Ryan v. Crown Castle NG Networks, Inc., 2016 WL 7217274 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016)

Patrick Ryan sued his former employer for breach of its alleged promise to grant him lucrative stock options as a condition of his employment. When Ryan tried to exercise the option to purchase 25,000 shares 11 months after his resignation, the company’s general counsel responded that the attempted exercise was ineffective because he was required to exercise the options within 90 days of his separation from employment and because the options had not “performance-vested” at the time Ryan had left his employment with the company. Ryan sued for breach of contract and also asserted claims for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Although the jury found in favor of Ryan on his breach of contract claims, it applied an incorrect measure of damages by, among other things, failing to value the options. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by denying Ryan’s motion for a new trial and ordered that Ryan be given an opportunity to choose between a new trial on all issues (not just damages) and reinstatement of the original judgment under review.