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Piccinini v. California Emergency Management Agency

California Court of Appeals, First District, Third Division

May 27, 2014

JOSEPH PICCININI, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CALIFORNIA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Sonoma County Superior Court SCV-251102 Trial Judge: Honorable Gary Nadler

Page 686

COUNSEL

Perry, Johnson, Anderson, Miller, & Moskowitz, Scott Adrian Lewis and Deborah S. Bull for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General Alicia Fowler, Assistant Attorney General Miguel A. Neri, Fiel D. Tigno and Christopher M. Young, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendants and Respondents.

Page 687

OPINION

SIGGINS, J.

Appellant Joseph Piccinini was offered and accepted employment as a deputy chief in the California Emergency Management Agency. The Friday night before he was to report for work, he was told not to come because the position for which he was hired had been eliminated. He incurred expenses in reliance on his appointment and sued for damages. The State’s demurrers to Piccinini’s complaints were sustained. Because his first amended complaint stated facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action under Government Code section 19257, [1] we reverse.

BACKGROUND

In his first amended complaint, Piccinini alleged that he responded to a public job announcement for the deputy chief position and participated in the state application process. He was the top candidate for the position and received an offer of employment. He accepted the offer and informed the State he could start in his new position on February 1, 2011. Piccinini completed all the necessary documentation, underwent a physical examination, received a new uniform, signed a two-year lease for a home nearby his new work site and resigned his position as chief of the Central Calaveras Fire Department. On February 3, 2011, Piccinini was told to report for work on February 7. After close of business on February 4th, Piccinini received a phone call from his new chief telling him not to report for work because, due to budget constraints, his position had been eliminated.

Piccinini filed suit for wrongful termination, breach of contract and promissory estoppel. The State demurred generally on the ground that his first amended complaint failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. On October 22, 2012, the trial court sustained the demurrer on the grounds that public employment is governed by statute not contract, hence Piccinini could not have a cause of action for breach of contract. Alternatively, the court reasoned that to the extent Piccinini’s claims were premised upon misrepresentation of the availability of a vacant position warranting his appointment, the State was immune from suit under section 818.8 which provides public entities are not liable for injury caused by the misrepresentation of public employees. Piccinini was given 20 days to amend.

On November 26, 2012, the State applied for judgment of dismissal upon Piccinini’s failure to file an amended complaint. The next day the complaint was dismissed with prejudice and judgment was entered for the defendants. Piccinini timely appealed.

Page 688

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