Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Temporary staffing agency FlexCare, LLC assigned Lynn Grande to work as a nurse at Eisenhower Medical Center (Eisenhower). According to Grande, during her employment at Eisenhower, FlexCare and Eisenhower failed to ensure she received her required meal and rest breaks, wages for certain periods she worked, and overtime wages. Grande was a named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against FlexCare brought on behalf of FlexCare employees assigned to hospitals throughout California. Her own claims were based solely on her work on assignment at Eisenhower. FlexCare settled with the class, including Grande, and Grande received $162.13 for her injuries, plus a class representative incentive bonus of $20,000. Grande executed a release of claims, and the trial court entered a judgment incorporating the settlement agreement. About a year later, Grande brought a second class action alleging the same labor law violations, this time against Eisenhower, who was not a party to the previous lawsuit. FlexCare intervened in the action asserting Grande could not bring the separate lawsuit against Eisenhower because she had settled her claims against them in the prior class action. The trial court held a trial narrowed to questions as to the propriety of the lawsuit, and ruled Eisenhower was not a released party under the settlement agreement and could not avail itself of the doctrine of res judicata because the hospital was neither a party to the prior litigation nor in privity with FlexCare. Eisenhower petitioned for a petition for a writ of mandate and FlexCare appealed the trial court’s interlocutory order. The Court of appeal concurred with the trial court on grounds that Eisenhower and FlexCare were not in privity, preventing Eisenhower from blocking Grande’s claims under the doctrine of res judicata, and Eisenhower was not a released party under the settlement agreement. Therefore the appellate court denied mandamus relief. View "Grande v. Eisenhower Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that where, as here, a proposed class action lawsuit seeks restitution for violations of the Unfair Competition Law and false advertising law based on a series of allegedly deceptive advertisements offering a special promotional rate but defines the class as everyone who received the special promotional rate, the plaintiffs must establish that the following "elements" are "susceptible of common proof"—namely, (1) that the class members were exposed to the advertisements, and (2) that the various permutations of the advertisements were deceptive. The court held that the language in In re Tobacco II Cases (2009) 46 Cal.4th 298, is not to the contrary. The court also held that the trial court's finding that the issues of exposure and deceptiveness were not susceptible of common proof was supported by substantial evidence. View "Downey v. Public Storage, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Plaintiffs filed suit against their former employer, Eurostar, alleging that the company violated California wage and hour laws by failing to provide employees with required meal and rest breaks and compelling employees to work off the clock at Eurostar's Warehouse Shoe Sale (WSS) retail shoe stores in California. The Court of Appeal held that, in the wake of Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, if the employer has a break policy that is compliant with the applicable wage order but silent as to certain requirements, the omission of those requirements did not support class certification in the absence of evidence of a uniform unlawful policy or practice. The court also held that where an employer has a uniform written break policy that on its face is unlawful, but in practice the policy has not been applied to company employees, is it not suitable for class certification. The court held that although trial courts must be wary of analyzing evidence of wage and hour violations at the class certification stage in a manner that prejudges the merits, they may properly consider the evidence to determine whether classwide liability can be established through common proof. In this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying class certification because plaintiffs failed to show they could prove Eurostar's liability for meal break, rest break, and off-the-clock violations by common proof at trial. Furthermore, the trial court did not err in considering the evidence submitted by the parties as to Eurostar's policy and practices to assist the court in making the threshold determination whether plaintiffs could prove liability for the alleged violations with common proof. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cacho v. Eurostar, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Brown, a tenant in low-income, rent-controlled housing owned and managed by Upside, filed suit on behalf of herself and other similarly situated persons, alleging violations of Hayward’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance. According to Brown, Upside claimed an exemption to the ordinance based upon misleading information and thereafter imposed upon the often non-English-speaking tenants illegal rent increases, charged excessive late fees, and failed to pay required security deposit interest. Upside representatives approached the tenants individually with pre-written releases from the class action along with pre-written checks as “compensation.” The trial court invalidated those releases (signed by approximately 26 tenant putative class members) and required the parties to confer regarding a corrective notice for the putative class. The court found that the releases contained misleading and one-sided information regarding the underlying lawsuit. The court of appeal dismissed Upside’s appeal of the order as taken from a nonappealable order. The court rejected Upside’s argument that the order was appealable as an injunctive order within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1(a)(6) because it mandates certain actions on their part with respect to the putative class members. Section 904.1 provides no basis for appealing a standard interlocutory order. View "Brown v. Upside Gading, LP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action alleging claims for unfair and/or deceptive business practices under Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL) and violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). The trial court denied class certification. Plaintiff sought declarations that Dignity Health's billing practices as they relate to uninsured individuals who received emergency care at a Dignity Health hospital in California are "unfair, unconscionable and/or unreasonable" and that, because the prices to be charged are not adequately disclosed or readily available to those individuals, its admissions contract contains an "open price" term within the meaning of Civil Code section 1611. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court used an unduly restrictive standard to evaluate the proposed class's ascertainability; the trial court misperceived plaintiff's primary theory of liability in evaluating whether common issues of law or fact predominate; and, although substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that the class definition in the certification motion may not be manageable, a more limited class should be certified in this case. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to certify a modified issue class. View "Sarun v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Williams stopped working for Impax in 2013. Four years later, she filed a class action complaint under the unfair competition law, identifying unlawful business practices in which Impax allegedly engaged, including failing to pay overtime wages, provide meal and rest periods, and pay minimum wages. Williams proposed a class of all individuals employed by Impax during the previous four years. The court struck the class allegations; because Williams could not pursue all remedies otherwise available to the putative class, due to the statute of limitations, Williams cannot be a suitable class representative. The court gave her 45 days to amend, suggesting the addition of another class representative. The court denied Williams’s request to conduct discovery to locate other class representatives. Williams neither sought review nor amended her complaint to name a new plaintiff. Her first amended complaint essentially re-alleged the class contentions from her original complaint, Williams asserted that the order was “impossible” to comply with. The court struck the class allegations and directed Williams to file a second amended complaint. The court of appeal dismissed; the order is not appealable under the death knell doctrine, which authorizes an interlocutory appeal of the first, but only the first, order in a case that extinguishes all of a plaintiff’s class claims. The court declined to address her argument that the court thwarted her from pursuing discovery of the class list, which she needed to name another class representative. View "Williams v. Impax Laboratories, Inc.," on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and a proposed class of similarly situated county utility ratepayers, filed suit against the city and the Department of Water and Power (DWP), alleging that DWP overcharged ratepayers for electric utility usage. After a class was certified for a proposed settlement, an unnamed class member timely objected and filed an application to intervene. The trial court denied the application, overruled the unnamed class member's objection, approved the settlement, and entered a judgment under the settlement terms. The Court of Appeal dismissed the unnamed class member's appeal, holding that she was not a party of record and has not utilized the procedures available to alter her status. Therefore, she lacked standing to appeal from the judgment. View "Eck v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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The Song-Beverly Credit Card Act (Civ. Code 1747) makes it unlawful for merchants to request or require customers to provide “personal identification information” as a condition to accepting a credit card for payment. In 2015, the court of appeal held (Harrold) the Act does not prohibit merchants from requesting such information unless the request is made under circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe the information is required to complete the transaction. The trial court decertified a class of plaintiffs who alleged that retailer Williams-Sonoma violated the Act by requesting their zip codes or email addresses because any violation would depend on the circumstances of the specific transaction. Zip codes and emails were requested regardless of the form of payment. If the customer declined, the sales clerk bypassed the request. Employees had discretion not to solicit the information at all and could explain that the information was not required and was only being collected for marketing purposes. Williams-Sonoma neither rewards its employees for collecting the information nor disciplines them if they do not. Williams-Sonoma required each of its California stores to post signs at the cash registers stating that zip codes and email addresses were requested solely for marketing purposes and were not required. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the court correctly applied the Harrold legal standard and its ruling is supported by substantial evidence. View "Williams-Sonoma Song-Beverly Act Cases" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's motion for class certification in an employee misclassification case against his former employer, and the trial court's order terminating depositions of class members. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for class certification based on issues of predominance and superiority. In this case, the record contained evidence sufficient to support the trial court's finding that variations between the hundreds of properties the 228 putative class members were responsible for would command individual inquiries. Similarly, the evidence to support the trial court's superiority determination was largely the same as evidence supporting the predominance determination. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it terminated depositions of putative class members whose declarations the employer submitted in opposition to plaintiff's motion for class certification. View "Modaraei v. Action Property Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants Merchants Building Maintenance, LLC and Merchants Building Maintenance Company (the MBM defendants) appeal from an order of the trial court denying their joint motion to compel arbitration. The MBM defendants moved to compel arbitration of a portion of plaintiff Loren Mejia's cause of action brought against them for various violations of the Labor Code under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The MDM defendants moved to compel arbitration of that portion of Mejia's PAGA claim in which she seeks "an amount sufficient to recover underpaid wages." The Court of Appeal reduced the issue presented as whether a court could split a single PAGA claim so as to require a representative employee to arbitrate that aspect of the claim in which the plaintiff sought to recover the portion of the penalty that represented the amount sufficient to recover underpaid wages, where the representative employee has agreed to arbitrate her individual wage claims, while at the same time have a court review that aspect of the employee's claim in which the plaintiff sought to recover the additional $50 or $100 penalties provided for in section 558 of the Labor Code for each violation of the wage requirements. The Court of Appeal concluded that a single PAGA claim seeking to recover section 558 civil penalties could not be "split" between that portion of the claim seeking an "amount sufficient to recover underpaid wages" and that portion of the claim seeking the $50 or $100 per-violation, per-pay-period assessment imposed for each wage violation. The Court affirmed the trial court's order denying the MDM defendants' motion to compel arbitration in this case. View "Mejia v. Merchants Building Maintenance" on Justia Law