The new year has brought more than one new California law that was helped along by the momentum of the #MeToo movement. The movement received notoriety largely because of well-known actresses who shared their stories of harassment and abuse. However, activists have focused on sexual assault, abuse and misconduct in all industries.
Employers, even universities, can be held liable in a wrongful termination case by creating a pretext for firing an employee. Earlier this month, former San Diego State University women's basketball coach Beth Burns settled civil litigation for $4 million.
California homeowners have oftentimes faced the frightening risk of civil litigation that could take their homes, especially during the mortgage crisis 10 years ago. However, California law provided essential protections against mortgage foreclosure that were unavailable elsewhere.
At times, civil litigation may reflect ongoing social issues, such as the sexual harassment exposed by the "Me Too" movement. For example, a wrongful termination lawsuit was recently filed in California against Google, charging that the company permitted a workplace culture that diminished women.
Data breaches have become frightening. These incidents have imposed costs, loss of confidentiality and serious inconvenience to email users. In one case, a California federal court judge ruled that victims of data breaches may continue their civil litigation.
A manufacturer who does not meet their contract responsibilities can harm consumers and face civil litigation. In a case that may have an impact across the nation, a California appellate court ruled earlier this year that a woman can sue CarMax for the sale of a car with an unfixed safety recall.
False and deceptive practices associated with mental health or medical care may have long-term and harmful consequences. The California legislature is considering a bill that provides another civil litigation tool for victims of this fraud. The bill treats practicing or advertising conversion therapy as consumer fraud under California's consumer protection laws and allow individuals to file a private lawsuit against practitioners.
Parties to civil litigation often present widely different versions of facts. A party cannot prevail in court unless compelling evidence is presented to a jury supporting their case. A recent Napa Valley wrongful termination lawsuit, for example, involves different accounts from the employee who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the resort that fired him.
Sometimes, civil litigation may have serious and lasting consequences that go beyond finances or business. A breach of contract and bad faith lawsuit filed by a college student concerning his medical treatment against Aetna Insurance led to an investigation by California's insurance commissioner. The student claimed that Aetna denied coverage for infusion of intravenous immunoglobulin for the treatment of his immune disorder. Depositions during this lawsuit's discovery period instigated the commissioner's inquiry.
Mandatory arbitration has been a major obstacle for pursuing sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination and other civil litigation concerning employment. Microsoft took a step to remove this difficulty by removing forced arbitration clauses from its employment contracts last month.