Baker v. American Horticulture Supply, Inc., 186 Cal. App. 4th 1059 (2010)

Edwin Baker worked as an independent wholesale sales representative for American Horticulture Supply, Inc. (“AHS”). A jury returned verdicts in Baker’s favor on his breach of contract and fraud claims, but the trial court ordered a new trial on the grounds of insufficiency of evidence, excessive damages and juror misconduct. The trial court granted AHS’s motion for directed verdict as to Baker’s statutory claim for violation of the Independent Wholesale Sales Representatives Contractual Relations Act of 1990 (Cal. Civ. Code § 1738.10, et seq.) on the ground that there was no evidence that AHS’s violation of the statute was “willful.” The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ordering a new trial on the non-statutory claims, but reversed its dismissal of the statutory claim after concluding that “there is no evidence … the Legislature intended to immunize a nonwillful violation of the Act.”

The Court noted that AHS had conceded it had failed to comply with the statute in various ways, including failing to specify the method by which the commission was computed, the precise geographical territory assigned, any exceptions to the territory, the circumstances in which charge-backs would be made, etc.