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Lovewell v. Stanford Federal Credit Union & Joan Opp (2019)

March 12, 2019

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Horvitz & Levy obtained the affirmance of summary judgment for a credit union and its CEO in a wrongful termination action brought by a former officer.

Plaintiff Mark Lovewell was the CFO for defendant Stanford Federal Credit Union. The credit union passed over Lovewell for the CEO job and hired defendant Joan Opp instead. Opp found Lovewell’s job performance lacking and she believed he committed several ethical violations. A year after Opp started at the credit union, she fired Lovewell. He filed a lawsuit against the credit union and Opp in state court, asserting numerous legal theories including: (1) breach of implied contract not to fire except for good cause; (2) age discrimination in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and (3) defamation (based on statements Opp later made to a recruiter). The trial court granted summary judgment on those claims and others; Lovewell dismissed his remaining claims and appealed.

Horvitz and Levy represented SFCU and Opp on appeal. Lovewell argued that the trial court should have denied summary judgment because there were triable issues of fact on all his claims. For example, he argued that he presented sufficient evidence to show: (1) that his at-will employment agreement was superseded by an implied agreement not to terminate him for cause; (2) that his termination was motivated by age discrimination; and (3) that he had been harmed by Opp’s statements to the recruiter. We argued that summary judgment was appropriate because Lovewell had failed to create a triable issue of fact on any of his claims. The Court of Appeal (Sixth District) agreed and affirmed the trial court’s ruling in a unanimous unpublished opinion.