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Plaintiff physician appealed a judgment from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), dismissing his action against defendant County of Los Angeles for specific enforcement of a settlement agreement entered into to resolve an employment dispute plaintiff had pursued before the county civil service commission.

California Business Lawyer & Corporate Lawyer, Inc. is an Orange County business attorney

Overview

Plaintiff physician and defendant County of Los Angeles settled an administrative action brought by plaintiff alleging discrimination in denying him a position in the cardiology department of the county hospital. When defendant failed to honor the settlement agreement, plaintiff brought the instant action for specific performance and declaratory relief. Plaintiff also filed a petition for writ of mandate, seeking to have the county civil service commission ordered to enforce the settlement agreement. The trial court in that action denied relief, finding that plaintiff failed to establish discrimination and was guilty of laches in seeking the writ. The trial court dismissed the instant action on collateral estoppel grounds. On appeal, the court affirmed on other grounds. It could not be concluded on the pleadings that plaintiff was guilty of laches. However, the remedy of specific performance was not available to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement, which was in essence a personal service contract, due to the common law rule, codified in Cal. Civ. Code § 3390, that such contracts cannot be specifically enforced. Plaintiff's only remedy was an action at law for damages.

Outcome

The judgment dismissing plaintiff physician's action was affirmed. The pleadings did not establish that he was guilty of laches in bringing his action against defendant county for specific performance. However, the settlement agreement was essentially a contract for personal services and common law, and a statute barred specific enforcement of such contracts. Plaintiff's only remedy was an action at law for damages for breach of contract.

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