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Case Summaries

Injury & Tort Law

[02/27] Sleepy's v. Select Comfort Wholesale Corporation
In this action arising out of a contractual agreement between plaintiff and defendant pursuant to which plaintiff sold beds manufactured by defendant, after the parties ended their business relationship, plaintiff brought suit for numerous claims including breach of contract, breach of the contract's implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unfair competition, and slander per se. Judgment in favor of defendant is: 1) vacated as to the judgment of dismissal of plaintiff's disparagement, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unfair competition claims, where dismissal was based on an erroneous interpretation of the contract; 2) vacated as to the judgment dismissing the slander per se claims; and 3) affirmed as to the dismissal of the remaining contract claims.

[02/26] Ministerio Roca Solida v. US
In this case in which defendant United States diverted a stream away from plaintiff's property, depriving it of water, plaintiff instituted two lawsuits against the United States, first in federal district court seeking declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief on the basis of alleged violations under the First and Fifth Amendments and damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and second in the Court of Federal Claims, seeking declaratory relief and compensatory damages on the basis that the diversion project constituted an unlawful taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Judgment of the Claims Court dismissing the matter for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is affirmed, where: 1) the Claims Court does not have jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim because a similar claim remains pending in district court; 2) the district court claim is based on "substantially the same operative facts" as those in the Claims Court proceeding; and 3) it is irrelevant that the relief sought in each forum is non-overlapping or would work a hardship in the form of incomplete relief.

[02/26] Sanowicz v. Bacal
In this case, plaintiff alleges that he and defendant, both licensed real estate agents, agreed to share commissions earned by either of them on certain sales of real property, but that defendant breached that agreement. Judgment of the trial court sustaining without leave to amend defendant’s general demurrer to plaintiff’s first amended complaint is reversed, where: 1) the Legislature did not forbid commission sharing arrangements between two agents pursuant to Business & Professions Code section 10137; 2) two licensed real estate agents may agree to share commissions earned under the circumstances of this case; and 3) leave should be granted to amend on remand if plaintiff can do so in a manner consistent with the applicable legal principles.

[02/26] State of California ex rel. Department of the California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court of Orange County (Alvarado)
Under the Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) Act, motorists receive free emergency roadside assistance as a public service on California's highways. In this case, FSP tow truck driver Guzman hit a car on the interstate, injuring real party in interest Alvarado and her child. Alvarado sued Guzman, California Coach Orange (Guzman's employer, who was contracted with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA)), the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the California Department of Transportation (Caldrons), and the OCTA. CHP moved for summary judgment, and for the purposes of the motion, the parties stipulated that the sole theory of recovery against CHP was that it was Guzman's "special employer." The Court of Appeal directed entry of summary judgment. The judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed, where: 1) despite the fact that the FSP statutes, as written, are incompatible with a special employment relationship between CHP and tow truck drivers, this conclusion does not foreclose the possibility that CHP might act as a special employer in particular circumstances; and 2) the statutes authorize CHP to perform certain functions, but do not bar it from taking on other responsibilities.

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Workers' Comp

[01/29] Ogden Entertainment Services v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board
In this case, respondent Ritzhoff sustained numerous orthopedic injuries and injuries to his psyche while working as a banquet server for defendant-petitioner. The decision of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) denying the petition for reconsideration and adopting the decision of the workers' compensation judge finding Ritzhoff totally permanently disabled is annulled and the case is remanded with directions for new proceedings, where the due process right of defendant to cross-examination of Ritzhoff was violated.

[01/06] Schultz v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board
Decision of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board denying benefits to plaintiff-employee is annulled, where: 1) under the "going and coming rule," workers' compensation benefits are generally not available for injuries suffered by an employee during a local commute to a fixed place of business at fixed hours, because the injury does not occur during the ordinary course of employment; 2) under the premises line rule, the ordinary course of employment is deemed to commence when an employee enters the employer's premises; and 3) the premises line rule applies to an employee injured in a single-car traffic accident if the employee was a civilian working on a secure Air Force base not generally open to the public, the employee entered the base in his personal vehicle after passing a guard gate using a security pass, the employee had travelled one mile inside the base when the accident occurred, and the employer had multiple locations on the Air Force base between which the employee travelled sometimes in his own vehicle to perform work.

[12/17] Cal. Ins. Guarantee Assn. v. WCAB
In this medical billing dispute, the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) adopting the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s (WCJ) findings of fact and determinations of the reasonable fee for various arthroscopic knee, shoulder, and epidural injection procedures is affirmed, where: 1) despite the fact that the Legislature created a new administrative independent review process for the resolution of billing disputes in the context of workers’ compensation, and although the text of the relevant medical fee legislation and resulting statutes is ambiguous, the most reasonable interpretation of the legislation is that it does not divest the Board of jurisdiction to decide the dispute at issue in this case; and 2) the WCJ’s findings are supported by substantial evidence.

[11/20] In the Matter of Maureen Kigin v. State of New York Workers' Compensation Board
In this case, claimant was injured on the job and entitled to worker's compensation, but upon receipt of acupuncture treatment, a Workers' Compensation Law Judge determined that claimant's medical provider failed to show that the additional acupuncture treatments were medically necessary. The Workers' Compensation Board affirmed the Judge's determination, arguing that the treatments were not medically necessary within the "Medical Treatment Guidelines." Order of the Appellate Division affirming the Board's decision is affirmed, where: 1) the establishment of the variance procedure was within the Board's broad regulatory powers; 2) it was reasonable for the Board to promulgate uniform guidelines for defining the nature and scope of treatment considered medically necessary; 3) nothing in the Workers' Compensation law precludes the Board from requiring proof of medical necessity from claimant's health care provider; 4) the carrier bears the burden of proffering "substantial evidence"; and 5) the Guidelines provide claimants with a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the denial of any variance request.

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