Procedural Posture

Plaintiff employees sued defendant employer and an associated entity for breach of contract and for age discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq., asserting breach of a promise to permit senior insurance sales agents to continue in their employ under relaxed sales quotas. The Santa Clara County Superior Court, California, entered summary judgment for defendants, and plaintiffs appealed.

Overview

The court of appeal held that the breach of contract claim was not barred by the statute of limitations in Code Civ. Proc., § 337, subd. (1), because the employer did not breach the promise regarding its quota policy merely by announcing that it would no longer honor the policy. The cause of action did not accrue until, at the earliest, the employer first counseled an employee for failing to meet minimum production requirements that were contrary to the relaxed quotas. Further, the record raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the employer honored the policy for an agreed time, or if no agreement as to time could be inferred, for a reasonable time. Nothing before the court supported a conclusion that a “reasonable time” passed before the employer sought to nullify the policy. The employer received the benefit of the employees’ loyalty and sought to renounce the policy shortly after they qualified for the promised benefit and before they actually sought to take advantage of it. For purposes of the FEHA disparate treatment claim, the record also presented triable issues of fact concerning the genuineness of defendants’ claimed reasons for eliminating the policy. The parties consulted with several counsel which included labor law attorney and business counsel.

Outcome

The court reversed the judgment with directions to set aside the order granting summary judgment and to enter a new order granting defendants’ motion for summary adjudication as to disparate impact and retaliation claims and otherwise denying defendants’ motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication.

Procedural Posture

Appellant family brought a products liability action against respondent chemical companies, claiming injuries due to exposure to certain pesticides. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, granted the companies’ motion for summary judgment. The family appealed.

Overview

Appellant child suffered a disabling intrauterine stroke, pancreatitis, and hepatitis as a result of pesticides sprayed in and scattered around her home when she was in utero. On review, the appellate court concluded that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the claims for strict liability and breach of implied warranties of fitness and merchantability. The chemical companies’ contended that the family’s state law claims challenging the labeling of the products were preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C.S. § 136v. The appellate court struck a cause of action based on failure-to-warn as it was preempted by FIFRA. However, the family’s claims that the products were defectively designed were in fact not labeling claims, and thus did not interfere with the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate labeling of the pesticide products. Therefore, the state common law strict liability claim was not preempted by FIFRA. Lack of privity did not bar the family’s claim for breach of the implied warranties, nor were those claims preempted by FIFRA.

Outcome

The judgment was affirmed as to the claim based on failure to warn. The judgment was reversed and remanded as to the family’s cause of actions as to strict liability and breach of implied warranties of fitness and merchantability.