Tuesday, December 4, 2001
Court of Appeal Allows Appraiser to Proceed With Suit Over State’s Disclosure of Stipulated Discipline
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state is not immune from liability for breaching an agreement not to disclose that a real estate appraiser was disciplined, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Two Friday reinstated a suit by Ronald Kaminski, who was identified in the opinion as John Roe. San Francisco Superior Court Judge David Garcia allowed the plaintiff to sue under that pseudonym, granting his motion to amend the caption of the complaint.
Kaminski alleged in his complaint that he entered into a stipulation with the Office of Real Estate Appraisers in 1999, agreeing to a private reproval in order to conclude an investigation. The stipulation, he alleged, precluded the OREA from disclosing the contents of the stipulation or any details other than the “outcome” of the proceeding.
The OREA, he claims, violated the stipulation, as well as various statutes and rules, by disclosing confidential information, causing him $1.6 million in damages. He pled various causes of action for trade libel, bad faith, negligence, and violation of due process.
Garcia sustained a demurrer as to all but one cause of action, in which Kaminski sought a declaration that the rule he was accused of violating was unconstitutional and an injunction against its enforcement. The remaining claims, the trial judge ruled, were barred by Government Code Secs. 821.6 and 815.2.
The former section renders public employees immune from liability for actions undertaken in the course of administrative or judicial proceedings. The latter makes public entities immune from liability for the acts of employees who are themselves immune.
Kaminski voluntarily dismissed the one cause of action left standing by the trial judge, and appealed successfully to Div. Two, which held that he had properly pled claims based on breach of contract.
Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline, emphasizing that Kaminski’s allegations are unproven but must be presumed true at the demurrer stage, reasoned:
“Announcement of the outcome of a disciplinary proceeding may be part of the prosecution process within the meaning of section 821.6, but announcement of additional information in violation of both a settlement agreement and statutory provisions goes beyond any conduct appropriate for protection.”
The statutes and regulations governing the OREA, Kline elaborated, are replete with provisions limiting the disclosure of information by the agency in connection with disciplinary investigations and proceedings. “The requirement that the investigation be kept confidential except in specified particulars must be viewed as aimed at protecting the privacy, reputation and business of the person subject to the complaint,” he wrote.
The case is Roe v. State of California, 01 S.O.S. 5745.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company