APPEAL COURT AFFIRMS JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF CITY IN EMPLOYMENT CASE
APPEAL COURT AFFIRMS JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF CITY IN EMPLOYMENT CASE
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APPEAL COURT AFFIRMS JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF CITY IN EMPLOYMENT CASE

| May 13, 2020 | Firm News

Plaintiff-appellant James Willis, a peace officer employed by the Carlsbad Police Department (Department), sued defendant-respondent City of Carlsbad (City) alleging in part that it engaged in whistleblower retaliation against him in violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 (b) by denying him promotions after he reported what he perceived was misconduct by another officer and complained about a Department program he believed was an unlawful quota system.

Before trial, City successfully moved to strike allegations of other retaliatory acts within Willis’s cause of action on grounds he had not timely presented a government tort claim within six months of the acts as required by the Government Claims Act. The trial court in limine excluded evidence of any violations by City of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act while at the same time permitting City to present evidence Department had denied Willis promotion because of a June 2012 e-mail he wrote under an assumed name lodging the officer misconduct accusations.

The jury returned a verdict finding in favor of Willis that his reporting of City’s violation of law was a contributing factor in City’s decision to deny him the promotion. However, it also found City would have denied Willis his promotion anyway for legitimate independent reasons. Accordingly, the court entered judgment in City’s favor on the whistleblower retaliation claim. On appeal, Willis argued the trial court erred as a matter of law by striking those portions of his section 1102.5 cause of action because the Government Claims Act’s six-month statute of limitations was either equitably tolled or his cause of action had not accrued by reason of the continuing tort/continuing violation doctrine. Furthermore, he argued the court’s evidentiary rulings were a prejudicial abuse of discretion.

‘The policy underlying the claims presentation requirements is to afford prompt notice to public entities. This permits early investigation and evaluation of the claim and informed fiscal planning in light of prospective liabilities.’ ” (California Restaurant Management Systems v. City of San Diego (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 1581, 1591; see also DiCampli-Mintz v. County of Santa Clara (2012) 55 Cal.4th 983, 989-990; J.J. v. County of San Diego (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 1214, 1219.) “Claims for personal injury must be presented not later than six months after the accrual of the cause of action, and claims relating to any other cause of action must be filed within one year of the accrual of the cause of action.” (California Restaurant, at p.  15 1591.) Accrual for purposes of the Act is the date of accrual that would pertain under the statute of limitations applicable to a dispute between private litigants. (Rubenstein v. Doe No. 1 (2017) 3 Cal.5th 903, 906; Shirk v. Vista Unified School District (2007) 42 Cal.4th 201, 209-209, superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Rubenstein, at p. 914.)

The California Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not err, and accordingly affirmed the judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

On  Equitable Tolling, Continuing Tort/Continuing Violation Doctrine, and POBR,

See  Willis v. City of Carlsbad.

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