Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, HERALD-EXAMINER

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtLORING; ASHBY, Acting P.J., and HASTINGS
Citation50 Cal.App.3d 449,123 Cal.Rptr. 683
PartiesJohn DOUGLAS, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. LOS ANGELES, a corporation, Defendant and Respondent. Civ. 44424.
Docket NumberHERALD-EXAMINER
Decision Date05 August 1975

Page 683

123 Cal.Rptr. 683
50 Cal.App.3d 449
John DOUGLAS, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
LOS ANGELES HERALD-EXAMINER, a corporation, Defendant and Respondent.
Civ. 44424.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 5, California.
Aug. 5, 1975.

[50 Cal.App.3d 453]

Page 684

Flint & MacKay, Philip M. Battaglia, George C. Huddleston and Richard I.

Page 685

Gilchrist, Los Angeles, for defendant and respondent.

MacDonald, Halsted & Laybourne and Mitchell L. Lathrop, Los Angeles, for plaintiff and appellant.

LORING, Associate Justice. *

John Douglas (Douglas) filed a second amended complaint against Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Division of the Hearst Corporation 1 (Herald) for indemnity and money damages seeking to recover attorney's fees and costs (under the provisions of Labor Code section 2802) 2 incurred by him in defense of an action filed against him in the United States District Court, Central Division, entitled 'Leonard L. Bursten (Bursten) v. Allan Dorfman (Dorfman), et al., No. 70--2501--EC' which Douglas alleged was filed against him solely because of services rendered by him as a newspaper reporter in the course and scope of his employment as a reporter for Herald. He alleged that he tendered the defense of such action to Herald, but Herald refused to accept it, and that he employed his own counsel and incurred costs. It was stipulated that the correct sum of attorney's fees and costs was $3,102.30. He also sought damages because he was required to file the instant action. It was stipulated that costs incurred in the instant action (not counting appellate costs) were $5,239.20. He also sought damages for emotional distress in the sum of $85,000 and punitive damages in the sum of $500,000. Herald answered, and after non-jury trial, the court rendered a written decision, made certain findings (discussed in detail Infra) and rendered judgment in Herald's favor. Douglas appeals from the judgment.

50 Cal.App.3d 454

CONTENTIONS

Appellant contends:

I. Labor Code section 2802 requires that an employer indemnify his employee for all that the employee expends or loses as a result of the discharge of his duties as an employee.

II. Included within the word 'all' in Labor Code section 2802 are costs of defense and attorney fees incurred by the employee in defending an action brought against him by a third party.

III. Likewise included within the word 'all' in Labor Code section 2802 are costs and attorney fees incurred by an employee in an action brought by the employee to enforce the rights granted him under section 2802.

IV. Douglas is entitled to full indemnification for all costs and fees incurred in both the Bursten lawsuit and the instant action.

V. The conduct of the Herald in this case justifies the imposition of exemplary damages.

FACTS

The parties agree (either by stipulation or admissions in the pleadings or briefs) that Douglas was employed by Herald as a newspaper reporter during the period January 19, 1968, to November 20, 1970; that during and within the scope of his employment he was assigned to and did investigate and report on certain alleged irregularities and possible unlawful activity of an entity known as Beverly Ridge Estates Corporation (BREC), a real estate developer; Douglas obtained material and wrote a series of articles which were submitted to and approved by his appropriate superiors at Herald and its legal advisors; that

Page 686

Herald published such articles with notice of copyright in its newspaper.

The parties stipulated that the trial court should take judicial notice of the file in the Bursten case. Bursten's complaint alleged that he was vice president of BREC; that during the month of January 1969, certain named representatives of the office of the California Attorney General (including Thomas E. Lynch, Attorney General) and certain named representatives of the United States Department of Justice (including the [50 Cal.App.3d 455] United States Attorney Robert Meyer) agreed to form a joint task force to investigate Bursten's private and business affairs and the affairs of BREC in order to obtain documents which were beyond the subpoena power of the state of California through the use of a special United States Grand Jury; that documents were obtained and turned over illegally to unauthorized persons including Douglas, which Douglas included in articles written by him published in the Herald- Examiner, all of which was in violation of the civil rights, right of privacy and constitutional rights of Bursten; that the information obtained was maliciously and deliberately given and disseminated to the news media including Douglas; that the information thus supplied to Douglas 'was conveyed pursuant to an express agreement between Defendants DORFMAN (operating head of the Teamsters Pension Fund from which BREC had borrowed money) and DOUGLAS whereby said material would be forwarded to Defendants DE FEO (Assistant U.S. Attorney), LYNCH (Attorney General of California), HUFFMAN (Deputy Attorney General of California) and KAUFMAN (Supervising Auditor for the California Attorney General) for use in furtherance of the conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's (Bursten's) Constitutional rights.'

The parties stipulated that Douglas, without the payment of any money or other consideration procured from Bursten a release with prejudice and a dismissal of the Bursten action, except that Douglas agreed to give a deposition for Bursten and waive the newspaperman's privilege of confidential communications.

At trial of the instant case Douglas relied upon the matters admitted by Herald's answer and its answers to Interrogatories number 3, 5 and 7 as follows:

'Interrogatory No. 3: 'During his investigation of and authorship of articles about Beverly Ridge Estates Corporation, its officers and directors, do you contend that plaintiff, JOHN DOUGLAS, committed any act or acts which were outside the course and scope of his employment by the LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER?

"Answer: No."

'. . . Interrogatory No. 5:' . . .

'During his investigation of and authorship of articles about Beverly Ridge Estates Corporation, its officers and directors, do you contend that [50 Cal.App.3d 456] plaintiff, JOHN DOUGLAS, failed to commit any act or acts required to him in the course and scope of his employment by LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER?

"Answer: No."

'. . . Interrogatory No. 7: 'Do you contend that plaintiff, JOHN DOUGLAS, was guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever in connection with his investigation of or his authorship of articles about Beverly Ridge Estates Corporation, its officers or directors?

"Answer: No."

Douglas did not testify.

As noted, the amount of damages was stipulated to.

The parties stipulated that Mr. Caton (Douglas' supervisor at Herald) would testify that if Douglas 'committed any of the acts alleged in the Federal Court, they were not within the course and scope of his employment with the Herald Examiner.' The parties also stipulated that 'There was a full release executed by Mr. Bursten in favor of Mr. Douglas' which was 'with prejudice' without any monetary

Page 687

consideration except an agreement to give his deposition.

The trial court found, Inter alia, in Finding Nos. 10 and 11: 3

'10. None of the acts Alleged to have been committed by DOUGLAS in the Complaint in Bursten v. Dorfman, et al., was within the course and scope or in the discharge of the duties of his employment with the HERALD-EXAMINER, and none of the acts Alleged of DOUGLAS in the Complaint was authorized or directed to be committed by the HERALD-EXAMINER.' (Emphasis ours.)

'11. The HERALD-EXAMINER had no knowledge at any time material hereto of whether or not DOUGLAS actually committed the acts alleged to have been committed by him in the Complaint in Bursten v. Dorfman, et al.'

The court made no finding that paragraph XIII of Douglas' complaint was true or untrue. That paragraph read:

50 Cal.App.3d 457

'XIII

'Plaintiff BURSTEN in said United States District Court action sued plaintiff herein solely and exclusively because of acts performed for, at the direction of, and with the authorization and approval of defendants herein, which acts of this plaintiff were specifically ratified and approved by defendants, and each of them.'

DISCUSSION

Labor Code section 2802 reads:

'An employer shall indemnify his employee for all that the employee necessarily expends or loses in direct consequence of the discharge of his duties as such, or of his obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying such directions, believed them to be unlawful.'

No California case has been cited, nor has any been found which interprets section 2802 in the factual context here presented. Only two cases discuss the section in any detail. Earll v. McCoy, 116 Cal.App.2d 44, 253 P.2d 86 is not helpful. However, Davidson v. Welch, 270 Cal.App.2d 220 at 227, 75 Cal.Rptr. 676, 681, footnote 3 states:

Section 2802 was enacted in 1937 based upon former Civil Code section 1969 'without substantial change.' In the Code Commissioners' notes to the prior section (Civil Code § 1969), the commissioners cite a New York case, Castle v. Noyes, 14 N.Y. 329. In Castle v. Noyes the plaintiff sued to recover possession of certain oak lumber. Plaintiff derived title under a chattel mortgage which defendant claimed was a fraud on creditors. Plaintiff offered a judgment in a case in which defendant had sued Ronk, plaintiff's employee, in which the mortgage was adjudged valid. The question was whether plaintiff was entitled to the benefits of res judicata, since plaintiffs had appeared in the action and defended Ronk. The New York Court of Appeal held that plaintiffs were entitled to the benefits of the judgment in Ronk's favor since plaintiffs had the right and Duty to defend Ronk since what he did was [50 Cal.App.3d 458] done in the course and scope of his employment by plaintiffs....

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24 practice notes
  • Cassady v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Llp, No. B177747.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Noviembre 2006
    ...action. (Jacobus v. Krambo Corp. (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 1096, 1100, 93 Cal.Rptr.2d 425; Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 461, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683; Grissom v. Vans Companies, Inc. (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 52, 57, 1 Cal.Rptr.2d 808; Plancarte v. Guardsmark (2004) 118 ......
  • Janken v. GM Hughes Electronics, No. B092333
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 5 Junio 1996
    ...of protection for employees, although no express statutory duty to defend. (But see Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683 [finding statute to contain a duty to defend].) The protection provided is qualified by requirements that the employee's exp......
  • Crawford v. Weather Shield Mfg., Inc., No. G032301.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 31 Enero 2006
    ...well be the case that retroactively-determined reimbursement is the correct model. (See Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 464, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683 [contrasting employer's defense obligation and trigger as set out in Labor Code section 2802 with Gray's potentiali......
  • Thornton v. California Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., No. D058635.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 17 Abril 2012
    ...who is sued by third persons for conduct in the course and scope of his employment.” ( Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald–Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 461, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683 ( Douglas ), italics added; accord, Cassady v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 220, 230, 51 Cal.R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • Cassady v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Llp, No. B177747.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Noviembre 2006
    ...action. (Jacobus v. Krambo Corp. (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 1096, 1100, 93 Cal.Rptr.2d 425; Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 461, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683; Grissom v. Vans Companies, Inc. (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 52, 57, 1 Cal.Rptr.2d 808; Plancarte v. Guardsmark (2004) 118 ......
  • Janken v. GM Hughes Electronics, No. B092333
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 5 Junio 1996
    ...of protection for employees, although no express statutory duty to defend. (But see Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683 [finding statute to contain a duty to defend].) The protection provided is qualified by requirements that the employee's exp......
  • Crawford v. Weather Shield Mfg., Inc., No. G032301.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 31 Enero 2006
    ...well be the case that retroactively-determined reimbursement is the correct model. (See Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 464, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683 [contrasting employer's defense obligation and trigger as set out in Labor Code section 2802 with Gray's potentiali......
  • Thornton v. California Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., No. D058635.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 17 Abril 2012
    ...who is sued by third persons for conduct in the course and scope of his employment.” ( Douglas v. Los Angeles Herald–Examiner (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 449, 461, 123 Cal.Rptr. 683 ( Douglas ), italics added; accord, Cassady v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 220, 230, 51 Cal.R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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