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Posts Tagged ‘9th Circuit’

Is An Employee’s Intentional Act An Employer’s “Accident”?

Posted on: July 10th, 2018

By: Rebecca Smith and Zach Moura

It may just be, according to the California Supreme Court’s recent decision in Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co., Inc. (June 4, 2018, No. S236765).  In Liberty v. Ledesma, the underlying lawsuit was brought by a minor who sought damages for molestation committed by an employee of a general contractor (“L&M”) while the employee was working on a long-term construction project at the minor’s school.  In response to this underlying suit and the tendering of the action by L&M to its carrier, Liberty Surplus Insurance Corporation and Liberty Insurance Underwriters (“Liberty”), Liberty filed a declaratory relief action seeking to adjudicate that they had no duty to provide coverage under a general liability policy.

The certified question presented to the Supreme Court by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was when a third party sues an employer for negligent hiring, retention and supervision of an employee who intentionally injured that third party, does the suit allege an “occurrence” under the employer’s general liability policy?  The Supreme Court responded that the answer turns on whether the injury can be considered “accidental” and concluded “it can.”

In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the act of L&M in hiring the employee who later turned out to be the molester was intentional and that the employee’s molestation of the student was also intentional; however, held that because L&M did not “expect” its employee to molest a student, an accident transpired as required by the definition of “occurrence” in the Liberty policy.  The Court emphasized that the issue of whether an act constituted an accident for purpose of coverage MUST be viewed from the standpoint of the insured.  Explaining their decision, the Court stated that because the molester’s acts were unanticipated from L&M’s perspective, they were accidents in the context of providing insurance.  The allegedly negligent hiring, retention and supervision were independently tortious acts according to the Supreme Court, which form the basis of their claim against Liberty for defense and indemnification.  Further, the Court stated that the molester’s intentional conduct did not preclude potential coverage for L&M.

While the Supreme Court effectively wiped out a line of California Court of Appeal decisions which held that the unexpected consequences of an intentional act are not an accident, the Court pointed out that if the determination was justified in that if the insurer’s argument regarding the definition of occurrence and accident were accepted, it would leave employers without coverage for claims of negligent hiring, retention or supervision whenever the employee’s conduct is deliberate.  Such a result, the Court opined, would be inconsistent with California law, which recognizes the cause of action even when the employee acted intentionally.

It is expected that the opinion will lead to an increase in claims to insurers from employers facing negligent hiring claims.  It may also lead to an increase in litigation of coverage for liability claims based on intentional acts that result in allegedly unexpected injury, which would previously have been denied on the basis that the unexpected consequences of an intentional act are not an accident and therefore, not an occurrence under personal injury liability coverage.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Rebecca Smith at [email protected] or Zach Moura at [email protected].

Salary History And Wage Gaps

Posted on: April 10th, 2018

By: Rebecca J. Smith

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard the case of Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education en banc last year, has changed the 9th Circuit’s position and found that an employee’s prior salary – either alone or in a combination of factors – cannot be used to justify paying women less than men in comparable jobs.

“The Equal Pay Act stands for a principle as simple as it is just:  men and women should receive equal pay for equal work regardless of sex” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the opinion.   The opinion clearly establishes that an employer cannot justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary.

In the ruling made on Monday, April 09, 2018, the en banc panel overturned the earlier panel’s decision looking at the history of the act and indicating that Congress simply could not have intended to allow employers to rely on past discriminatory wages to justify continuing wage differentials.  One of the biggest issues, going forward after this decision will be whether negotiated salaries are included within the equal pay statutes.  Judge M. Margaret McKeown indicated in her concurring opinion that she was concerned about chilling voluntary discussions between employees or potential employees and employers when an employee is attempting to use prior salaries as a bargaining chip.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Rebecca Smith at [email protected].

Supreme Court on Prolonged Detention and Bond for Immigrants

Posted on: March 27th, 2018

By: Layli Eskandari Deal

Immigration has been a hot topic in the news lately due to the various issues being litigated in the Courts.  Recently the Supreme Court made a ruling on the issue of prolonged detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of immigrants who are in removal (deportation) proceedings.

In Jennings v. Rodriguez, 138 S.Ct. 830 (2018), the Supreme Court held that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes the prolonged detention of certain noncitizens without a custody hearing during their removal cases.  This was a reversal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that authorized detention only for six months, at which point, the detained individual must then receive a custody (bond) hearing before an Immigration Judge.  Post decision, the Supreme Court has remanded this case back to the Ninth Circuit for consideration of whether the 5th Amendment Due Process Clause entitles immigrants to a hearing over their prolonged detention.

This week the Supreme Court has agreed to review whether U.S. immigration laws allow ICE to indefinitely detain foreign nationals in the removal process if the person has previously committed crimes.  The case is Nielsen v. Preap.  Current laws allow ICE to take an individual into custody after they have served their criminal jail term prior to their release from prison.  A person detained immediately can then be held indefinitely.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that foreign nationals who are not promptly taken into custody must be given an opportunity to be released on bond.  The federal government argues the same rules should apply to individuals promptly taken into custody as those who are released from prison and then taken into custody at a later date.  We now await the Supreme Court’s decision on this type of detention.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Layli Eskandari Deal of the law firm of Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

Will the Las Vegas Tragedy Change the Hospitality Industry?

Posted on: December 8th, 2017

By: America Vidana

Hundreds of victims of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas have filed several suits in both California and Nevada courts against Mandalay Bay, MGM Resorts and LiveNation. The victims accused the hotel operator, MGM Resorts International, and its subsidiary, Mandalay Corp, which owns the hotel, of failing to properly monitor the shooter’s activities, train staff members and employ adequate security measures.

Additionally, the lawsuits accused the concert promoter, LiveNation, and the concert venue owner, also MGM, of failing to design, build or mark adequate emergency exits and to properly train and supervise employees in an appropriate plan of action in case of an emergency.

In order to prevail in such cases, a plaintiff must prove that the premises operators were negligent and the incident was reasonably foreseeable. Given the instant facts and the history of lawsuits following mass shootings, this will be an uphill battle for the victims unless they can show Mandalay Bay, MGM Resorts and LiveNation were careless and could have done more to prevent the shooting.

The shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was a retired multi-millionaire, who invested in real estate, gambled for fun and had no criminal antecedents. He reportedly was a “high-roller,” who was well-known in the gambling world and frequented casinos such as Mandalay Bay, for weeks at a time. By all accounts, the shooter did not display any unusual or suspicious behavior that may have alerted Mandalay Bay security of a potential threat to safety.

Arguments have been made that Mandalay Bay security should have been more vigilant of the 23 legally purchased guns, including high-caliber assault weapons, the shooter took to his room over the course of three days, or alternatively, that some inspection procedure, whether metal detectors or bag checks, should have been in place to detect such weapons. While Mandalay Bay, in addition to every major Las Vegas casino, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to catch illegal gamblers, it somehow failed to detect the plethora of artillery being transported through its casino floor. The shooter reportedly also installed cameras in the hallways, and declined room service for several days—bringing into question Mandalay Bay’s policies regarding room service and duration between checking a guest’s room.

Even more damaging to Mandalay Bay, a security guard was allegedly shot several minutes before the mass shooting ensued. Strangely, there was a six-minute lapse in Mandalay Bar’s response time from the initial shooting of the guard to the actual mass shooting. This will likely be one of the bigger issues MGM will face, as this arguably should have provided notice of the danger, and plausibly provided a reasonable opportunity to minimize, if not prevent, the casualties.

However, the litigation trail following mass shootings have largely favored the establishment. Notably, in a similar suit arising out of the Aurora, Colorado theater mass shooting at a showing of The Dark Knight Returns, the court dismissed claims of those injured against the theater because the crime was not foreseeable at the time and because the crime was an intervening and superseding cause of the harm. While not directly applicable in the Ninth Circuit, the court’s rationale and legal principles will surely be persuasive. But being the first such presentation of a case against the hospitality juggernaut, the court’s decision could set new precedent on industry standards for safety and emergency response.

For further information or for further inquiries involving hospitality law, you may contact America Vidana of Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP, at [email protected].