Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Defendant title insurer appealed a judgment of the Superior Court of Santa Clara County (California), which entered a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff landowners in their actions for slander of title, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and insurance bad faith, arising from prior lawsuits settling rights of residents to an easement in the road.

Overview

Defendant title insurer appealed a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff landowners in actions arising out of a prior lawsuit settling rights of residents to an easement in the road for slander of title, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and insurance bad faith. The court held that the trial court committed prejudicial error in refusing to instruct the jury that knowledge acquired by plaintiffs’ attorney that defendant had authored wild deeds was imputed to plaintiffs, and that defendant was entitled to a new trial on the issue of the statute of limitations defense to the slander of title and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action. The court held that defendant waived the statute of limitations defense to plaintiffs’ claims on their title insurance policies, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and insurance bad faith, and that substantial evidence supported jury’s findings on those claims. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Outcome

The court reversed the judgment as to plaintiff landowners’ slander of title and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action against defendant title insurer, holding that defendant was entitled to a new trial on the statute of limitations defense because the trial court committed prejudicial instructional error. The court affirmed the judgment on plaintiffs’ causes of action based on their title insurance policies.

Procedural Posture

Appellants challenged a summary judgment for the appellees, appellants’ former employees, by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), who appellants alleged had misappropriated its’ trade secrets. The trial court found no basis for imposing personal liability against appellees. Therefore, it had granted a summary judgment in their favor. The appellants and respondents through their small business lawyer in California submitted their briefs.

Overview

Appellants alleged that appellees misappropriated corporate assets and trade secrets of appellants, their former employer, and used the misappropriated knowledge in a new competing business. Summary judgment for appellees was reversed on appeal. Appellants had raised a triable issue of material fact as to the individual appellees’ active meaningful participation in, consent to, or approval of, the tortious conduct. The court held that a corporate officer or director could be liable for an intentional tort if: (1) the officer or director purchased or invested in the corporation the principal assets of which were the result of unlawful conduct; (2) the officer or director took control of the corporation and appointed personnel to run the corporation which was engaging in unlawful conduct; and (3) the officer or director did so with knowledge or, with respect to trade secret misappropriation, when he or she had reason to know of the unlawful conduct.

Outcome

Summary judgment for appellees reversed, the court held a corporate officer or director could be liable for an intentional tort under specific enumerated facts. Appellants had raised a triable issue of material fact as to the individual appellees’ active meaningful participation in, consent to, or approval of, the tortious conduct.