Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
KAREN HARTSTEIN V. HYATT CORPORATION
Plaintiffs, members of a certified class, are former California employees of Hyatt Corporation who were laid off after the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020. Plaintiffs were laid off in March 2020 and then terminated in June 2020. Plaintiffs contend that Hyatt violated California law by failing to pay them immediately for their accrued vacation time and by failing to compensate them for the value of free hotel rooms employees received each year. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Hyatt and dismissed the case with prejudice. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment. The panel concluded that the prompt payment provisions of the California Labor Code required Hyatt to pay Plaintiffs their accrued vacation pay in March 2020. The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) opinion letter and its Policies and Interpretations Manual establish that a temporary layoff without a specific return date within the normal pay period is a discharge that triggers the prompt payment provisions of Cal. Labor Code Section 201. Hyatt, thus, should have paid the accrued vacation pay at the initial layoff in March 2020 because the temporary layoff was longer than the normal pay period, and there was no specific return date. The panel reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Hyatt as to the vacation pay claim and remanded for the district court to consider whether Hyatt acted willfully in failing to comply with the prompt payment provisions. View "KAREN HARTSTEIN V. HYATT CORPORATION" on Justia Law
KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
Plaintiff asserted that ZoomInfo did not obtain her permission or compensate her when it used her name and likeness in its online directory to promote its product, in violation of California’s Right of Publicity statute and her common-law privacy and intellectual property rights. ZoomInfo moved to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute. In the district court, ZoomInfo moved to dismiss the complaint and to cut off the claims at the pleading stage. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and rejected ZoomInfo’s special motion to strike the complaint under California anti-SLAPP statute. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine to review the denial of ZoomInfo’s anti-SLAPP motion. The panel also held that, at this stage, Martinez has plausibly pleaded that she suffered sufficient injury to establish constitutional standing to sue. The panel wrote that although the district court did not address the exemptions, Plaintiff’s case fell within the public interest exemption to the anti-SLAPP law. Plaintiff met the three conditions for the public interest exemption: Plaintiff requests all relief on behalf of the alleged class of which she is a member and does not seek any additional relief for herself; Plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks to enforce the public interest of the right to control one’s name and likeness; and private enforcement is necessary and disproportionately burdensome. View "KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC." on Justia Law
Shaw v. L.A. Unified School Dist.
Plaintiffs alleged that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Defendants Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD or the District) and its then Superintendent adopted distance-learning policies that discriminated against poor students and students of color in violation of the California Constitution. Plaintiffs rest their challenge on various side letter contract agreements between LAUSD and the teacher’s union, Defendant United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which Plaintiffs contend implemented the distance-learning framework established by the Legislature in a discriminatory fashion. However, the District has returned to in-person instruction, and both the side letter agreements and the statutory framework that authorized them have expired. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs continue to seek injunctive relief to remedy what they contend are ongoing harms caused by the allegedly unconstitutional policies. The trial court sustained, with leave to amend, LAUSD’s demurrer on mootness grounds and granted, with leave to amend, its motion to strike the prayer for relief, reasoning that the requested remedies would not be manageable on a class-wide basis. The Second Appellate District reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded with instructions. The court held that the trial court prematurely struck the prayer for relief at the pleading stage, notwithstanding the end of distance learning. Because Plaintiffs propose a seemingly viable remedy for the past and continuing harms they allege, their constitutional claims are not moot. The court wrote that the constitutionality of expired policies is measured by reference to the statewide standards that existed when the policies were in effect. Accordingly, the trial court erred by sustaining LAUSD’s demurrer to the eighth cause of action on mootness grounds. View "Shaw v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law
Elisa W. v. City of New York
Plaintiffs-appellants, nineteen children in New York City’s foster care system, filed suit alleging “systemic deficiencies” in the administration of the City’s foster care system in violation of federal and state law. The named Plaintiffs moved to represent a class of all children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of the Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and two subclasses. As remedies, they sought injunctive and declaratory relief to redress alleged class-wide injuries caused by deficiencies in the City’s administration—and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ oversight—of foster care. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis of the commonality and typicality requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded. The court held that the district court erred in its analysis of commonality and typicality under Rule 23. The court explained that the district court did not determine whether commonality and typicality exist with respect to each of Plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, it concluded that commonality was lacking as to all alleged harms because “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not flow from unitary, non-discretionary policies.” The court held that this approach was legal error requiring remand. Further, the court wrote that here, the district court largely relied upon its commonality analysis to support its finding that typicality was not satisfied. Thus, the deficiencies identified in its commonality inquiry can also be found in its handling of typicality. View "Elisa W. v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Maarten v. Cohanzad
Plaintiffs appealed from a trial court order sustaining a demurrer to the class allegations in their complaint against Defendants, their former landlords. The complaint asserts claims under the Ellis Act and the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (the Ordinance), Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), as well as for fraud and violations of section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code (Unfair Competition Law). Defendants evicted Plaintiffs from their rent-controlled apartments. Plaintiffs alleged that although Defendants declared they were removing the apartment buildings from the rental market entirely, Defendants subsequently listed units in the same buildings for rent on Airbnb. Defendants demurred to the class allegations in the complaint, asserting Plaintiffs could not satisfy the requirements for class certification as a matter of law. The trial court found Plaintiffs could not satisfy the community of interest requirement for liability or damages, and class treatment was not the superior method for resolving the litigation The Second Appellate District reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the trial court erred in finding, as a matter of law, that there is no reasonable probability Plaintiffs will show common questions of law or fact predominate as to the classwide claims for liability. The court explained that Plaintiffs’ allegations indicate a need for individualized proof or calculation of damages. However, the court concluded Plaintiffs have alleged such issues may be effectively managed and there remains a reasonable probability Plaintiffs will satisfy the requirements for class certification. View "Maarten v. Cohanzad" on Justia Law
Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P.
In the multidistrict National Prescription Opiate Litigation, municipalities from across the nation, Indian Tribes, and other entities allege that opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and retailers acted in concert to mislead medical professionals into prescribing, and millions of Americans into taking and often becoming addicted to, opiates. Two northeast Ohio counties, Trumbull and Lake, alleged that national pharmaceutical chains “created, perpetuated, and maintained” the opioid epidemic by filling prescriptions for opioids without controls in place to stop the distribution of those that were illicitly prescribed and that conduct caused an absolute public nuisance remediable by abatement under Ohio common law.The district court ordered a bellwether trial, after which a jury concluded that the “oversupply of legal prescription opioids, and diversion of those opioids into the illicit market” was a public nuisance in those counties and that defendants “engaged in intentional and/or illegal conduct which was a substantial factor in producing" that nuisance. The district court entered a $650 million abatement order and an injunction requiring defendants to “ensure they are complying fully with the Controlled Substances Act and avoiding further improper dispensing conduct.” On appeal, the Sixth Circuit certified a question of law to the Ohio Supreme Court: Whether the Ohio Product Liability Act, Ohio Revised Code 2307.71, abrogates a common law claim of absolute public nuisance resulting from the sale of a product in commerce in which the plaintiffs seek equitable abatement, including both monetary and injunctive remedies? View "Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P." on Justia Law
Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc.
The Colorado Supreme Court granted review in this case to consider whether the common law litigation privilege for party-generated publicity in pending class action litigation excluded situations in which the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. In 2018, two law firms, Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP and Towards Justice (collectively, along with attorney Mari Newman of Killmer, Lane & Newman, “the attorneys”), filed on behalf of former employee and nail technician Lisa Miles and those similarly situated a federal class action lawsuit. This lawsuit named as defendants BKP, Inc.; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar LLC; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-2, LLC; and Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-3, LLC (collectively, “the employer”), among others. The employer operated three beauty bars in the Denver metropolitan area. Pertinent here, the class action complaint alleged that the employer’s business operation was “founded on the exploitation of its workers.” The complaint alleged that the employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Colorado Wage Claim Act by not paying service technicians for hours spent performing janitorial work, electing to forgo hiring a janitorial service. The Supreme Court concluded the division erred in conditioning the applicability of the litigation privilege in pending class action litigation on whether the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. The Court reached this conclusion for two reasons: (1) ascertainability was generally a requirement in class action litigation, and imposing such a condition would unduly limit the privilege in this kind of case; and (2) the eventual identification of class members by way of documents obtained during discovery was not a substitute for reaching absent class members and witnesses in the beginning stages of litigation. The Court found the litigation privilege applied in this case: five allegedly defamatory statements at issue "merely repeated, summarized, or paraphrased the allegations made in the class action complaint, and which served the purpose of notifying the public, absent class members, and witnesses about the litigation, were absolutely privileged." View "Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc." on Justia Law
Self v. B P X Operating
Louisiana oil and gas law authorizes the state Commissioner of Conservation to combine separate tracts of land and appoint a unit operator to extract the minerals. Plaintiffs own unleased mineral interests in Louisiana that are part of a forced drilling unit. BPX is the operator. Plaintiffs alleged on behalf of themselves and a named class that BPX has been improperly deducting post-production costs from their pro rata share of production and that this practice is improper per se. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ per se claims, holding that the quasi-contractual doctrine of negotiorum gestio provides a mechanism for BPX to properly deduct postproduction costs. Plaintiffs filed this action as purported representatives of a named class of unleased mineral owners whose interests are situated within forced drilling units formed by the Louisiana Office of Conservation and operated by BPX. BPX removed this action to the district court based on both diversity and federal question jurisdiction. BPX sought dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ primary claim. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss. The district court certified its ruling for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b).The Fifth Circuit wrote that no controlling Louisiana case resolves the parties’ issue. Accordingly, the court certified the following determinative question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court: 1) Does La. Civ. Code art. 2292 applies to unit operators selling production in accordance with La. R.S. 30:10(A)(3)? View "Self v. B P X Operating" on Justia Law
Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. v. PDR Network, LLC
Plaintiff, a chiropractic office, filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act after it received an unsolicited fax offering a free eBook with information about prescription drugs. The district court dismissed its complaint, holding that the plaintiff had not alleged that the fax, which tendered a product for free rather than for sale, was sufficiently commercial to bring it within the statutory prohibition on “unsolicited advertisements.” On appeal, Defendant-PDR Network defends both steps in the district court’s reasoning, arguing that a fax must be “commercial” to qualify as an “advertisement” under the TCPA and that Carlton & Harris has not alleged the requisite commercial character. Carlton & Harris disputes both portions of the court’s reasoning, contending that a prohibited “advertisement” may be entirely non-commercial and that, in any event, it has adequately alleged that the fax it received was commercial in nature. Further, Plaintiff asserts that PDR Network profits when its fax persuades a medical practitioner to accept the proffered eBook. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that Plaintiff had adequately alleged that the fax offer had the necessary commercial character to make it an “unsolicited advertisement” under the Act. The court explained that for present purposes, we accept as true Plaintiff’s commission allegation and find it adequate, at this preliminary stage, to state a claim that the fax offer of a free eBook is a commercial “advertisement” subject to the TCPA. View "Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. v. PDR Network, LLC" on Justia Law
Matney, et al. v. Barrick Gold of North America, et al.
Appellants Cole Matney and Paul Watts (together, "Matney") participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan (the Plan). They brought a putative class action suit against Appellees, Barrick Gold of North America, Inc. (Barrick Gold), Barrick Gold’s Board of Directors (Board), and the Barrick U.S. Subsidiaries Benefits Committee (Committee)—for breach of fiduciary duty and failure to monitor fiduciaries under sections 409 and 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Matney alleged the Committee breached the fiduciary duty of prudence by offering high-cost funds and charging high fees. He claimed Barrick Gold and the Board were responsible for failing to monitor the Committee’s actions. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice, concluding the first amended complaint did not plausibly allege any breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. Finding no reversible error in this dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Matney, et al. v. Barrick Gold of North America, et al." on Justia Law