Friday, October 15, 2010

Northern California Daily Digest

Here are some of the other recently decided cases in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In California v. Pinnacle Security, the District Attorney of Contra Costa County is suing Pinnacle for violating the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and false advertising.  Pinnacle successfully removed the case to federal court stating that the violation of law upon which the UCL charge rested with the Truth in Lending Act, which is federal, giving the federal courts jurisdiction over the case.  Magistrate Bernard Zimmerman disagreed and stated that the claims were, in themselves, state law claims and that the case would be properly remanded to the superior court.

Henderson v. Peterson is a prison civil rights case under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.  Mr. Henderson claims that Mr. Petersen, a guard, attacked him with an expandable baton while other guards looked on. Mr. Petersen, denies the charge and claims that Henderson attacked him.  Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong stated this is a genuine issue of material fact for trial and sent the case to a prisoner settlement panel.

Jackson v. Lombardi is also a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 case, but it involves police officers who are requesting qualified immunity to obtain judgment as a matter of law despite a jury finding them liable for civil rights violations.  In March 2008, four police officers used a taser on Mr. Jackson multiple times.  He told them to stop and Mr. Lombardi tased him again.  He prevailed on two claims at trial 1) a Fourth Amendment claim against all of the officers for excessive force and 2) a First Amendment claim against Lombardi for chilling his free speech rights.  The officers stated that they should be granted qualified immunity because using a taser for excessive force purposes was not a known constitutional principal until just recently in Bryan v. MacPherson. Judge William Alsup agreed, but was not willing to extend that theory to the First Amendment claim since attacking someone for speaking has been a known right for a while.  He vacated the judgment against all the defendants except Lombardi who is now solely responsible for the $250k judgment.

Xavier v. Phillip Morris is a putative class action where two smokers accuse the cigarette maker of harming them with its products.  Oddly, they are not seeking compensatory damages but rather damages under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and medical monitoring.  Phillip Morris moved to dismiss stating that without alleging damages there is no UCL claim and without damages there is no standing to pursue the claim.  Similarly, medical monitoring is a remedy after prevailing in an traditional tort where certain factors are met.  It is not a separate tort as Judge William Alsup explains,
Plaintiffs request that they be allowed to plead the medical monitoring tort again as part of the class certification motion practice.Plaintiffs maintain that a purely equitable action will help them overcome affirmative defenses, time bars, and the maze of Rule 23.That may be true. But given that Potter did not create a new tort, it a fortiori did not create a new plaintiff-friendly super tort.
He dismissed the claims without leave to amend.

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