Sedgwick partner Robert F. Helfing and special counsel Heather L. McCloskey obtained an appellate victory on behalf of our clients, a law firm and an attorney with the firm, by successfully obtaining the issuance of a possibly unprecedented four writs from the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division 3.
The plaintiff, a managing partner in a workers’ compensation firm, was terminated over allegations that he assaulted his wife, who was also an attorney at the firm. The plaintiff alleged that he did not hit his wife and sued the firm on claims that he was improperly terminated and that firm members had defamed him by telling others he assaulted his wife.
The court in a family law action filed by the wife found that the plaintiff had not assaulted her, and rejected her attempt to obtain a permanent injunction against him. In the plaintiff’s separate action based upon his termination from the firm, the court found that our clients were bound by the ruling in the wife’s family law proceedings that the plaintiff had not assaulted her. It also held that plaintiff was likely to prevail on his defamation claim. Further, it ordered the wife, who was also represented by us, to provide testimony and documents allegedly protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Arguing that our clients were not bound by the family law court ruling because they were not parties in that action, Sedgwick filed four writ petitions challenging the four separate rulings by the trial court judge. The Court of Appeal granted each of the writ petitions, reversing the holding that our clients were bound by the family law judgment, the ruling that the plaintiff was “substantially likely” to prevail against our clients at trial, and the issuance of the two orders compelling disclosure of the privileged information and documents. Each of the four reversals had significant impact on the case. The trial court’s order binding our clients to the family law judgment, for instance, would have had the effect of establishing our clients’ liability on the defamation claim, and would have strongly supported the other causes of action seeking damages. The grant of the writ allows Sedgwick to attempt to prove that our clients are not liable because their statement that the plaintiff assaulted his wife was true.
The granting of the four writs is unusual, as the Court of Appeal rarely agrees to consider a single writ petition, let alone grant four writs on separate issues at the same time in the same case.