November 2021 California Employment Law Notes: Litigation Updates
In-House Counsel’s Claim For Breach Of Oral Promise Of Contingency Fee Was Barred By Statute
Missakian v. Amusement Indus., Inc., 69 Cal. App. 5th 630 (2021)
Former in-house counsel Craig Missakian sued his former employer, Amusement Industry, Inc., based on an alleged oral promise to pay him a bonus and a share of recovery from real estate litigation that was pending in New York, which ultimately settled for $26 million. At trial, the jury found that Amusement had breached the oral contract with Missakian and awarded him $2.25 million and, for a failure to pay the monthly bonus, an additional $275,000. The jury also entered a special verdict in favor of Allen Alevy (founder of the company) but against Amusement on a fraud claim, awarded Missakian $750,000 in compensatory damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages against Amusement. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the oral contract claim based upon Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6147, which requires the specifics of a contingency fee agreement to be in writing signed by both parties. As for the promissory fraud claim, the Court held that the jury entered two inconsistent verdicts (one in favor or Alevy and the other against Amusement) and ordered a new trial on that claim.
Order Denying Attorney’s Fees Under UTSA Is Not Separately Appealable
Dr. V. Prods., Inc. v. Rey, 68 Cal. App. 5th 793 (2021)
Dr. V. Productions sued its former employee, Samantha Rey, for misappropriation of trade secrets under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, breach of fiduciary duty and related claims. After “significant discovery,” Dr. V. voluntarily dismissed its misappropriation of trade secrets claim. Rey then filed a motion for an award of attorney’s fees under the UTSA, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeal granted Dr. V.’s motion to dismiss Rey’s appeal on the ground that the denial of attorney’s fees is not separately appealable.
Secretary Of Labor Could Be Compelled To Disclose Identities Of Informants
Skidgel v. CUIAB, 2021 WL 3671434 (Cal. S. Ct. 2021)
The United States Secretary of Labor filed an action against Valley Wide Plastering Construction and various individuals, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. During discovery, the employer sought the identities of all informant employees who had provided information to the Secretary. In response, the Secretary filed a motion for a protective order, invoking the government’s informant privilege and requesting the district court prohibit the employer from soliciting information tending to reveal any informant identities. Although the district court granted the motion, it also ordered the Secretary to reveal the identities of informants who would be testifying at trial by a date certain. The Secretary filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the district court’s order. The Ninth Circuit denied the petition, holding that the district court’s order was not “clearly erroneous as a matter of law.”