November 18, 2011

Summary of November 16, 2011 conference report for civil cases

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 16, 2011. The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted (not including grant-and-transfers), (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. This week, in addition to the Court’s actions on civil petitions for review, we note that the Court has acted on cases in which review had been granted and held pending the Court’s decisions in Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc. (2011) 52 Cal.4th 541 and Seabright Ins. Co. v. U.S. Airways (2011) 52 Cal.4th 590, which both came down in August. The Court has transferred some of those cases back to the Courts of Appeal for further proceedings and has dismissed review in others.

Review Granted

Woodard v. Crane Co., S196969—Review Granted & Held—November 16, 2011

The court granted review and ordered further action deferred pending consideration and disposition of a related issue in O’Neil v. Crane Co., S177401. O’Neil, which was argued on November 9, presents the following issue: 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. (Full disclosure: Horvitz & Levy LLP is counsel for the defendant in O’Neil.)

Salas v. Sierra Chemical, S196568—Review Granted—November 16, 2011

This is an action by a former employee against his empoyer alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and denial of employment in violation of public policy after the employer failed to allow the employee to return to work after the employee suffered a back injury. The questions presented are: (1) whether an employer has a complete defense to an employee’s claims in light of the employee’s use of a counterfeit Social Security card with another person’s Social Security number to secure employment; and (2) whether the doctrine of unclean hands bars an employee’s causes of action because the misrepresentation of his eligibility to work in the United States and his fraudulent use of another person’s Social Security number amounts to inequitable conduct that directly relates to his causes of action.

The Court of Appeal, Third District, held in a published decision, Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co. (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 29, that (1) the employee’s use of another person’s Social Security number, and the employer’s policy of refusing to hire any applicant who submits false eligibility documentation, provided a complete defense to the employee’s disability discrimination and denial of employment claims, and (2) the unclean hands doctrine also barred the employee’s claims.

Review Denied (with dissenting justices)




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