July 7, 2011

California Supreme Court cases we’re watching

In the course of preparing our weekly summaries of the Supreme Court’s conference reports and other blog posts, there are certain pending cases that come up again and again. Most often, they come to our attention because the Court repeatedly has issued grant-and-holds in other cases pending its resolution of the lead case. At other times, a particular case has simply garnered substantial attention in the media or the legal blogosphere. So, without applying any particular objective criteria, these are the pending cases we’re watching at present:

  • Perry v. Brown, S189476: This proceeding arises from the federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in California. Pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 8.548, the Ninth Circuit has certified the following question to the California Supreme Court: “Whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative’s validity or the authority to assert the State’s interest in the initiative’s validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so.”
  • Brinker Restaurant Corp v. Superior Court (Hohnbaum), S166350: This fully briefed employment case presents the question whether an employer must simply “provide” meal breaks to its hourly employees or must “ensure” that those employees take their breaks. The Court has granted and held in five other cases pending its decision in Brinker.
  • Quarry v. Doe, S171382: The question presented in this fully briefed clergy sex abuse case is whether a plaintiff is entitled to rely on the delayed discovery provisions of the statute of limitations (Code Civ. Proc., section 340.1) when asserting otherwise time-barred claims of childhood sexual abuse against specified non-perpetrators who knew of the abuse and had the ability to prevent it but failed to do so. The Court has granted and held in eight other cases pending its decision in Quarry.
  • Howell v. Hamilton Meats, S179115: This case, which was argued and submitted on May 24, presents the question whether a plaintiff in a personal injury action can recover all damages billed by a medical provider or only the lesser amount actually paid. The Court has granted and held in four other cases pending its decision in Howell. Full disclosure: Horvitz & Levy LLP filed an amicus curiae brief in Howell.
  • Ralphs Grocery Company v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union, S185544: The question presented in this fully briefed case is whether two statutes designed to protect labor picketing activity, Code of Civil Procedure section 527.3 and Labor Code section 1138.1, violate constitutional free speech protections. The Court has granted and held in another case pending its decision in Ralphs.
  • O’Neil v. Crane Co., S177401: This fully briefed products liability case presents the question whether the defendants, who manufactured valves and pumps that the Navy installed on its ships in the 1940’s, can be strictly liable for injuries that allegedly occurred when a Navy seaman was exposed in the 1960’s to asbestos fibers released from insulation and sealants that the Navy used in conjunction with the defendants’ valves and pumps. The Court of Appeal in O’Neil ruled that defendants could be liable because they could have foreseen that the Navy would use asbestos-containing products in conjunction with the defendants’ products, but the defendants argue (and four California appellate courts have agreed) that they cannot be liable because they did not place the injury-causing asbestos products into the steam of commerce, and merely supplied components that the Navy assembled into a finished product. The Court has granted review in three other cases and deferred briefing in those cases pending its decision in O’Neil. Full disclosure: Horvitz & Levy LLP is counsel for the defendant in O’Neil.

UPDATE: The ever astute Kim Kralowec at The UCL Practitioner, who is co-counsel for the plaintiffs in Brinker, has pointed out that in fact there are six Brinker “grant and hold” cases, not five. The sixth case, which for unknown reasons is not listed as a cross-referenced case on the Court’s online docket for Brinker, is Bradley v. Networkers Int’l, no. S171257 —Review Granted and Held—May 13, 2009.

Leave a Reply