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Plaintiff Jorge Fierro filed a class action suit against defendant Landry's Restaurant Inc., seeking remedies for what Fierro alleged to be Landry's' violations of specified California labor laws and wage orders. Landry's 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 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. The Court of Appeals determined the trial court erred. From the record presented, the Court could not determine the basis of the dismissal of the prior action; and, in any event, because the dismissal of the prior action was not final for purposes of res judicata or collateral estoppel, it could not form the basis of a defense to the class claims in this action. Furthermore, because the Court agreed with the trial court that the statute of limitations defense did not appear affirmatively on the face of the complaint, there was no alternative basis on which to affirm the dismissal of the class claims. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this matter with instructions to enter an order overruling Landry's' demurrer in its entirety. View "Fierro v. Landry's Restaurant Inc." on Justia Law

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The Southern District of California adopted a districtwide policy permitting the use of full restraints—handcuffs connected to a waist chain, with legs shackled—on most in-custody defendants produced in court for non-jury proceedings by the U.S. Marshals Service. Before the Ninth Circuit could issue a decision on a challenge to the policy, the underlying criminal cases ended. That court—viewing the case as a “functional class action” seeking “class-like relief,” held that the case was not moot and the policy was unconstitutional. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated, finding the case moot. The federal judiciary may adjudicate only “actual and concrete disputes, the resolutions of which have direct consequences on the parties involved.”. Such a dispute “must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.” Precedent does not support a freestanding exception to mootness outside the Rule 23 class action context. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure establish for criminal cases no vehicle comparable to the civil class action, and the Supreme Court has never permitted criminal defendants to band together to seek prospective relief in their individual cases on behalf of a class. The “exception to the mootness doctrine for a controversy that is capable of repetition, yet evading review” does not apply, based only the possibility that some of the parties again will be prosecuted for violating valid criminal laws. View "United States v. Sanchez-Gomez" on Justia Law

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SP operates Dayton International Airport parking facilities and is headquartered in Chicago. Plaintiffs allege that they used these parking lots and received receipts that included the expiration date of their credit or debit cards, violating the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA), 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g)(1). They filed a class-action complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The complaint did not describe any concrete harm that the plaintiffs had suffered. SP removed the action to federal court, arguing that the claim arose under a federal statute, then moved to dismiss for lack of Article III standing because the plaintiffs did not allege an injury in fact. Plaintiffs sought remand to state court, arguing that it was SP’s responsibility to establish subject-matter jurisdiction and that, without it, 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) required return of their case to state court. Because Article III does not apply in state court, they presumably hoped that their case could stay alive there despite their lack of a concrete injury. The district court denied the motion, determined that plaintiffs could not establish standing by stating only that the defendant had violated statutory requirements, and dismissed the case. The Seventh Circuit vacated and ordered a remand. The case was not removable, because the plaintiffs lack Article III standing—negating federal subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Collier v. SP Plus Corp." on Justia Law

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Defendant Williams Companies, Inc. (Williams) was an energy company; its president and chief executive officer (CEO) was Defendant Alan Armstrong and its chief financial officer (CFO) was Defendant Donald Chappel. Armstrong also served on its board of directors. Defendant Williams Partners GP LLC (Williams Partners GP) was a limited-liability company owned by Williams. Armstrong was chairman of the board and CEO; and Chappel was CFO and a director. Defendant Williams Partners L.P. (WPZ) was a master limited partnership, whose general partner was Williams Partners GP. Williams owned 60% of WPZ’s limited-partnership units. Plaintiff’s case centered on merger discussions between Williams and Energy Transfer Equity L.P. (ETE), a competing energy firm. The members of the putative class purchased units of WPZ between May 13, 2015 (when Williams announced that it planned to merge with WPZ) and June 19, 2015 (when ETE announced that, despite having been rebuffed by Williams, it would seek to merge with Williams and that such a merger would preclude the merger with WPZ). The value of the units dropped significantly after this announcement. Ultimately, ETE merged with Williams and the proposed WPZ merger was not consummated. The Complaint alleged the class members paid an excessive price for WPZ units because Williams had not disclosed during the class period its merger discussions with ETE. Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Rhode Island (Plaintiff) appealed the dismissal of its amended complaint in a putative class-action suit, alleging violations of federal securities law because of the failure to disclose merger discussions that affected the value of its investment. The Tenth Circuit concluded the complaint failed to adequately allege facts establishing a duty to disclose the discussions, the materiality of the discussions, or the requisite scienter in failing to disclose the discussions. View "Employees' Retirement System v. Williams Companies" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington certified a question of Washington law to the Washington Supreme Court. This case began in 2016 when the two named plaintiffs filed this putative class action lawsuit against Dovex on behalf of Dovex's seasonal and migrant agricultural employees. Each summer, Dovex employs hundreds of seasonal and migrant workers, many of whom speak limited English, to harvest apples, pears, and cherries in Dovex's orchards. The plaintiffs alleged Dovex violated state and federal law by willfully refusing to pay wages and failing to "pay minimum wage, provide paid rest breaks, maintain accurate and adequate time and wage records, pay wages when due, [and] provide accurate statements of hours worked." The federal court asked: (1) whether Washington law requires agricultural employers to pay their pieceworkers for time spent performing activities outside of piece-rate picking work (e.g., "Piece Rate Down Time" and similar work); if yes, then how must agricultural employers calculate the rate of pay for time spent performing activities outside of piece-rate picking work (e.g., "Piece Rate Down Time" and similar work)? The Washington Supreme Court answered the first question “yes:” agricultural workers may be paid on a piece-rate basis only for the hours in which they are engaged in piece-rate picking work. Time spent performing activities outside the scope of piece-rate picking work must be compensated on a separate hourly basis. The Court answered the second question posed consistent with the parties’ position: the rate of pay for time spent performing activities outside of piece-rate picking work must be calculated at the applicable minimum wage or the agreed rate, whichever was greater. View "Carranza v. Dovex Fruit Co." on Justia Law

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In 1991, Norton merged predecessor retirement plans into one Plan governed by ERISA. As of 1997, the Plan included a traditional defined-benefit formula applicable to members of the predecessor plans and a cash-balance formula applicable to all other plans. In 2004, the Plan was amended to end accruals under the defined-benefit formulas and allow further accruals only under the cash-balance benefit formula. The Plan allows disability retirement, “normal” age 65 retirement, late retirement, and early retirement, for participants at least 55 years old with at least 10 years of service. The Plan allows retirees to take benefits in the “Basic Form” or in one of six alternative forms, including a lump-sum payment on the date of retirement. In 2008, the Retirees brought a putative class action, alleging Norton underpaid retirees who took a lump-sum payment. The court certified a class in 2011 and eventually granted the Retirees summary judgment. Damages were not reduced to a sum certain, but the court adopted the Retirees’ calculation formula, awarded fixed-rate pre-judgment interest, and entered final judgment. The Sixth Circuit vacated, finding the Plan ambiguous, with respect to calculation of benefits, and possibly noncompliant with ERISA, with respect to actuarial calculations. The court vacated class certification under Rule 23(b)(1)(A) and (b)(2). The court held that if the Plan clearly gives the administrator “Firestone” deference, interpretation against the draftsman has no place in reviewing the administrator’s decisions. The arbitrary-and-capricious standard stays intact. View "Clemons v. Norton Healthcare Inc. Retirement Plan" on Justia Law

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Mohawk, a seller of prescription drugs sent junk faxes to medical providers, advertising the seller’s prices on Bristol-Myers and Pfizer drugs. A recipient filed a putative class-action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which makes it unlawful “to send . . . an unsolicited advertisement” to a fax machine, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C). Plaintiff first asserted claims only against Mohawk, which never answered the complaint. The district court entered a default judgment. Plaintiff then amended its complaint to assert claims against Bristol and Pfizer, arguing that they had “sent” the unsolicited faxes simply because the faxes mentioned their drugs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. To be liable, a defendant must “use” a fax machine or other device “to send . . . an unsolicited advertisement” to another fax machine. Bristol and Pfizer neither caused the subject faxes to be conveyed nor dispatched them in any way; only Mohawk did those things. Bristol and Pfizer, therefore, did not “send” the faxes and thus have no liability for them. View "Health One Medical Center v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of class certification in a putative class action alleging employment claims against Corona Medical Center and UHS of Delaware. Plaintiffs moved for certification of seven classes of Registered Nurses, alleging that they were underpaid by Corona. The panel held that the district court's typicality determination was premised on an error of law; Plaintiff Spriggs was not an adequate class representative, but Plaintiff Sali remained as an adequate representative plaintiff; the district court abused its discretion by concluding that attorneys from Bisnar Chase could not serve as adequate class counsel; and the district court erred by denying certification of the proposed rounding-time and wage-statement classes on the basis that they failed Rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance requirement. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Sali v. Corona Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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At issue was what standard applies in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or as independent contract for purposes of California wage orders. Two drivers filed this purported class action alleging that Dynamex Operations West, Inc. had misclassified its delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The trial court ultimately certified a class action embodying a class of Dynamex drivers who, during a pay period, did not themselves employ other drivers and did not do delivery work for other delivery businesses or for the drivers’ own personal customers. The court of appeal upheld the trial court’s class certification order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly concluded that the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage order may be relied upon in evaluating whether a worker is an independent contractor; (2) in determining whether, under the suffer or permit to work definition, a worker is properly considered the type of independent contractor to whom the wage order does not apply, it is appropriate to look to the so-called “ABC” test utilized in other jurisdictions; and (3) the trial court’s certification order was correct as a matter of law under a proper understanding of the suffer or permit to work standard. View "Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Bozic purchased the weight-loss supplement Lipozene in her home state of Pennsylvania. Disappointed by the product, Bozic filed a putative class action in the Southern District of California, asserting state law claims and seeking a declaratory judgment defining Lipozene purchasers’ rights under a 2005 FTC consent decree that restricts Defendants’ ability to sell weight-loss products. The Southern District, where the decree was entered and where Defendants reside, retains jurisdiction over “construction, modification, and enforcement” of that decree. Two related putative class actions were already pending in California. Defendants moved to transfer the case to the Eastern District for consolidation with one of those cases or, in the alternative, to stay the proceedings. The court held that Bozic’s action was governed by the first-to-file rule and transferred the case. The Ninth Circuit denied Bozic’s request to reverse the transfer. While the Eastern District was not a proper venue under 28 U.S.C. 1391 and 28 U.S.C 1404(a) requires that an action can be transferred only to a district where it “might have been brought,” Bozic was not entitled to mandamus relief because issuance of a writ would have no practical impact on this case in its current procedural posture, and any injury Bozic might face was purely speculative. View "Bozic v. United States District Court, Southern District of California" on Justia Law