Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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
Barrera v. Apple American Group LLC
Barrera and Varguez sued Apple, a nationwide restaurant chain, to recover civil penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) (Labor Code 2698) for Labor Code violations suffered by them and by other employees. Apple unsuccessfully moved to compel arbitration.The court of appeal reversed in part, first rejecting a claim that Apple waived the right to arbitrate by “litigating this case for over a year” before moving to compel arbitration. Citing the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision, "Viking River Cruises," and the Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 1), the court concluded that the parties’ agreements require arbitration of the PAGA claims that seek to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations committed against the plaintiffs. The PAGA claims seeking civil penalties for Labor Code violations committed against other employees may be pursued by the plaintiffs in the trial court. In defining the scope of arbitrable claims, the Agreements permissibly provide that only individual PAGA claims can be arbitrated. The plaintiffs’ individual claims can be arbitrated—unless the Agreements are unenforceable on some other ground; the plaintiffs did not meet their burden in establishing the Agreements are unconscionable. The court remanded for determination of whether a stay of the non-individual PAGA claims would be appropriate. View "Barrera v. Apple American Group LLC" on Justia Law
Hagey v. Solar Service Experts
Plaintiff Phil Hagey appealed a judgment of dismissal entered following the sustaining of a demurrer to his second amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff owned a home with a solar energy system (the system). At the time he purchased the home, the prior homeowner was party to a contract with a company, Kilowatt Systems, LLC (Kilowatt), which owned the system (the solar agreement). Among other terms, the solar agreement required the prior homeowner to purchase the energy produced by the system through monthly payments to Kilowatt. In the event of a sale of the house, the solar agreement afforded the prior homeowner three options. The prior homeowner and plaintiff agreed to an option which allowed prepayment of all remaining monthly payments and a transfer of all solar agreement rights and obligations to plaintiff, except for the monthly payment responsibility. In conjunction with the sale of the house, prepayment occurred and the parties entered into the requisite transfer agreement. At some later point in time, defendant Solar Service Experts, LLC began sending plaintiff monthly bills on Kilowatt’s behalf, demanding payments pursuant to the solar agreement. After receiving a bill, plaintiff spoke to a representative of defendant who told him he should not have received the bill and the issue would be resolved. Plaintiff received additional bills and at least one late payment notice which identified defendant as a debt collector. Plaintiff communicated with defendant’s representatives about the errors by phone and email, all to no avail. Plaintiff thereafter filed a class action lawsuit against defendant. The trial court concluded plaintiff did not, and could not, allege facts sufficient to constitute a consumer credit transaction, as statutorily defined. Plaintiff argued the court erroneously focused on the undisputed fact he did not owe the debt which defendant sought to collect and, in doing so, failed to recognize the Rosenthal Act applied to debt alleged to be due or owing by reason of a consumer credit transaction. To this the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the judgment. View "Hagey v. Solar Service Experts" on Justia Law
Moran v. Prime Healthcare Management, Inc.
Plaintiff Gene Moran, who was a patient at Huntington Beach Hospital (the Hospital) three times in 2013, sued defendants Prime Healthcare Management, Inc., Prime Healthcare Huntington Beach, LLC, Prime Healthcare Services, Inc., and Prime Healthcare Foundation, Inc. (collectively defendants) under various theories in 2013. In a prior opinion, the Court of Appeal found that while most of Moran’s claims lacked merit, he had sufficiently alleged facts supporting standing to claim the amount that self-pay patients were charged was unconscionable, and reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the case. Moran’s sixth amended complaint included both the allegations regarding unconscionability and a new theory of the case: defendants had violated the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) by failing to disclose Evaluation and Management (EMS) fees charged in the emergency room through signage or other methods. The complaint sought relief under both the old and new theories for violations of the UCL, CLRA, and for declaratory relief. Defendants moved to strike the allegations regarding EMS fees, arguing their disclosure obligations were defined by statute. The trial court agreed and struck the allegations from the sixth amended complaint. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Moran v. Prime Healthcare Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Woodworth v. Loma Linda Univ. Med. Center
Nicole Woodworth was a registered nurse at Loma Linda University Medical Center (the medical center) from December 2011 to June 2014. In June 2014, she filed this putative class action against the medical center, alleging a host of wage and hour claims on behalf of herself and other employees. She later amended her complaint to add a cause of action under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). After several years of litigation, only her individual claim for failure to provide rest periods remained. The trial court had granted four motions for summary judgment in favor of the medical center, denied Woodworth’s motion for class certification, and denied her motion to strike putative class members’ declarations. Woodworth appealed those orders, which disposed of the putative class members’ claims, the PAGA claims, and all of her individual claims (apart from her claim about rest periods). The medical center moved to dismiss most of Woodworth’s appeal, but the Court of Appeal denied the motion, affirming the orders in large part. Specifically, the Court reversed in part the order denying class certification: the court erred with respect to Woodworth’s proposed wage statement class, which consisted of employees who received allegedly inaccurate wage statements. The case was remanded for the trial court to reconsider certification of that class. View "Woodworth v. Loma Linda Univ. Med. Center" on Justia Law
Grace v. The Walt Disney Company
In 2018, Anaheim voters approved a Living Wage Ordinance (LWO). The LWO applied to hospitality employers in the Anaheim or Disneyland Resort areas that benefited from a “City Subsidy.” In 2019, Kathleen Grace and other plaintiffs (“Employees”) filed a class action complaint against the Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S., Inc. (“Disney”) and Sodexo, Inc., and Sodexomagic, LLC (“Sodexo”) alleging a violation of the LWO (Sodexo operated restaurants in Disney’s theme parks). Disney moved for summary judgment and Sodexo joined. It was undisputed the Employees were not being paid the required minimum hourly wage under the LWO. However, Disney argued it was not covered under the LWO as a matter of law because it was not benefitting from a “City Subsidy.” The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal disagreed: “A ‘City Subsidy’ is any agreement with the city pursuant to which a person other than the city has a right to receive a rebate of transient occupancy tax, sales tax, entertainment tax, property tax or other taxes, presently or in the future, matured or unmatured.” The Court determined that through a "reimbursement agreement," Disney had the right to a rebate on transient occupancy taxes (paid by hotel guests), sales taxes (paid by consumers), and property taxes (paid by Disney), in any years when the City’s tax revenues were sufficient to meet certain bond obligations. Consequently, the Court found Disney received a “City Subsidy” within the meaning of the LWO and was therefore obligated to pay its employees the designated minimum wages. View "Grace v. The Walt Disney Company" on Justia Law
Barajas v. Satvia L.A. County Water Dist.
The Sativa Water District was created in 1938 under the County Water District Law to provide potable drinking water to the residents living in a neighborhood in the unincorporated community of Willowbrook and parts of the City of Compton within Los Angeles County. On July 9, 2018, four named individuals— (collectively, Plaintiffs)—filed a putative class action lawsuit against the Sativa Water District. The Sativa Water District moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ entire lawsuit. Following a briefing, a hearing, and supplemental briefing, the trial court granted the motion. Plaintiffs asserted that the trial court erred in (1) granting the Sativa Water District’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, (2) denying Plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the order dismissing the County as a defendant, and (3) decertifying their class as to the nuisance claim. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the Reorganization Act grants a LAFCO discretion whether to permit a district to wind up its own affairs or whether instead to appoint a successor agency responsible for doing so. Because the LAFCO, in this case, took the latter route, Plaintiffs’ class action lawsuit against the dissolved district must be dismissed. The court further concluded that the trial court’s dismissal of the successor agency was proper because Legislature expressly granted civil immunity to that agency. View "Barajas v. Satvia L.A. County Water Dist." on Justia Law
North American Title Company v. Super. Ct.
In this labor dispute, Petitioner, the employer, filed a statement of disqualification seeking to remove the trial judge based on comments made during oral argument. However, Petitioner waited one year after the judge's comments to file the statement. The trial court determined that Petitioner waived the right to file a statement of disqualification.Finding the order striking Petitioner's statement of disqualification was flawed in several respects, the Fifth Appellate District vacated the trial court's order and provided the judge three days from the date the statement of disqualification is reinstated to respond before being deemed to have consented to disqualification by operation of time. View "North American Title Company v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Kinder v. Capistrano Beach Care Center
Plaintiff was a resident at a residential skilled nursing facility when she sustained injuries in a fall. She sued the facility, Capistrano Beach Care Center, LLC dba Capistrano Beach Care Center (CBCC), and its operator, Cambridge Healthcare Services, LLC (collectively, Defendants). Defendants petitioned to compel arbitration, claiming Plaintiff was bound by arbitration agreements purportedly signed on her behalf by her adult children. The trial court denied the petition, concluding defendants had failed to prove Plaintiff’s adult children had actual or ostensible authority to execute the arbitration agreements on Plaintiff’s behalf. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that CBCC did not meet its initial burden to make a prima facie showing that Plaintiff agreed to arbitrate by submitting arbitration agreements signed by Plaintiff’s adult children. CBCC presented no evidence that the children had actual or ostensible authority to execute the arbitration agreement on Plaintiff’s behalf beyond their own representations in the agreements. The court wrote that a defendant cannot meet its burden to prove the signatory acted as the agent of a plaintiff by relying on representations of the purported agent alone. View "Kinder v. Capistrano Beach Care Center" on Justia Law
Naranjo v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Medical Center seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging violations of the unfair competition law (UCL) and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) in connection with Medical Center’s emergency room billing practices. Briefly summarized, Plaintiff alleged Medical Center’s practice of charging him (and other similarly situated patients) an undisclosed “Evaluation and Management Services Fee” (EMS Fee) was an “unfair, deceptive, and unlawful practice.” The trial entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The Fifth Appellate District reversed. The court held that Plaintiff sought a declaration of the parties' rights and duties under the COA and their legal rights in connection with EMS Fee disclosures. An actual controversy is alleged and appears to exist. Plaintiff is entitled to seek declaratory relief in regard to each controversy stated. The court concluded he has adequately stated a cause of action for declaratory relief. The court wrote that on remand, the trial court will have the discretion to consider a motion by Plaintiff to amend the FAC to state a cause of action for breach of contract should Plaintiff choose to file one. View "Naranjo v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, Inc." on Justia Law