Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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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

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Defendants-appellants Catalina Restaurant Group, Inc., Carrows Restaurants, Inc., Carrows Family Restaurants, Inc., Coco’s Bakery Restaurants, Inc. and Coco’s Restaurants, Inc. (collectively, Catalina Defendants) appealed the partial denial of their motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff-respondent Yalila Lacayo (Lacayo) was an employee of Catalina Defendants, and filed a plaintiff’s class action complaint on behalf of herself and others similarly situated (Class Members) against Catalina Defendants in superior court alleging numerous wage and hour violations under the Labor Code, and an injunctive relief claim under California’s unfair competition law (UCL). Catalina Defendants responded by filing a motion to compel arbitration of Lacayo’s individual claims, including the UCL claim, and dismissal of the class claims (Motion). The trial court granted the Motion as to Lacayo’s individual claims; refused to dismiss the class claims, instead letting the arbitrator decide if the class claims were subject to arbitration or a class action waiver; and denied the Motion as to the UCL claim; and stayed the matter until after arbitration was completed. Catalina Defendants on appeal argued the trial court erred by: (1) refusing to enforce the individual arbitration agreement according to its terms; and (2) refusing to compel arbitration of Lacayo’s UCL claim. In supplemental briefing, both parties addressed whether Catalina Defendants could appeal the trial court’s order granting arbitration of individual claims but refusing to dismiss the classwide claims, leaving the decision for the arbitrator. The Court of Appeal found Catalina Defendants could not appeal the portion of the Motion that granted arbitration for Lacayo’s individual claims and the refusal to dismiss the class claims. The Court of Appeal only addressed the order finding that the UCL claim was not subject to arbitration, and affirmed the trial court's order denying defendants' Motion as to the UCL claim. View "Lacayo v. Catalina Restaurant Group Inc." on Justia Law

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Inspectors filed a putative class action alleging that they were entitled to, but deprived of minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, reimbursement of expenses, and accurate wage statements. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of certification and held that, under the analytic framework promulgated by Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, and Duran v. U.S. Bank National Assn. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 1, the trial court acted within its discretion in denying certification. In this case, the inspectors' trial plan was inadequate and unfair, because litigation of individual issues, including those arising from affirmative defenses, could not be managed fairly and efficiently using only an anonymous survey of all class members. For example, an employer's liability for failure to provide overtime or rest breaks will depend on the employees' individual circumstances. View "McCleery v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former Safeway employees, appealed the trial court's judgment against them on two causes of action under the unfair competition law (UCL) and the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the trial court properly granted Safeway summary adjudication on the UCL claim because plaintiffs failed to submit evidence raising a triable issue of material fact regarding whether Safeway's no-premium-wages policy harmed the class members in a manner entitling them to the only UCL remedy plaintiff's sought, viz., restitution. Furthermore, even assuming plaintiffs raised a triable issue regarding whether Safeway took from the class members the value of the statutory guarantee, they failed to raise a triable issue regarding their ability to measure that value. The court also held that the trial court properly struck the PAGA claim because it was untimely. View "Esparza v. Safeway, Inc." on Justia Law

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Timlick filed a class action complaint, alleging that after defaulting on a loan, Timlick received a collection letter from a third-party debt collector (NES) that did not comply with section 1812.701(b) of the Consumer Collection Notice law because certain statutorily-required language was not in a type-size that was at least the same as used to inform Timlick of the debt, or 12-point type. NES moved for summary judgment on the basis that it cured the alleged violation within the 15-day period prescribed by section 1788.30(d) and sent a letter to Timlick’s attorney, enclosing a revised collection letter. Timlick did not dispute NES’s facts but argued section 1788.30(d) should not apply. The trial court granted NES summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed. A debt collector that violates the minimum type-size requirement for consumer collection letters can utilize the procedure for curing violations under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but the trial court erred by dismissing the entire putative class action, as this allowed the debt collector to unilaterally “pick off” the named plaintiff and avoid class action litigation. View "Timlick v. National Enterprise Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Tucker filed suit in December 2003, under the unfair competition law, challenging Cingular’s marketing of mobile phone monthly rates. Plaintiff Hodge was added after Tucker lost standing. After several years of motions, discovery, and appellate proceedings, Hodge filed a fifth amended complaint in 2011. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the class allegations without leave to amend and sustained the demurrer to the individual fraud claims with leave to amend. Following a remand, the operative seventh amended complaint was filed in August 2013. Cingular successfully moved to strike the class claims, arguing Hodge had changed her plan and lacked standing. The court of appeal again remanded. The trial court then dismissed for failure to comply with Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310, which requires an action to “be brought to trial within five years after the action is commenced.” Plaintiffs argued that the pretrial order dismissing the class claims qualified as a “trial” for purposes of section 583.310. In class action lawsuits, such a pretrial order is treated as a final judgment and is immediately appealable under the “death knell doctrine.” The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal. A death knell order does not constitute a trial under the five-year dismissal statute and an appellate decision reversing such an order does not trigger the statute’s three-year extension. View "Rel v. Pacific Bell Mobile Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Roger Myers, Dave Billings, Greg Neyhart, and Jim Mestas were nonexempt maintenance technicians for Raley’s grocery stores. Plaintiffs alleged they were required to drive company vehicles carrying their own tools as well as specialized tools, and they were not allowed to run personal errands without special permission or carry passengers who were not Raley’s employees except in an emergency. Despite Raley’s control over their driving time, they were not compensated for the time they spent driving to their first store or driving home from the last store they service each day. They claimed Raley’s uniform practice violated California law. These uniform policies and practices, according to the technicians, presented common issues of fact and law and their legality were particularly well suited to a class action. In denying class certification, the trial court made the conclusory finding plaintiffs failed to establish that a well-defined community of interest exists and that the common issues of fact and law predominate. The Court of Appeal determined that because the trial court’s cursory finding rendered its review "impossible," and because cases decided after the trial court’s ruling exposed the dangers of employing the wrong legal criteria, asking the wrong questions, or inflating the significance of the opposing parties’ evidence, the Court of Appeal remanded this case back to the trial court for reconsideration in light of Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc., 59 Cal.4th 522 (2014) and Jones v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 221 Cal.App.4th 986 (2013), and for a statement of reasons to ensure the court did not use improper criteria or rely on erroneous legal assumptions. View "Myers v. Raley's" on Justia Law