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Law School Case Brief

City of Ukiah v. Fones - 64 Cal. 2d 104, 48 Cal. Rptr. 865, 410 P.2d 369 (1966)


Waiver always rests upon intent. Waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right after knowledge of the facts. The burden, moreover, is on the party claiming a waiver of a right to prove it by clear and convincing evidence that does not leave the matter to speculation, and doubtful cases will be decided against a waiver.


On June 9, 1959, at the age of 66, defendant George Fones was summarily dismissed from his job as janitor at plaintiff City of Ukiah's municipal library by the librarian and the library's board of trustees. The city council ordered his reinstatement on the ground that he was a civil service employee and had not been accorded the procedural safeguards prescribed by the civil service ordinance. The library board refused to comply, and on Oct. 21, 1959, the City filed a declaratory relief action seeking to assert the jurisdiction of its civil service system over the library's employees. Defendants in the action were the librarian, the library board, and Fones, the latter being a defendant in name only. To expedite the litigation, a lengthy stipulation was entered into between the city, the librarian, the library board and Fones on Jan. 20, 1960. The stipulation declared that Fones' dismissal was not in compliance with the city's civil service ordinance, that Fones was "ready, able and willing" to perform the duties of the position, and that "if George Fones has been wrongfully denied a Civil Service position as janitor at said Library he is entitled to salary from the date of dismissal to the date of the filing of this Complaint minus what he earned or might reasonable have earned during said period." The trial court first ruled that Fones was not a civil service employee of the City but served at the pleasure of the library board. On appeal, however, the judgment was reversed and Fones was held to be a civil service employee. The case was returned to the trial court for a determination of Fones' rights to back salary and to reinstatement. The court found that Fones was not entitled to reinstatement because during the course of the litigation he had reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. On the salary issue, Fones argued that he was entitled to some $ 12,000 in arrearage for the three-and-a-half-year period from his wrongful dismissal until his attainment of retirement age. The court found, however, that because of the stipulation of Jan. 20, 1960, Fones' recovery would be limited to $ 855.30, his salary for the four-month period between the date of dismissal and the filing of the City's complaint for declaratory relief, less appropriate offsets, as the stipulation was considered a waiver. The trial court held that by signing the stipulation, Fones impliedly gave up any claim to salary for the period after the filing of the complaint.


Can a stipulation entered into by a discharged civil service employee, stating that if his discharge was wrongful is entitled to back salary for the period prior to the filing of the complaint, be deemed a waiver by him of all wages to which he would have been entitled for the period subsequent to that date and until reinstatement or retirement?




The state supreme court reversed, holding that no such waiver was implied and that the City's showing of waiver was insufficient as a matter of law. The stipulation made no mention of denying Fones' right to salary for the period following the filing of the complaint and, if such a denial had been intended, nothing would have been simpler than to state it in the stipulation. To uphold the City's position would have required speculation as to the motives dictating the stipulation's language and the necessity of such speculation demonstrated that proof of such a waiver was not clear and convincing.

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