Le Francois v. Goel, 119 Cal. App. 4th 425 (2004)

Philip Le Francois and Eric Herald sued their former employer, Duet Technologies, Inc., and three Duet officers for wrongfully withheld sales commissions and allegedly injurious misrepresentations and false promises associated with commissions they claimed were owed to them on a deal between Duet and Motorola. Although defendants had filed an earlier, unsuccessful motion for summary judgment, the Court of Appeal held that plaintiffs had waived any objection to the second (successful) motion’s being heard by a different judge by failing to raise the issue in the trial court. Further, the Court held that the second judge had the inherent power to reconsider a prior interim ruling and to correct an error of law on a dispositive issue. Regarding the substance of the motion, the Court held that plaintiffs had failed to show they had changed their position in reliance upon defendants’ alleged fraud and that they were damaged as a result of such a change of position. To the contrary, plaintiffs’ evidence showed they continued to do the jobs they had been hired to do and had not relied to their detriment upon any allegedly fraudulent representations from Duet or its officers concerning their eligibility for commissions. Finally, the Court held the trial court had not abused its discretion in refusing to allow plaintiffs to present additional evidence (after summary judgment was already granted) of detrimental reliance in the form of their refraining from seeking employment elsewhere as a result of the alleged misrepresentations.