Public Entity

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Public Entity

Today, the ability to preserve, predict and improve fiscal health is critical for public entities. With this in mind, Haight Brown & Bonesteel partners with public entities to find the best resolution in matters pending before both the state and federal courts. Our attorneys represent and have extensive knowledge of the unique issues facing cities, counties, police departments, fire districts, water districts, school districts and other local agencies.

Our attorneys handle litigation involving claims of:

  • civil rights violations
  • employment practices
  • wrongful termination
  • discrimination
  • hostile work environment
  • retaliation
  • firefighter/paramedic gross negligence
  • dangerous condition of public property
  • premises liability
  • intentional criminal acts of third parties
  • general personal injury claims
  • mandamus proceedings
  • damage to underground utilities

  • Public Entity Representative Experience
  • School Districts and Public Education

Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in Paramedic Gross Negligence Case
A San Diego County Sheriff Deputy shot his wife in the face during a domestic dispute. The Alpine Fire Protection District responded, provided ALS care and ordered a Life Flight response, but the victim was pronounced dead at the landing zone. The victim’s parents filed suit against Alpine Fire and four firefighters alleging paramedic gross negligence. The Alpine Fire and the firefighter’s motion for summary judgment, filed after the medical experts were deposed, was subsequently granted on the grounds of qualified immunity under Health & Safety Code Section 1799.107.

Petition for Writ of Mandate Dismissed for Fire District in Disability Dispute
Plaintiff, a firefighter/paramedic placed on leave after an off-duty accident, filed for disability retirement claiming he could no longer perform his duties due to emotional distress after years of handling emergency calls. His retirement application was denied and he sought reinstatement of his firefighter/paramedic position plus over 3 years of back wages and benefits. Plaintiff had allowed his paramedic certification to lapse so the District offered him a modified position at the same wage until he obtained his re-certification. Plaintiff declined the modified position and filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate under Government Code Section 31725, requiring the employer to have “dismissed the employee for a disability” before the employee is entitled to reinstatement, back wages and benefits. Both the District and the plaintiff filed motions for summary judgment. The District’s motion for summary judgment was granted due to the fact that plaintiff had never been “dismissed for a disability.”

Reversal of $6.2 Million Discrimination Verdict
The Court of Appeal of the Second Appellate District reversed and remanded a $6.2 million judgment against the City of Los Angeles in a discrimination lawsuit filed by African-American lesbian firefighter, Brenda Lee. The reversal of the judgment also wiped out the $600,000 attorney fee award to plaintiff’s counsel. The Court of Appeal agreed with the City that plaintiff’s failure to exhaust her administrative remedies regarding her termination is a jurisdictional bar to a civil suit on that claim.

Defense Verdict in Harassment Retaliation Case
Plaintiff, a 911 operator, frequently made mistakes, including sending emergency 911 responders to incorrect locations. After she fell ill, the Fire Authority accommodated her disability by transferring her to a non-emergency job position. Plaintiff’s performance continued to decline, and after undergoing a fitness for duty examination, the Fire Authority attempted to further accommodate her. Plaintiff subsequently filed for retirement and brought a lawsuit claiming harassment, retaliation, wrongful discharge and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing pursuant to Government Code Section 12940. Defense verdict for the Orange County Fire Authority.

Summary Judgment Upheld for Fire Authority Against Claim of Retaliation
The Court of Appeal of the Fourth Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s grant of a motion of summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by plaintiff, a firefighter, against the Orange County Fire Authority alleging retaliation, assault and battery, petition for writ of mandate and injunctive and declaratory relief.

Summary Judgment Upheld in Paramedic Gross Negligence Case
Plaintiff was intoxicated when he was assaulted. Plaintiff was examined by paramedics from Orange County Fire Authority but refused treatment. Plaintiff was later driven home by the City of Westminster police where he went to sleep and fell into a coma from which he never awakened. The Court of Appeal of the Fourth Appellate District confirmed the dismissal of Orange County Fire Authority and City of Westminster based on the statute of limitations after successful Motions for Summary Judgment.

Summary Judgment Granted Against Claims of Civil Rights Violations and Paramedic Gross Negligence
Two motions for summary judgment brought by the Orange County Fire Authority were granted in a firefighter gross negligence and civil rights violation lawsuit brought by the parents of a deceased son who had ingested a large amount of cocaine. Plaintiffs claimed violations of 42 USC Section 1983 alleging their son’s civil rights were violated by firefighters/paramedics of Orange County Fire Authority and police officers from the City of Westminster when they entered plaintiff’s home without a search warrant. Plaintiffs also alleged a state law claim of paramedic gross negligence against the Fire Authority defendants.

Non-Suit Granted at Trial of Police Officer Sexual Misconduct Case
Plaintiff alleged that a former police officer for the City of Westminster forced her to have sexual relations under color of authority in return for lenience in the prosecution of her boyfriend on a pending burglary charge. Unbeknownst to the officer, plaintiff recorded telephone conversations and videotaped them having sexual intercourse. The officer cross-complained against plaintiff contending she recorded confidential communications without his consent. The case proceeded to trial in the Orange County Superior Court and the motions for non-suit brought by the City of Westminster and the officer were granted in their entirety.

Haight Brown and Bonesteel has a skilled set of attorneys with the extensive experience necessary to successfully navigate the rapidly changing landscape of education law. Now, more than ever, our team must formulate creative and efficient solutions to a myriad of complex problems. Every day our school districts face challenging issues such as cyber bullying, budget fluctuations, increasing state and federal mandates, labor disputes, transparency and increasing testing requirements. Such diverse issues cannot be addressed by a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Our attorneys use training, advice, and prevention when possible, and litigation where necessary to uphold the rights of California’s schools and children.

Our school attorneys have expertise in the following practice areas:

  • Charter Schools
  • Construction
  • Budget Facilities and Property
  • Board Governance and Compliance
  • Labor and Employment
  • Litigation
  • Student Services and Discipline
  • Special Education
  • Personnel Issues
  • Public Finance
  • Classified and Certificated Dismissal Proceedings
  • Organizational Efficiency

Representative Experience

Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in Sexual Orientation Harassment Case
Haight was retained to represent a large public school district in a high profile single plaintiff harassment action. A District teacher at a continuation high school sued the District under Government Code section 12940 of the Fair Employment and Housing Act based on homophobic comments made to the teacher by certain students. The District brought a summary judgment motion arguing an employer cannot be liable for harassment committed by third party non-employees outside of the sexual harassment context. After substantial further briefing regarding the distinction between harassment based on sexual orientation and “sexual harassment” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the District. This victory by Haight represents a big win for employers in a hotly contested area of the law.

Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in First Amendment Case
A Haight partner litigated an important case for a large school district regarding the First Amendment right to gossip. A District teacher and instructional assistant sued the district under 42 U.S.C. §1983 because they were asked to stop spreading rumors about sexual activities of their coworkers. After multiple demurrers, motions for summary adjudication, and motions for summary judgment the district had the case dismissed successfully arguing that gossip was not a “matter of public concern.” This decision not only protected the rights of the employees, but also solidified the district’s right to engage in appropriate personnel action to maintain order on a school site. The District recovered all its fees and costs in the matter.

Successful Appellate Negotiation of Adverse Verdict against School District
Haight was retained to represent a district on appeal after a judgment of nearly $4 million against a school district. The judgment followed a jury trial involving a delayed construction project. The General Contractor sued the district for payment. The District countersued the General Contractor for damages based on failure to complete the project in a timely manner. Haight identified numerous procedural and evidentiary errors at the trial court level. The matter was fully briefed for oral argument. Based on the strength of the briefing Haight was able to resolve the case at a substantial reduction from the adjudicated amount.

Joint Use Agreement between School District and Park and Recreation District
Perhaps the most sensitive type of negotiation is between two public entities with differing interests in the same geographic location. Haight successfully drafted a joint use agreement between a school district and a park and recreation district which had grown into a community dispute. There was a long-standing agreement between the school district and the park and recreation district for the use of a pool and gymnasium. However, the agreement became so antiquated, and there was so much personnel turnover neither party was sure of its rights and responsibilities. Haight was able to draft an agreement that not only clarified each entities’ rights, but also maintained community harmony. The agreement was approved by the respective governing boards.

Successful Resolution of Complex Civil Rights Case Involving Special Education, Transgender Foster Youth
This case was based on a confluence of circumstances which created the perfect storm. The District placed two foster youth students in an alternative school environment. The students not only qualified for special education services, but also were African-American and transgender. On their first day of school they became involved in a disciplinary incident, which ultimately resulted in a physical altercation between the foster youth students and some parents. District personnel had to physically intervene and expulsion proceedings were initiated against all involved. The situation became more combustible when the disciplinary proceedings against one group of students were dismissed after the manifestation determination process. The students ultimately sued the district under multiple causes of action based on diverse allegations and the plaintiff’s’ multiple protected classifications. Plaintiffs were represented by Legal Services for Children as well as one of the most prestigious San Francisco litigation firms. A Haight partner was able to extricate the District from the litigation using a combination of training, policy revisions, compensatory education and apology memoranda. The District paid no more than $16,000 to settle the matter.

CEQA Litigation Involving Stadium Project
Haight successfully represented a suburban school district in a complex and highly publicized CEQA case. The litigation involved a football field stadium project, and the complex interrelationship between CEQA, city ordinances and district resolutions. There were multiple stakeholders. Petitioners were a highly- motivated and well-funded group of neighbors opposed to all facets of the project. Respondents included the school district and a local 501 (C) (3) organization which had devoted significant money and resources to the effort. There were multiple issues including noise levels, lighting, bleacher construction and who was responsible for each project component. The matter was ultimately resolved by a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties regarding additional mitigation efforts and ongoing communication protocols. The project was successfully completed and no attorney’s fees were paid to petitioners.