Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
Defendants Merchants Building Maintenance, LLC and Merchants Building Maintenance Company (the MBM defendants) appeal from an order of the trial court denying their joint motion to compel arbitration. The MBM defendants moved to compel arbitration of a portion of plaintiff Loren Mejia's cause of action brought against them for various violations of the Labor Code under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The MDM defendants moved to compel arbitration of that portion of Mejia's PAGA claim in which she seeks "an amount sufficient to recover underpaid wages." The Court of Appeal reduced the issue presented as whether a court could split a single PAGA claim so as to require a representative employee to arbitrate that aspect of the claim in which the plaintiff sought to recover the portion of the penalty that represented the amount sufficient to recover underpaid wages, where the representative employee has agreed to arbitrate her individual wage claims, while at the same time have a court review that aspect of the employee's claim in which the plaintiff sought to recover the additional $50 or $100 penalties provided for in section 558 of the Labor Code for each violation of the wage requirements. The Court of Appeal concluded that a single PAGA claim seeking to recover section 558 civil penalties could not be "split" between that portion of the claim seeking an "amount sufficient to recover underpaid wages" and that portion of the claim seeking the $50 or $100 per-violation, per-pay-period assessment imposed for each wage violation. The Court affirmed the trial court's order denying the MDM defendants' motion to compel arbitration in this case. View "Mejia v. Merchants Building Maintenance" on Justia Law

by
Defendants-appellants Catalina Restaurant Group, Inc., Carrows Restaurants, Inc., Carrows Family Restaurants, Inc., Coco’s Bakery Restaurants, Inc. and Coco’s Restaurants, Inc. (collectively, Catalina Defendants) appealed the partial denial of their motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff-respondent Yalila Lacayo (Lacayo) was an employee of Catalina Defendants, and filed a plaintiff’s class action complaint on behalf of herself and others similarly situated (Class Members) against Catalina Defendants in superior court alleging numerous wage and hour violations under the Labor Code, and an injunctive relief claim under California’s unfair competition law (UCL). Catalina Defendants responded by filing a motion to compel arbitration of Lacayo’s individual claims, including the UCL claim, and dismissal of the class claims (Motion). The trial court granted the Motion as to Lacayo’s individual claims; refused to dismiss the class claims, instead letting the arbitrator decide if the class claims were subject to arbitration or a class action waiver; and denied the Motion as to the UCL claim; and stayed the matter until after arbitration was completed. Catalina Defendants on appeal argued the trial court erred by: (1) refusing to enforce the individual arbitration agreement according to its terms; and (2) refusing to compel arbitration of Lacayo’s UCL claim. In supplemental briefing, both parties addressed whether Catalina Defendants could appeal the trial court’s order granting arbitration of individual claims but refusing to dismiss the classwide claims, leaving the decision for the arbitrator. The Court of Appeal found Catalina Defendants could not appeal the portion of the Motion that granted arbitration for Lacayo’s individual claims and the refusal to dismiss the class claims. The Court of Appeal only addressed the order finding that the UCL claim was not subject to arbitration, and affirmed the trial court's order denying defendants' Motion as to the UCL claim. View "Lacayo v. Catalina Restaurant Group Inc." on Justia Law

by
Inspectors filed a putative class action alleging that they were entitled to, but deprived of minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, reimbursement of expenses, and accurate wage statements. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of 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. In this case, the inspectors' trial plan was inadequate and unfair, because litigation of individual issues, including those arising from affirmative defenses, could not be managed fairly and efficiently using only an anonymous survey of all class members. For example, an employer's liability for failure to provide overtime or rest breaks will depend on the employees' individual circumstances. View "McCleery v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, former Safeway employees, appealed the trial court's judgment against them on two causes of action under the unfair competition law (UCL) and the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the trial court properly granted Safeway summary adjudication on the UCL claim because plaintiffs failed to submit evidence raising a triable issue of material fact regarding whether Safeway's no-premium-wages policy harmed the class members in a manner entitling them to the only UCL remedy plaintiff's sought, viz., restitution. Furthermore, even assuming plaintiffs raised a triable issue regarding whether Safeway took from the class members the value of the statutory guarantee, they failed to raise a triable issue regarding their ability to measure that value. The court also held that the trial court properly struck the PAGA claim because it was untimely. View "Esparza v. Safeway, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Timlick filed a class action complaint, alleging that after defaulting on a loan, Timlick received a collection letter from a third-party debt collector (NES) that did not comply with section 1812.701(b) of the Consumer Collection Notice law because certain statutorily-required language was not in a type-size that was at least the same as used to inform Timlick of the debt, or 12-point type. NES moved for summary judgment on the basis that it cured the alleged violation within the 15-day period prescribed by section 1788.30(d) and sent a letter to Timlick’s attorney, enclosing a revised collection letter. Timlick did not dispute NES’s facts but argued section 1788.30(d) should not apply. The trial court granted NES summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed. A debt collector that violates the minimum type-size requirement for consumer collection letters can utilize the procedure for curing violations under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but the trial court erred by dismissing the entire putative class action, as this allowed the debt collector to unilaterally “pick off” the named plaintiff and avoid class action litigation. View "Timlick v. National Enterprise Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Tucker filed suit in December 2003, under the unfair competition law, challenging Cingular’s marketing of mobile phone monthly rates. Plaintiff Hodge was added after Tucker lost standing. After several years of motions, discovery, and appellate proceedings, Hodge filed a fifth amended complaint in 2011. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the class allegations without leave to amend and sustained the demurrer to the individual fraud claims with leave to amend. Following a remand, the operative seventh amended complaint was filed in August 2013. Cingular successfully moved to strike the class claims, arguing Hodge had changed her plan and lacked standing. The court of appeal again remanded. The trial court then dismissed for failure to comply with Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310, which requires an action to “be brought to trial within five years after the action is commenced.” Plaintiffs argued that the pretrial order dismissing the class claims qualified as a “trial” for purposes of section 583.310. In class action lawsuits, such a pretrial order is treated as a final judgment and is immediately appealable under the “death knell doctrine.” The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal. A death knell order does not constitute a trial under the five-year dismissal statute and an appellate decision reversing such an order does not trigger the statute’s three-year extension. View "Rel v. Pacific Bell Mobile Services" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Roger Myers, Dave Billings, Greg Neyhart, and Jim Mestas were nonexempt maintenance technicians for Raley’s grocery stores. Plaintiffs alleged they were required to drive company vehicles carrying their own tools as well as specialized tools, and they were not allowed to run personal errands without special permission or carry passengers who were not Raley’s employees except in an emergency. Despite Raley’s control over their driving time, they were not compensated for the time they spent driving to their first store or driving home from the last store they service each day. They claimed Raley’s uniform practice violated California law. These uniform policies and practices, according to the technicians, presented common issues of fact and law and their legality were particularly well suited to a class action. In denying class certification, the trial court made the conclusory finding plaintiffs failed to establish that a well-defined community of interest exists and that the common issues of fact and law predominate. The Court of Appeal determined that because the trial court’s cursory finding rendered its review "impossible," and because cases decided after the trial court’s ruling exposed the dangers of employing the wrong legal criteria, asking the wrong questions, or inflating the significance of the opposing parties’ evidence, the Court of Appeal remanded this case back to the trial court for reconsideration in light of Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc., 59 Cal.4th 522 (2014) and Jones v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 221 Cal.App.4th 986 (2013), and for a statement of reasons to ensure the court did not use improper criteria or rely on erroneous legal assumptions. View "Myers v. Raley's" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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