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Rodger J. Hartnett v. Diane Crosier et al

April 26, 2012

RODGER J. HARTNETT, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
DIANE CROSIER ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from judgments of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Steven R. Denton, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 37-2008-00081583- CU-WT-CTL)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcconnell, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

INTRODUCTION

Rodger Hartnett, a former employee of the San Diego County Office of Education (Education Office), sued several Education Office employees (individual defendants) alleging they retaliated against him in violation of Education Code section 44113, subdivision (a)*fn1 (section 44113(a)). Among other relief, Hartnett sought punitive damages and attorneys fees under section 44114, subdivision (c) (section 44114(c)). The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the individual defendants after determining section 44113(a) did not apply to them because they were management employees and section 44114(c) did not apply to Hartnett because he was also a management employee. Hartnett appeals, contending the trial court erred in these determinations.

We conclude the trial court erred in determining section 44113(a) did not apply to those individual defendants who are also supervisory employees under Government Code section 3540.1, subdivision (m). However, we conclude the trial court correctly determined section 44114(c) did not apply to Hartnett. We, therefore, reverse the judgment and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Hartnett's second amended complaint (complaint) alleges he was a claims coordinator in the Education Office's risk management department. In October 2007 the Education Office discharged him, ostensibly for incompetency, insubordination, and dishonesty. He asserts, however, the Education Office, in part through the acts of the individual defendants, actually discharged him in retaliation for disclosing that some of the individual defendants referred the Education Office's legal business to friends and family members in exchange for gifts, gratuities, and other considerations, including discounted personal legal services.*fn2 He further asserts the individual defendants' actions violated section 44113(a) and entitled him to, among other relief, punitive damages and attorney fees under section 44114(c).

Two of the individual defendants separately moved for summary judgment on, among other grounds, that section 44113(a) did not impose liability on them because they were management employees and section 44114(c) did not provide remedies for Hartnett because he was also a management employee. The trial court agreed and granted the motions. The trial court subsequently entered judgment in favor of these individual defendants.

Three other of the individual defendants then separately moved for summary judgment on the same grounds. The parties stipulated the trial court's ruling on the first two summary judgment motions should apply to the latter three, and the latter three should be deemed granted. Given this stipulation, the trial court also entered judgment in favor of these individual defendants.

DISCUSSION

I

Granting of Summary Judgment Motions

"Because this case comes before us after the trial court's grant of summary judgment, we apply these well-established rules: ' " '[W]e take the facts from the record that was before the trial court when it ruled on that motion,' " ' and we ' " ' " 'review the trial court's decision de novo, considering all the evidence set forth in the moving and opposing papers except that to which objections were made and sustained.' " ' " ' [Citations.] We also ' " 'liberally construe the evidence in support of the party opposing summary judgment and resolve doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that party.' " ' " (Tverberg v. Fillner Construction, Inc. (2010) 49 Cal.4th 518, 522.) "We need not defer to the trial court and are not bound ...


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