Firm News

City of Oroville v. Superior Court

On August 15, 2019, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in City of Oroville v. Superior Court, dramatically improving the landscape of inverse condemnation law for California public entities. Peter Urhausen and Byrne Conley of Gibbons & Conley were instrumental in obtaining review and then reversal of the Court of Appeal decision, briefing the case for real party in interest California Joint Powers Risk Management Authority, and assembling an impressive showing of amicus support (representing over 2000 California public entities). Peter argued the case in June, along with counsel for the City.

This was the first inverse condemnation case decided by the California Supreme Court in 22 years, setting forth new guidelines for establishing inverse condemnation and disapproving CSAA v. Palo Alto, a 2006 appellate decision holding that inverse condemnation liability could result from a public improvement "failing to function as intended" resulting in a sewer backup. The Court restricted inverse condemnation liability to damage caused by risks inherent in the design, construction or deliberate plan of maintenance in the public work, and further held the failure of claimants to have a backflow prevention device (required by a City Ordinance adopting the Uniform Plumbing Code) provided a complete defense to the inverse condemnation claim.

The opinion has broad implications, and should affect all cases involving property damage allegedly caused by a public work.

Some of our recent projects

Here are some of the matters the firm has been working on in the recent past:

  • Helped the San Diego Pooled Insurance Program Authority negotiate a merger under which the pool was able to wind up its separate operations and distribute surplus, transfer coverage for existing claims, secure protection for past claim years, and avoid termination penalties with CalPERS, while managing claims during a wind up period.
  • Helped the City of Half Moon Bay recover $18.6 million in coverage benefits after the City was hit with a large judgment for which coverage had been previously denied.
  • Helped pool member the City of Oroville secure a hearing in the California Supreme Court for what should be a landmark inverse condemnation case.
  • Helped a park and recreation self insurance pool rewrite its policies and procedures manual.
  • Secured several million dollars in assessments for a workers compensation self insurance group.
  • Helped a commercial lessor negotiate a series of lease purchases and mergers.
  • Secured a six figure recovery for the victim of a drunk driver.
  • Secured a multi million dollar recovery for a client in a life insurance dispute.
  • Lectured at risk pooling seminars on topics of insurance coverage, inverse condemnation, municipal bankruptcy, and sewer ordinances.