Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiffs-appellants Valerie Kizer and Sharal Williams filed this putative class action against their former employer, defendant and respondent Tristar Risk Management (Tristar), alleging Tristar failed to pay Plaintiffs and its other claims examiners overtime compensation because it misclassified them as exempt from California’s overtime laws. The court found Tristar’s alleged misclassification of the proposed class members suitable for class treatment, but it denied the motion because misclassification does not give rise to liability on an overtime claim unless the employees first show they worked hours or days that required overtime compensation. Plaintiffs contended the trial court erred because the amount of overtime worked by the individual class members was a damages issue, and the need for individual proof of damages was not a proper basis for denying class certification. To satisfy the commonality requirement for class certification, Plaintiffs were required to show their liability theory could be established on a classwide basis through common proof. Plaintiffs presented no evidence of any such policy or practice. Without commonality, plaintiffs’ unfair competition law claim also failed. View "Kizer v. Tristar Risk Management" on Justia Law

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Defendant The Copley Press, Inc., owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper (collectively UT), appealed a trial court’s judgment finding plaintiffs (or carriers) were employees of UT in this class action suit. UT argued on appeal: (1) the class representatives were inadequate; (2) the court committed reversible error by not limiting the trial to certified issues and by granting plaintiffs' motion to amend their second amended complaint according to proof; (3) the court did not and could not manage individualized issues; (4) the court's order bifurcating plaintiffs' cause of action under Business and Professions Code section 172001 to be tried first deprived UT of its right to a jury trial; (5) the class award should have been reversed because UT paid carriers enhanced compensation that reimbursed them for expenses the court awarded; (6) the amounts the court awarded were not restitution; (7) the court erred in awarding plaintiffs prejudgment interest; (8) substantial evidence does not support the court's determination that the carriers were employees rather than independent contractors; (9) the court erred in awarding plaintiffs attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5;2 (10) even if attorney fees could be awarded, the court erred by not substantially reducing them for limited success; and (11) the court erred by adopting plaintiffs' lodestar amount in awarding attorney fees. Plaintiffs appealed the award of attorney fees, arguing: (1) the court abused its discretion in not awarding an enhancement of the lodestar amount of their fees; and (2) the court erred in ruling they abandoned their cause of action for damages under Labor Code section 28023 and therefore could not recover attorney fees under that statute. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment, and remanded with directions to redetermine the class award, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest. In all other respects, the trial court was affirmed. View "Espejo v. The Copley Press" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and appellants Eugene G. Plantier, as Trustee of the Plantier Family Trust (Plantier); Progressive Properties Incorporated (Progressive); and Premium Development LLC (Premium), on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated (collectively plaintiffs), appeal the judgment in favor of defendant and respondent Ramona Municipal Water District (District or RMWD). On appeal, plaintiffs contend the trial court erred when it found there was a mandatory exhaustion requirement in section 6 of article XIII D. Plaintiffs further contended they satisfied the administrative remedy in the Ramona Municipal Water District Legislative Code, and that, in any event, the exhaustion doctrine in section 6 should not have been applied to them because the remedy therein was inadequate and because it was "futile" to purse any administrative remedy under this constitutional provision. The Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs' class action was not barred by their failure to exhaust the administrative remedies set forth in section 6 because plaintiffs' substantive challenge involving the method used by District to calculate its wastewater service fees or charges was outside the scope of the administrative remedies, and because, under the facts of this case, those remedies were, in any event, inadequate. View "Plantier v. Ramona Municipal Water Dist." on Justia Law

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In consolidated class actions, plaintiffs claimed the brokers who represented them in the sale of their homes and a group of companies that provided services in connection with those sales violated their fiduciary duties by failing to disclose alleged kickbacks paid by the service providers to the brokers in connection with the sales. Defendants filed motions to compel arbitration on the basis of three separate agreements, at least one of which was executed by each plaintiff. The trial court found the arbitration clauses in two of the agreements inapplicable, but compelled the signatories of the third agreement to arbitrate with their brokers. Invoking the doctrine of equitable estoppel, the court also required the signatories of the third agreement to arbitrate their claims against the service providers, who were not parties to the arbitration agreements. The court of appeals reversed with respect to the two arbitration clauses the lower court found inapplicable. Each of the plaintiffs executed one or the other of these two agreements. The court dismissed the cross-appeal of the plaintiffs who were required to arbitrate because an order compelling arbitration is not appealable. View "Laymon v. J. Rockcliff, Inc." on Justia Law

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AMR provides ambulance services in more than 15 California counties, employing dispatchers, call takers, drivers, emergency medical technicians (EMT’s), paramedics and nurses. Plaintiffs, four current or former employees, claimed that AMR failed to provide the meal and rest periods to which they were entitled under Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512 and the applicable wage orders issued by the California Industrial Welfare Commission. They alleged a class claim under the Labor Code; a class claim under Business and Professions Code section 17200, the Unfair Competition Law; and a claim for civil penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), a representative action not subject to class action requirements. The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s denial of class certification as based on an incorrect legal assumption about the nature of rest periods: that a rest period during which an employee remains on call may be considered an off-duty rest period. The court acknowledged that there may be other bases on which the trial court may conclude on remand that plaintiffs have not shown the predominance of common issues required for class certification of their overarching rest period claim. View "Bartoni v. American Medical Response West" on Justia Law