Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Northern California Daily Digest

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

Ravenwood School District v. J.S. is a request for a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).  The District found J.S. eligible for special education based on some unspecified learning disability on September 11, 2008.  On February 28, 2010, J.S. felt the district had not given him a FAPE since his enrollment and requested a due process hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).  At the Due Process hearing, the ALJ agreed with J.S. and ordered the school district to pay tuition, fees and transportation costs for J.S. to attend Stellar Academy for the next three years, including summer programs and 600 hours of compensatory education.  The District refused to comply with the order and filed the present action for a preliminary injunction to keep J.S. in public school while the matter is under appeal because it would cost a lot of money otherwise.  Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong explained that IDEA does burden school districts to put up the cost of current educational placement found at a due process hearing by statute.  Further, the harm stated by the District is much less, "the District's unsupported assertion that this case will 'drag' on for three years is entirely speculative.  In this Court's experience, cases of this nature are resolved in far shorter time periods."  She denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, and the District voluntarily dismissed the case.

Gray v. Comcast's Long Term Disability Insurance Plan is a claim for denied benefits under ERISA.  The parties agree that Mr. Gray was entitled to long term benefits under the plan, the issue is how much he should have received.  The amount is based on the "Annual Benefits Base Rate" or ABBR which is the sum of the current year's salary and the prior years commissions. Comcast reported Mr. Grey's ABBR to be $93,380.80 when he applied for short term disability.  However, when he later applied for long term disability it claimed his ABBR was $32,399.90.  Liberty Mutual, the insurer unsurprisingly flagged the discrepancy of nearly $60,000 and asked Comcast's human resource personnel for clarification. The HR person said it was really, $93,380.80 then changed her mind and said it was $32,390.90. She changed her mind once more making it $32,399.90 and commented, "I hope I get it right this time."  She didn't.  Upon request by Mr. Gray's counsel the Comcast legal department calculated the amount to be $38,761.70 (salary of $32,399.80 plus commissions of $6,361.90).  Liberty went with that number.  Magistrate Maria Elena James found that the policy supported Liberty's interpretation:
Upon careful review of the Policy and SPD, the Court finds the phrase “prior year’s commissions” to be unambiguous. Plaintiff’s argument, as the Court understands it, is not really that the language is ambiguous; rather, it is that in light of the “experiment” wherein the CentralCalifornia Region applied a different formula in calculating an employee’s ABBR, Liberty’s interpretation of the phrase is unfair. However unfair as it might seem to Plaintiff, Comcast had the opportunity to adopt the proposal but did not approve it.
She granted summary judgment for the plan.

Candee v. AT&T Wireless Mobility LLC is an employment discrimination case.  Ms. Candee was a government sales representative who felt overworked, and, under stress of her job, developed a panoply of physical and mental conditions.  After taking off a year for short term disability she wanted to return and work for a different supervisor.  AT&T told her there was one supervisor in the area - her previous one, but if she wanted to, she could move to another market altogether.  She declined and was terminated shortly thereafter.

Ms. Candee asserts a number of claims including disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  Judge Marilyn Hall Patel didn't see it:
The court reiterates that although plaintiff has been diagnosed with various mental disabilities that are cognizable under the FEHA, plaintiff is not a person with a disability under the FEHA unless by virtue of her disability she is limited in a major life activity. To the extent that plaintiff relies on her inability to work under the supervision of Ms. Carlson as the limitation on the major life activity of working, her claim is insufficient, even in light of the FEHA’s broader definitions.
Judge Patel granted the company's motion for summary judgment.

Stewart v. Morris is similar to Fleming v. Clark that this blog covered earlier.  It is a "the police took my marijuana and guns even though I have a license to grow $1,000,000 of pot for personal use" variety of 1983 action which is unique to California.  Oddly, the First Amended Complaint only challenges a few allegations such as a failure to exhaust state remedies on a false arrest claim and to dismiss a defendant who did not, in fact, search the place.  Magistrate Nandor J. Vardas dismissed the claims with prejudice and is ready for this case to enter an inevitably entertaining discovery.

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