Articles Posted in Class Action

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Plaintiff Jorge Fierro filed suit on behalf of himself and others like him against defendant Landry's Restaurants, Inc., seeking remedies for what Fierro alleged to be Landry's Restaurants's violations of specified California labor laws and wage orders. Landry's Restaurants demurred to the complaint on the basis that each of the causes of action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. As to Fierro's individual claims, the trial court overruled the demurrer, concluding that the statute of limitations defense did not appear affirmatively on the face of the complaint. As to the class claims, the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on the basis that a prior class action with identical class claims against Landry's Restaurants had been dismissed for failure to bring the case to trial in five years as required by Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.360. Under the "death knell" doctrine, Fierro appealed that portion of the order sustaining without leave to amend the demurrer to the class claims. Previously, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion reversing the order on the basis that the applicable statutes of limitations on the class claims had been tolled. However, the California Supreme Court granted review and transferred the matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the opinion and to reconsider the cause in light of the United States Supreme Court's opinion in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 138 S.Ct. 1800 (2018) an opinion issued following the filing of the appellate court's opinion but before issuance of the remittitur. After vacating its decision, the Court of Appeal requested and received supplemental briefing from the parties as to the potential application of China Agritech to the issues presented in this appeal. In determining whether the statutes of limitations barred Fierro's class claims, the Court of Appeal concluded there was no basis on which to apply equitable (or any other form of) tolling. Although that determination will result in at least some of the class's claims being time-barred, on the record, the Court could not say that all of the class's claims were untimely. Thus, the Court reversed the order sustaining Fierro's demurrer without leave to amend and remanded for further proceedings in which the trial court could decide, on a more developed record, issues related to class certification and/or timeliness of class claims. View "Fierro v. Landry's Restaurant, Inc." on Justia Law

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Former employees of Dark Horse filed suit alleging wage and hour claims on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated employees. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The court held that, in denying the motion for class certification, the trial court used improper criteria or erroneous legal assumptions, which affected its analysis of whether plaintiffs' claims and one of defendant’s defenses presented predominantly common issues, suitable for determination on a class basis. Accordingly, the court remanded to the trial court to reconsider and redetermine the motion for class certification. View "Jimenez-Sanchez v. Dark Horse Express, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kileigh Carrington filed a complaint against her former employer, Starbucks Corporation, asserting a representative cause of action under the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA). In her suit, she claimed Starbucks failed to properly provide meal breaks or pay meal period premiums for certain employees in violation of Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512. In a bifurcated bench trial on plaintiff's action, the trial court determined Starbucks was liable for these violations and imposed penalties of $150,000, with 75 percent thereof payable to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and 25 percent payable to Carrington and the employees she represented in the action. The trial court entered judgment in Carrington's favor. Starbucks appealed, arguing Carrington failed to prove she was an aggrieved employee and failed to prove a representative claim. After review, the Court of Appeal found no legal error and find that substantial evidence supported the judgment. View "Carrington v. Starbucks Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that they were employees of insurers and service companies jointly, and were entitled to but deprived of minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, reimbursement of expenses, and accurate wage statements. On remand, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying 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. View "McCleery v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action

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Employee Edwards filed a putative class action lawsuit against employer Heartland for wage and hour violations. Employees Torres and Martinez filed a separate, later putative class action lawsuit against Heartland for similar violations. After Edwards entered into a proposed class action settlement with Heartland and amended her complaint to encompass the claims asserted by Torres and Martinez, Torres and Martinez filed a motion to intervene in Edwards’ lawsuit. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeal affirmed. The Torres plaintiffs were not entitled to mandatory intervention mandatory intervention under Code of Civil Procedure section 387(b): their ability to protect their interest would not be practically impaired or impeded by the settlement in Edwards because they could opt out of or object to the settlement. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying permissive intervention; they do not need to intervene to seek discovery; as objectors, they may seek discovery to ensure sufficient information has been provided to evaluate the fairness of the settlement. View "Edwards v. Heartland Payment Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were class representatives of current and former employees of defendant Pacific Bell Telephone Company who installed and repaired video and internet services in customers’ homes. They appealed a judgment in favor of defendant following cross-motions for summary judgment or summary judgment. Plaintiffs sought compensation for the time they spent traveling in an employer-provided vehicle--loaded with equipment and tools--between their homes and a customer’s residence (the worksite) under an optional and voluntary Home Dispatch Program. The trial court, like federal courts that have considered the question under California law, concluded the travel time was not compensable. The Court of Appeal agree and affirmed, finding: (1) the Home Dispatch Program was not compulsory; and (2) simply transporting tools and equipment during commute time was not compensable work where no effort or extra time is required to effectuate the transport. View "Hernandez v. Pacific Bell Telephone Co." on Justia Law

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The appeal presented to the Court of Appeal here was one in a certified wage and hour class action following a judgment after a bench trial in favor of defendants Certified Tire and Services Centers, Inc. (Certified Tire) and Barrett Business Services. Inc. (collectively, defendants). Plaintiffs contended 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. The Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs' arguments lacked merit, and accordingly affirmed the judgment. View "Certified Tire and Service Centers Wage and Hour Cases" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, home mortgage consultants, alleged they were misclassified as exempt employees by Wells Fargo. ILG, a law firm, represented approximately 600 Wells Fargo consultants alleging the same claim as the Lofton class in multiple lawsuits; the ILG suits were dismissed because the underlying claims were resolved in Lofton. In 2014, the court of appeal affirmed an order, requiring ILG to deposit into a court-supervised escrow account over $5 million of settlement proceeds ILG claimed as attorneys’ fees. ILG had concealed that settlement from the Lofton court and its class member clients. The TRO was predicated on an allegation that ILG’s clients were actually members of the class compensated by the $19 million “Lofton” settlement and that ILG was compensating itself out of the separate settlement without court approval. On remand, the trial court concluded ILG was not entitled to attorney’s fees. The monies on deposit with the court were directed to be paid to the class members who participated in the settlement. The court of appeal affirmed. Until the trial court did something about it, ILG had constructive possession of the entire $6 million settlement and control over its disbursement. ILG received due process. Nothing in this record demonstrates that ILG’s services in securing $750 for each of its 600 clients and facilitating their participation in Lofton were worth the $5.5 million it claimed in attorneys’ fees. View "Lofton v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying class certification in this putative class action alleging wage and hour violations against defendants. The court held that substantial evidence supported the trial court's conclusion that individual questions would predominate in determining which class members actually have a claim for missed rest breaks. The court also held that the trial court acted within its discretion in finding plaintiff was not an adequate class representative, and in denying leave to substitute another representative in light of the age of the case and the futility of doing so. View "Payton v. CSI Electrical Contractors" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action

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Retired employees of the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory claim that during their employment the University promised to provide them with University-sponsored group health insurance in their retirement, and this promise constituted an implied contract term that the University subsequently impaired. Those who retired before 2007 initially received University-sponsored group health insurance after their retirement, funded by the federal government as part of the University’s contract. In 2007, the federal government transferred the management and operation of Livermore to a private entity, LLNS, which transferred the retirees’ coverage to the LLNS plan. The retirees claimed the LLNS health plan “has significant disadvantages and no comparable new advantages, when compared with the University-provided retiree medical benefit plan,” After initially certifying a class of retirees, the trial court decertified the class. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court erroneously assumed that each class member must prove their personal awareness of the offered retiree health benefits and that economic damages are a necessary element to an impairment claim. Retirees’ theory is that their loss of an entitlement to health insurance—since LLNS insurance can be terminated at any time—constitutes substantial impairment and this issue presents a common issue. View "Moen v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action