In Shaw v. Super. Ct., ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (August 21, 2014), the California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Three) reversed the decision by the Los Angeles County Superior Court (Judge Rosenfield) denying plaintiff a jury trial on her whistleblower retaliation claim.
Plaintiff was an employee for defendant, a healthcare provider, who complained during her employment about conditions of the facilities that affected the quality of care and services provided. Specifically, plaintiff complained that defendant “was employing as health care professionals individuals that were not licensed and or certified [and others] . . . who had not properly completed their competencies.” In alleged retaliation for plaintiff’s complaints, defendant took adverse employment actions against her, including her ultimate termination. Therefore, Plaintiff sued defendant for whistleblower retaliation pursuant to California Health and Safety Code section 1278.5, which prohibits health care facilities retaliating against any of their employees for complaining about the quality of care or services they provide.
Immediately prior to trial, the court requested briefing on plaintiff’s right to a jury trial under Health and Safety Code section 1278.5, and ultimately concluded that she did not have one because that cause of action was purely equitable. Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the denial of the jury trial.
The appellate court agreed with plaintiff, finding that she did, indeed, have a right to a jury trial on her claim under Health and Safety Code Section 1278.5. In so holding, the court concluded that “the statutory language and legislative history of the statute reflect an intent to permit a jury trial. Moreover, even apart from this evidence of legislative intent, . . . a jury trial is appropriate as the gist of [plaintiff]’s cause of action sounds in law rather than equity.”