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Orloff v. L.A. Turf Club, Inc. - 30 Cal. 2d 110, 180 P.2d 321 (1947)

Rule:

In regard to the rule of statutory interpretation that statutes in derogation of the common law are to be strictly construed, it should not apply when the remedy provided by statute is inadequate.

Facts:

Defendant Los Angeles Turf Club, Inc. ("Club") operated a horse racing course and a gambling establishment. On two separate occasions, plaintiff Morris Orloff purchased tickets for admission to the Club, was admitted, but was later ejected from the premises by the Club's employees. According to Orloff, the ejections were without cause, and each time he was told not to return to the Club and that, if he did, he would be refused admission or forcibly ejected. Orloff filed a lawsuit against the Club and others in California state court, seeking injunctive relief. The trial court dismissed the action, holding that Orloff had no right to injunctive relief and that the $ 100 remedy in Cal. Civ. Code § 54 was the sole available relief. Orloff appealed, arguing that the remedy provided in § 54 was inadequate to address the violation of his civil rights. 

Issue:

When a patron, such as Orloff, was refused admission to a place of amusement contrary to the provisions of Cal. Civ. Code § 53, was the $ 100 penalty provided by § 54 the only available relief? 

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the remedy in § 54 did not expressly exclude other forms of relief. The rule that statutes in derogation of the common law, such as § 54, were to be strictly construed did not apply in California. Further, that rule did not apply when the statutory remedy was inadequate. According to the Court, when a positive right was violated, specific relief should be granted. The historical rule that an injunction would only issue to protect property rights had been broadened to include personal rights when they were of substance. The injunctive statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 526, although not specifically stating that personal rights were protected by injunction, intimated that such rights could be the subject of an injunction. The inadequacy of the remedy for a civil rights violation fell within the statute. Accordingly, the judgment dismissing the suit requesting injunctive relief for a civil rights violation was reversed.

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