained the banks’ demurrer to her complaint without leave to amend.
In a published opinion, Mendoza v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1020, the Court of Appeal, Third District, affirmed. Among other things, the court held that, in the absence of prejudice, the homeowner lacked standing to challenge irregularities in the securitization process.
Galen v. Redfin Corporation, S220936—Review Granted & Held—November 12, 2014
The court ordered briefing deferred pending decision in Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Co. LLC, S199119 (#12-33), which includes the following issue: Does the Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. § 2), as interpreted in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011) 563 U.S. 321, preempt state law rules invalidating mandatory arbitration provisions in a consumer contract as procedurally and substantively unconscionable?
Defendant, a Washington corporation, provided residential real estate brokerage services for home buyers and sellers. Pursuant to written agreement, it employed plaintiff, an individual residing in California, as a Contract Field Agent (CFA), who would perform his duties as an “independent contractor.” Plaintiff filed a class action, alleging that defendant improperly classified him and other CFAs as independent contractors, when they served as employees under California law. He alleged violations of the Labor Code and Unfair Competition Laws for unpaid overtime, missed meal and rest periods, inaccurate and untimely wage statements, waiting time periods, and unreimbursed business expenses. Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration, pointing to the agreement’s arbitration and Washington choice-of-law clauses. Ruling that the arbitration clause was governed by the FAA, and applying California law, the trial court denied the motion because plaintiff alleged statutory violations, which did not fall within the contract, and, alternatively, even if the claims fell within the contract, the arbitration clause was unconscionable and invalid.
In a published opinion, Galen v. Redfin Corporation (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 1525, the Court of Appeal, First District, Division One, reversed, holding that the arbitration agreement encompassed plaintiff’s claims, and that the arbitration clause was not unconscionable.
Review Denied (with dissenting justices)
Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Court (Los Angeles Times Communications), S220908—Review Denied [Baxter, J., voting for review]—November 12, 2014
This case presents the following issue: Does the California Public Records Act (CPRA) require the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to disclose the standardized scores used to evaluate its teachers, identifying each teacher by name?
By petition for writ of mandate, the L.A. Times attempted under the CPRA to obtain the confidential, employee evaluation-related Academic Growth over Time scores of individual teachers who work for LAUSD. The trial court held that the CPRA required LAUSD to disclose these unredacted scores and the location codes to identify the school to which each teacher is assigned. LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles each filed writ petitions in the Court of Appeal, arguing that the unredacted scores are exempt from disclosure.
In a published opinion, Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Court (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 222, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Eight, held that the individual teachers’ scores are exempt from disclosure under the CPRA’s “catch-all” exemption (Gov. Code, § 6255) because “the public interest served by not disclosing the teachers’ names clearly outweighs the public interest served by their disclosure.” It remanded to the trial court for further proceedings regarding disclosure of the location codes.