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City Successfully Concludes Two High-Profile Lawsuits


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2017

Contact: Reed Gallogly
Assistant/Deputy City Attorney
(650) 726-8270 

City Approves Settlement Concluding Beachwood Issue; 
Also Prevails in Ballot Measure Lawsuit


HALF MOON BAY, CA - Earlier this month, the City of Half Moon Bay saw the successful conclusion of two high-profile lawsuits. The first resulted in nearly a half-million dollar settlement paid to the City by an insurance company, concluding the City's legal efforts to obtain insurance coverage for the Beachwood property/Yamagiwa lawsuit judgment. The second was the finalization of the appellate court's ruling in favor of the City in an elections lawsuit regarding ballot measure arguments on the June, 2016 ballot.

Settlement of Beachwood/Yamagiwa Insurance Litigation
At its meeting of January 17, 2017, the Half Moon Bay City Council voted unanimously to accept a settlement offer in the City of Half Moon Bay v. Great American Insurance Company, et al. litigation. Under the settlement, the defendant insurance company will pay the City $450,000. In 2008, the City was ordered to compensate a private landowner in an amount over $41 million dollars for a taking of private property - that number was eventually negotiated down to $18 million. At that time, the City was advised that no insurance coverage was available for the loss.

After hiring new legal counsel to act as City Attorney, the City also retained special outside counsel with experience in public entity insurance coverage litigation - Peter Urhausen and Byrne Conley from the Gibbons & Conley law firm - to review the insurance coverage question. They determined that coverage might indeed be available and recommended the City pursue several recovery efforts. Following this advice and over the past 9 years, the City has successfully recovered $5 million from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) risk sharing pool, obtained a $10 million arbitration award against an insurance company, and an additional settlement of $3.15 million.

Then, on January 17, after substantial litigation efforts, the City accepted a settlement offer in the final lawsuit related to the City's recovery efforts. This action brings the City's total recovery related to the Beachwood judgment to $18,600,000 and brings to a conclusion the final chapter on the City's efforts to recover insurance proceeds for the Yamagiwa judgment.

The City would like to specially thank Peter Urhausen and the Gibbons & Conley firm for nearly a decade of high-quality service, counsel, and the substantial recoveries from their efforts.

Final Judgment in Eblovi v. Blair Election Lawsuit
Also on January 17 2017, California’s 1st District Court of Appeal notified the City that its ruling in the City’s favor in David Eblovi v. Jessica Blair, Half Moon Bay City Clerk, became final, officially concluding the appellate case.  In this lawsuit, the City defended – and ultimately vindicated – voters’ rights to participate in the local election process. The case resulted in a formal, published opinion (www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A148275.PDF) which upholds citizens’ rights to free speech in the political arena. 
 
In early April of 2016, a Half Moon Bay resident (plaintiff) sued the City of Half Moon Bay, its Clerk, several County officials, and five individual Half Moon Bay citizens. The plaintiff was the author of an initiative measure on the June 2016 ballot. His claim stated that the five citizens who had submitted arguments against his ballot measure had no legal right to participate in the elections process by submitting ballot arguments, and that the City erroneously allowed them to do so. His claim also alleged that the arguments against the measure were “false, misleading, or untrue,” and should be deleted from the voter information pamphlet.
 
On April 14, 2016, the San Mateo County Superior Court heard the matter and rejected plaintiff’s arguments. The court stated that the law protected citizens’ rights to political free speech by permitting their participation, that none of the ballot arguments were false, misleading, or untrue such that they needed to be struck from the voter guide, and that the City and elections officials had correctly interpreted the law and appropriately discharged their duties. Further, and as required by law, the court ordered plaintiff to pay the group of named citizens the attorney’s fees and costs they had incurred in the defense of the lawsuit.
 
Upon plaintiff’s appeal, the City again argued that political participation and free speech were core features of the American democracy, preserved in the law and constitution. After review, on December 1, 2016, the Appellate Court denied the appeal, agreed with the City’s position, and issued a published opinion affirming the trial court’s ruling upholding citizens’ rights to participate in the political process. By operation of law, that decision became final on January 17, 2017, concluding the matter.

Located 28 miles south of San Francisco, the City of Half Moon Bay is a community of about 11,500 people, situated on the peninsula between forested hills and some of the most beautiful coastlines that California has to offer. Its historic downtown is home to numerous shops, art galleries, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and other businesses, and its celebrated beaches and parks are wonders of nature, accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians. With its many activities and events, beautiful natural scenery, old-town charm, and abundance of retail and commercial services, Half Moon Bay is a regional destination. The City's website is www.hmbcity.com.

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Also on January 17 2017, California’s 1st District Court of Appeal notified the City that its ruling in the City’s favor inDavid Eblovi v. Jessica Blair, Half Moon Bay City Clerk, became final, officially concluding the appellate case.  In this lawsuit, the City defended – and ultimately vindicated – voters’ rights to participate in the local election process. The case resulted in a formal, published opinion (www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A148275.PDF) which upholds citizens’ rights to free speech in the political arena. 

 

In early April of 2016, a Half Moon Bay resident (plaintiff) sued the City of Half Moon Bay, its Clerk, several County officials, and five individual Half Moon Bay citizens. The plaintiff was the author of an initiative measure on the June 2016 ballot. His claim stated that the five citizens who had submitted arguments against his ballot measure had no legal right to participate in the elections process by submitting ballot arguments, and that the City erroneously allowed them to do so. His claim also alleged that the arguments against the measure were “false, misleading, or untrue,” and should be deleted from the voter information pamphlet.

 

On April 14, 2016, the San Mateo County Superior Court heard the matter and rejected plaintiff’s arguments. The court stated that the law protected citizens’ rights to political free speech by permitting their participation, that none of the ballot arguments were false, misleading, or untrue such that they needed to be struck from the voter guide, and that the City and elections officials had correctly interpreted the law and appropriately discharged their duties. Further, and as required by law, the court ordered plaintiff to pay the group of named citizens the attorney’s fees and costs they had incurred in the defense of the lawsuit.

 

Upon plaintiff’s appeal, the City again argued that political participation and free speech were core features of the American democracy, preserved in the law and constitution. After review, on December 1, 2016, the Appellate Court denied the appeal, agreed with the City’s position, and issued a published opinion affirming the trial court’s ruling upholding citizens’ rights to participate in the political process. By operation of law, that decision became final on January 17, 2017, concluding the matter.