Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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The plaintiffs represent a certified class of current and former employees of Westamerica Bank who allege that Westamerica violated the Labor Code. The parties agreed that the parties would depose 30 class members as part of a pilot study to determine how many additional depositions are needed for a valid random sample of the class generally. Over Westamerica’s objection, the trial court ordered that the parties share the deposition costs equally.The court of appeal dismissed an appeal. The order is not appealable under the collateral order doctrine. To be appealable, a collateral order must finally determine an issue collateral to the litigation and require the payment of money or performance of an act. Here, the matter is not final. Whether Westamerica ultimately pays for these depositions remains an open question. Because Westamerica’s liability for deposition costs has not been finally determined, and any error in the interim order may prove harmless, the issue is not ripe for appellate review. The court summarily rejected Westamerica’s request to treat the appeal as a petition for an extraordinary writ. View "Reddish v. Westamerica Bank" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal previously issued an opinion in this case on September 18, 2018, in which it affirmed the judgment. The California Supreme Court granted review in January 2019, deferring consideration and disposition until it decided a related issue in Oman v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 9 Cal.5th 762 (2020). In September 2020, the Supreme Court transferred this matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the September 18, 2018 opinion and to reconsider this appeal in light of Oman. This case arose from a certified wage and hour class action following a judgment after a bench trial in favor of defendants Certified Tire and Service Centers, Inc. (Certified Tire) and Barrett Business Services, Inc. (collectively defendants). Plaintiffs contended that Certified Tire violated the applicable minimum wage and rest period requirements by implementing a compensation program, which guaranteed its automotive technicians a specific hourly wage above the minimum wage for all hours worked during each pay period, but also gave them the possibility of earning a higher hourly wage for all hours worked during each pay period based on certain productivity measures. After considering the parties’ supplemental briefing on the applicability of Oman to the issues presented in this matter, the Court of Appeal concluded that that plaintiffs’ appeal lacked merit, and accordingly affirmed the judgment. View "Certified Tire & Service Centers Wage & Hour Cases" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were employees of Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurants owned and/or operated by defendants. In their lawsuit against defendants, plaintiffs asserted individual and class claims under various provisions of the Labor Code and the California Unfair Competition Law, and claims for violations of the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. The trial court certified eight classes and two subclasses, but later decertified all classes except for a subclass of dual rate employees who allegedly were underpaid by defendants for overtime hours worked. We refer to this subclass as the dual rate overtime subclass. The issue presented by this appeal was whether defendant employers violated California law in their method of calculating the regular rate of pay for purposes of compensating overtime hours of employees who worked at different rates of pay within a single pay period (dual rate employees). Defendants used the rate-in-effect method, by which dual rate employees were paid for overtime hours based on the rate in effect when the overtime hours began. Plaintiffs contended California law required defendants to use the weighted average method, by which dual rate employees were paid for overtime based on an hourly rate calculated by adding all hours worked in one pay period and dividing that number into the employee’s total compensation for the pay period. The trial court found, among other things, that defendants did not violate California employment law by using the rate-in-effect method for calculating the overtime rate of pay. Based on the ruling in the bench trial, the trial court decertified the dual rate overtime subclass and dismissed the PAGA claims. Plaintiffs appealed the order decertifying the dual rate overtime subclass and the order dismissing the PAGA claims. The Court of Appeal affirmed: California law did not mandate the use of the weighted average method, and defendants’ dual rate employees, including plaintiffs, overall received net greater overtime pay under the rate-in-effect method than they would have received under the weighted average method. View "Levanoff v. Dragas" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's motion to certify a class of employees of See's. Plaintiff alleges that See's did not provide required second meal breaks to shop employees who worked shifts longer than 10 hours.The court concluded that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in denying class certification where substantial evidence supports the trial court's conclusion that individual issues would predominate at trial. The court explained that the trial court carefully analyzed the evidence that plaintiff presented in support of her claim that she could establish liability through common proof. In light of evidence including time records showing that 24 percent of shifts longer than 10 hours actually included a second meal period, the trial court reasonably determined that at least some class members were offered a second meal period in accordance with the law. Therefore, the court explained that individual testimony would be necessary to show that See's consistently applied an unlawful practice. The court also concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in deciding that plaintiff's trial plan was inadequate to manage individual issues. View "Salazar v. See's Candy Shops, Inc." on Justia Law

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Guivini Gomez was a former employee of the Regents of the University of California (Regents) who sued the Regents, as the named plaintiff in a purported class action, claiming the Regents failed to pay her the required minimum wage for all hours she worked. However, she did not allege the Regents set her hourly wage below the minimum wage as established by California law. Instead, she contended the Regents’ time-keeping procedures of rounding hours and automatically deducting 30 minute meal breaks resulted in her not receiving the minimum wage for all hours she actually worked. In addition to claiming the Regents did not pay her the minimum wage, Gomez also sought penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act. The superior court sustained the Regents’ demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment in their favor. Gomez appealed, but finding no reversible error in the trial court's decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Gomez v. Regents of the University of Cal." on Justia Law

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In a fifth amended class action complaint, plaintiffs Kelly Peviani, Judy Rudolph, and Zachary Rudolph, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, sued defendants Arbors at California Oaks Property Owner, LLC and JRK Residential Group, Inc. Plaintiffs alleged “Defendants advertise with colorful brochures and promising language that the Property is a safe, habitable, and luxurious place to live, with numerous amenities including a playground, cabanas and lounges, tennis and basketball courts, a rock climbing wall, gym, and pools and heated spas. But the Property is nothing of the kind. Instead, the Property is littered with used condoms, drug use, broken security gates, violence, is devoid of security patrols, and police are called to the complex on a regular basis. The pools are dirty, and the fitness equipment is broken. The complex is unsafe for tenants, especially children, and does not deliver on its material promises.” The complaint included eight causes of action: (1) false advertising; (2) breach of the implied warranty of habitability; (3) nuisance; (4) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (5) bad faith retention of security deposits; and (6) three causes of action for unfair competition. Plaintiffs moved for certification of two classes, but the trial court denied the motion. Plaintiffs contended on appeal the trial court erred by denying their class certification motion. In regard to the false advertising claim, the trial court denied class certification due to a lack of commonality that would, in turn, cause the class to be unmanageable. After review of the trial court record, the Court of Appeal determined the trial court's commonality finding was flawed, making its related conclusion pertaining to manageability unreliable. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Peviani v. Arbors at California Oaks Property Owner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked as a delivery driver for TBS, a “last-mile” delivery company whose primary client was Amazon.com. At the start of his employment, he signed an At-Will Employment, Non-Disclosure, Non-Solicitation, Class-Action Waiver and Arbitration Agreement. Plaintiff filed suit asserting violations of the Labor Code, California’s Unfair Competition Law, and the Private Attorneys General Act, unlawful retaliation, and wrongful termination. The trial court denied TBS’s motion to compel the plaintiff to arbitrate his individual claims and to dismiss his class claims. The court found that the plaintiff was exempt from Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 1, FAA) coverage because he was a transportation worker engaged in interstate commerce and that the class action waiver was unenforceable, rendering the arbitration agreement unenforceable.The court of appeal affirmed that the plaintiff is exempt from FAA coverage and that the class action waiver is unenforceable under California law. The court reversed the order denying the motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s individual claims; the trial court improperly found the arbitration agreement unenforceable in its entirety rather than severing the class action waiver provision from the remainder of the employment agreement and considering the validity of the arbitration provision with respect to the individual claims for unlawful retaliation and wrongful termination. View "Betancourt v. Transportation Brokerage Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Mosanthony Wilson and Nancy Urschel brought a putative wage-and-hour class action against defendant The La Jolla Group (LJG). Plaintiffs worked for LJG as signature gatherers on behalf of political campaigns and political action committees. LJG classified them as independent contractors and paid them per signature submitted. In the underlying lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that LJG misclassified them and, as employees, they were entitled to a minimum wage, overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, expense reimbursement, timely final wage payment, and itemized wage statements. Plaintiffs moved for certification of a class of LJG signature gatherers, which the trial court denied. Plaintiffs appealed the order denying class certification, contending the trial court erred by finding common questions did not predominate and the class action procedure was not superior to individual actions. They also contended the court erred by not granting a related motion for reconsideration. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed that on the current record, the trial court erred by declining to certify a class for one cause of action, for failure to provide written and accurate itemized wage statements. The Court therefore reversed the order denying class certification in part, as to that cause of action only, and remand for reconsideration. Otherwise, the Court concluded the trial court did not err and affirmed. View "Wilson v. The La Jolla Group" on Justia Law

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Appellants Area 55, LLC, and SAB Holdings, LLC appealed a trial court order granting the special motion to strike their first amended complaint for malicious prosecution and the related judgment of dismissal in favor of Respondents Nicholas & Tomasevic, LLP (N&T), Craig Nicholas, and Alex Tomasevic. Appellants included the successors to Vinturi, Inc. (Vinturi), which developed and sold the “ ‘Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator’ for wine-lovers who want to enhance their experience of drinking wine.” Vinturi started selling the Vinturi Aerator in 2006. As sold to the public, the box contained the Vinturi body with a decorative black silicone band, a rubber stand, and a filter screen -- parts all made in China, transported to the United States, and assembled in the United States. From 2006 until 2010, Vinturi sold its aerator in the United States with the statement “ ‘VINTURI IS MANUFACTURED IN THE USA’ ” printed on the bottom panel of the box. Attorney Nicholas filed various consumer fraud claims, challenging Appellants claim the aerator was made in the U.S. when the components were made in China. Appellants were successful in getting two class action cases dismissed. In 2018, Appellants filed the present case for malicious prosecution, resulting in the grant of Respondents' "SLAPP" motion on appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in ruling that Appellants could not establish the prior action was not terminated on its merits. "Thus, for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute, the court erred in ruling that Appellants did not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits of their malicious prosecution claim." In addition, in its de novo review, the Court exercised discretion to reach the additional issues raised by the parties in the motion and opposition: Appellants made a sufficient prima facie showing of the remaining elements of their claim, and Respondents did not defeat Appellants’ claim as a matter of law. Accordingly, the order granting Respondents’ special motion to strike the complaint was vacated and reversed. On remand, the trial court was directed to enter a new and different order denying Respondents’ special motion. View "Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Staples. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in applying the class action tolling rules articulated in Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co. (1988) 44 Cal.3d 1103. The court explained that plaintiff was entitled, due to the pendency of the Wesson and Hatgis class certification proceedings, to claim the benefit of the class action tolling rule established by the United States Supreme Court in American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah (1974) 414 U.S. 538, as adopted by Jolly. Therefore, with the exception of the claim for failure to furnish accurate itemized wage statements, the trial court erred in ruling that plaintiff's claims were time barred. In this case, because plaintiff concedes his claim for failure to furnish accurate itemized wage statements is time barred, even if tolling applies, the court affirmed the summary adjudication of that claim. The court reversed summary judgment in all other respects. View "Hildebrandt v. Staples the Office Superstore, LLC" on Justia Law