LGCY Power, LLC v. Superior Court, 75 Cal. App. 5th 844 (2022)

California resident Michael Jed Sewell worked as a sales representative and sales manager for LGCY Power, which is headquartered in Salt Lake County, Utah. In 2015, Sewell signed a “Solar Representative Agreement,” which included noncompetition, nonsolicitation and confidentiality provisions as well as Utah choice of law and forum provisions. In 2019, Sewell and several other executives and managers left LGCY to form a competing solar sales company. Shortly thereafter, LGCY sued Sewell and the other former employees in Salt Lake County for breach of their employment agreements, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade secrets and related claims. Four of the defendants (not including Sewell) filed a joint cross-complaint against LGCY in the Utah court proceeding and then unsuccessfully sought dismissal of LGYC’s action against them.

Meanwhile, Sewell filed a complaint against LGCY in California Superior Court, asserting breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and California wage claims and sought declaratory relief; after LGCY was unsuccessful in having the California action dismissed, it filed this writ proceeding in the Court of Appeal. In this opinion, the Court of Appeal denied LGCY’s writ petition, holding that Cal. Lab. Code § 925 (Section 925 generally prohibits non-California choice of law/forum provisions) is an exception to Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 426.30(a), the compulsory cross-complaint rule that would otherwise have required Sewell to file his cross claims against LGCY in the Utah action. The Court held that Sewell had implicitly satisfied the requirement of Section 925 that he request the trial court to void the contract under the statute (Sewell could not void the contract without a judicial determination). Further the Court determined that the change in Sewell’s work duties, title and compensation since Section 925 became effective was sufficient to bring the contract within the purview of the statute. Finally, the Court rejected LGCY’s assertion that the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution required California to recognize Utah’s compulsory cross-complaint statute because “different [i.e., less] credit is owed to [another state’s] statutes versus judgments under full faith and credit precedent.” See also DePuy Synthes Sales, Inc. v. Howmedica Osteonics Corp., 28 F.4th 956 (9th Cir. 2022) (Section 925 voided non-California forum-selection clause, and “traditional factors” favored denial of transfer of action to New Jersey).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.