California ex rel. Alzayat v. HebbAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff Mahmoud Alzayat, on behalf of the People of the State of California, filed a qui tam action against his employer, Sunline Transit Agency, and his supervisor, Gerald Hebb, alleging a violation of the Insurance Frauds Prevention Act (IFPA or the Act). (Ins. Code, sec. 1871 et seq.) Alzayat alleged Hebb made false statements in an incident report submitted in response to Alzayat’s claim for workers’ compensation, and Hebb repeated those false statements in a deposition taken during the investigation into Alzayat’s claim for compensation. Hebb’s false statements resulted in Alzayat’s claim being initially denied. Defendants filed motions for judgment on the pleadings contending: (1) this lawsuit was based on allegedly false and fraudulent statements Hebb made in connection with a workers’ compensation proceeding and was, therefore, barred by the litigation privilege under Civil Code section 47(b); and (2) Alzayat’s claim was barred by the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule. The superior court concluded the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule was inapplicable, but ruled the litigation privilege barred Alzayat’s claim. Alzayat appealed, contending the litigation privilege only applied to tort claims and not to statutory claims such as an action under the IFPA, and the IFPA was a specific statute that prevailed over the general litigation privilege. The Court of Appeal agreed with Alzayat that his lawsuit was not barred by the litigation privilege. Furthermore, the Court concluded this lawsuit was not barred by the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule. The trial court erred by granting judgment on the pleadings for defendants, so we reverse the judgment.