Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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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

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Robinson worked as a truck driver for Southern in 2015-2017. In 2018, after filing a notice with the California Labor Workforce Development Agency, he filed suit under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) (Lab. Code 2698), alleging that Southern denied Robinson and other employees meal and rest breaks, and, as a result, failed to pay timely wages, furnish complete and accurate wage statements, and pay all wages due upon termination.The San Diego County Superior Court subsequently approved a settlement in a class action that sought individual damages and civil penalties under PAGA for the same alleged Labor Code violations (Gutierrez), which covered all persons employed by Southern in certain jobs, 2013-2018. Robinson and three other employees opted out of the class settlement. Robinson amended the allegations of his complaint to represent Southern employees who opted out of the Gutierrez settlement and persons who were employed by Southern from January 27, 2018, to the present. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the case. Robinson is barred from bringing a PAGA action asserting the same claims that were settled in Gutierrez and lacks standing to bring a representative action on behalf of employees employed during the time period when he was no longer employed by Southern. View "Robinson v. Southern Counties Oil Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sofia Barriga filed this lawsuit against 99 Cents Only Stores LLC, (99 Cents) individually, and on behalf of similarly situated current and former nonexempt employees of 99 Cents hired before October 1, 1999, pleading various Labor Code violations and violation of the unfair competition law. Plaintiff alleged 99 Cents had a zero-tolerance policy that required its stores to lock their doors at closing time, therefore, forcing nonexempt, nonmanagerial employees, who worked the graveyard shift and clock out for their meal break or at the end of their shift, to wait for as long as 15 minutes for a manager with a key to let them out of the store. According to plaintiff, 99 Cents did not pay its employees for the time they had to wait be let out, and the policy denied employees their full half-hour meal break. Plaintiff moved the trial court to certify two classes: (1) “Off the Clock Class,” and (2) “Meal Period Class.” 99 Cents opposed the certification motion, contending there was no community of interests among putative class members, and the lack of common issues among putative class members would render a class action unmanageable. Plaintiff moved to strike 174 declarations of employee declarants who were members of the proposed classes on the grounds the process by which they had been obtained was improper, and because they were substantively inconsistent with the subsequent deposition testimony of 12 of declarants. Concluding it lacked the statutory authority to strike the declarations, the trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to strike. And, based on all 174 declarations, the court concluded plaintiff had not demonstrated a community of interests or a commonality of issues among putative class members. Plaintiff appealed those orders. The Court of Appeal found the record demonstrated the trial court in this case was unaware of the need to scrutinize 99 Cents’ declarations carefully, and was either unaware of or misunderstood the scope of its discretion to either strike or discount the weight to be given the 174 declarations, including the declarations of employees who were not members of the putative classes, if it concluded they were obtained under coercive or abusive circumstances. The orders denying plaintiff’s motion to strike 99 Cents’ declarations and class certification motion were reversed, and the matter remanded for reconsideration. View "Barriga v. 99 Cents Only Stores LLC" on Justia Law

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In the 2005 Burakoff class action, the court (in 2008) certified two subclasses of California Bancorp financial consultants for a period running through the date of the order. Subclass A “worked more than 40 hours in a week or 8 hours in a day, but did not receive overtime pay.” Subclass B were illegally required to pay their business expenses. Williams joined Bancorp in 2007, becoming a member of the Burakoff putative class. In 2010, he filed another class action, alleging similar causes of action for a class period beginning the day after the Burakoff class period ended, with consistent subclasses.The trial court stayed the Williams case pending Burakoff's resolution. In 2011, the court decertified the Burakoff overtime subclass, for lack of sufficient commonality. In 2012, the parties settled Burakoff. Williams participated in that settlement as a member of Subclass B. He did not, nor did any absent members of Subclass A, release his wage and hour claims. Bancorp then demanded arbitration under an agreement Williams had signed. Bancorp argued the Burakoff decertification order collaterally estopped Williams from relitigating the appropriateness of class certification. Williams agreed to the dismissal of his claim for unpaid business expenses. Following a remand, the trial court granted a motion to compel arbitration of Williams’s individual claims, concluding that a class decertification order may have collateral estoppel effect. The court of appeal reversed. An order denying certification to a proposed class does not preclude an absent member of the putative class from later seeking to certify an identical class in a second action; collateral estoppel does not bar an absent member in a putative class that was initially certified, but later decertified, from subsequently pursuing an identical class action. View "Williams v. U.S. Bancorp Investments, Inc." on Justia Law