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Yes, election season is underway and it’s very exciting but some of the most fascinating debates about the role of government right now are actually playing out in local courts.

In a new story, Sara Libby lays out the major issues at play in the city attorney’s lawsuit against grocery delivery app Instacart

Though many companies and groups of workers have filed suit against AB 5, the law written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that lays out when workers can be classified as independent contractors, the Instacart lawsuit represents one of the only cases in which a government agency has sued a gig company over how it classifies its workers.

Instacart, meanwhile, not only refutes the city attorney’s points, it is also arguing that because its workers signed arbitration agreements, the case shouldn’t even be in the court system.

In arguing that its gig workers should resolve any disputes with the company via arbitration, Instacart has put itself at the center of two of the biggest firestorms over the future of work,” Libby writes.

Class Action Filed Over Car Rental Fee

A New Mexico man has filed a class action lawsuit over a “bogus tax” on car rentals at the San Diego International Airport.

The $3.50 fee — imposed by the Port of San Diego in May 2018 — was deemed illegal in a recent tentative decision by Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal. She agreed with car rental companies who in 2018 argued that the fee was an unlawful tax providing no benefit to their customers. 

The fee has collected nearly $7.3 million so far and remains in place amid the dispute. Now, Jeffrey Garvin, who said he rented vehicles at the airport during trips to San Diego in recent years, is suing several rental car companies over the fee.

If the court agrees to let the suit proceed, customers who paid the fee would be able to enter the legal fray and try to get their money back as well. 

As Ashly McGlone reports, it’s not clear whether the court will sign off on the class action, or how it could be impacted if the trial court decision finding the charge unlawful is finalized and appealed by the Port of San Diego.

SeaWorld VP: We Lied When We Said ‘Blackfish’ Didn’t Hurt Us

SeaWorld has agreed to pay $65 million to settle a lawsuit claiming it misled investors when it claimed the documentary “Blackfish” was not having any ill effects on park attendance or its overall business, the Union-Tribune reported.

It may now seem obvious that the 2013 film hurt the company, but at the time, executives were adamant to both investors and the press that the film was irrelevant to the company’s bottom line.

VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt spent months investigating what came to be known as “the Blackfish effect” back in 2014, when the company insisted there was no such thing. In March 2014, for instance, the company claimed on a financial results call that the movie had “no effect on our business,” arguing that animal activists who claimed otherwise “don’t necessarily burden themselves with fact.”

A month later, the company revealed its attendance fell 13 percent. But the company had prepped investors for that news, claiming the fall owed to Easter falling later in the month than usual.

In a deposition related to the case, SeaWorld’s former VP of communications Fred Jacobs acknowledged lying to reporters when he said the film hadn’t harmed the company in any way, and said he did so at the direction of the company’s former CEO, Jim Atchison.

In Other News

  • The San Diego City Council unanimously approved funding for a new public plaza at Balboa Park Monday. (KPBS)
  • A San Diego Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit this week that could have shut down millions of dollars in utility undergrounding work across the city. (Union-Tribune)
  • Several mistakes led to an infected coronavirus patient mistakenly being discharged from UC San Diego Health Sunday, reports the Union-Tribune. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is now investigating whether others were exposed.
  • The Union-Tribune and 10News are out with a new mayoral poll, and it’s telling the same story as all the other public polls in the race: Assemblyman Todd Gloria is solidly in the lead, and Councilman Scott Sherman is in second place, with Councilwoman Barbara Bry right on his heels. A huge share of voters is undecided. (Union-Tribune)

Correction

Tuesday’s Morning Report misattributed a quote from a Los Angeles Times article about local politicians’ involvement in the border sewage deal. The Times reported that Rep. Juan Vargas said Rep. Mike Levin was “like a dog with a bone” on the issue.

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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