Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Noel purchased an inflatable Kids Stuff Ready Set Pool for $59.99, based on a photograph on the packaging, depicting a group of three adults and two children sitting and playing in the pool. The box also prominently displayed the pool’s actual dimensions: “8FT X 25IN.” Once Noel inflated his pool, it was “materially smaller” than shown on the packaging and was capable of fitting only one adult and four small children. Noel sued on behalf of himself and similarly situated individuals, alleging violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Civ. Code 1750) (CLRA), Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200) (UCL), and False Advertising Law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17500) (FAL). The court denied class certification on the UCL and FAL claims, finding Noel’s proposed class of more than 20,000 potential members was not ascertainable (Code of Civil Procedure 382) and refused to certify a class on Noel’s CLRA claim because it determined common questions of law or fact did not predominate over individual questions of reliance and causation. The court of appeal affirmed. The certification motion was filed without first conducting sufficient discovery to meet plaintiff’s burden of demonstrating there are means of identifying putative class members so that they might be notified of the litigation, which jeopardizes the due process rights of absent class members. View "Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc." on Justia Law

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Artur Hefczyc appealed an order denying his motion for class certification in his lawsuit against Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego (Rady). On behalf of a proposed class, Hefczyc sought declaratory relief to establish that Rady's form contract, signed by patients or guarantors of patients who receive emergency room care, authorized Rady to charge only for the reasonable value of its services, and that Rady therefore was not authorized to bill self-pay patients based on its master list of itemized charge rates, commonly referred to as the "Chargemaster" schedule of rates, which Hefczyc alleged was "artificial" and "grossly inflated." The trial court denied Hefczyc's motion for class certification, concluding that the class was not ascertainable, that common issues did not predominate, and that class action litigation was not a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc contends that the trial court erred in denying class certification because, as the complaint sought only declaratory relief, the motion for class certification was brought under the equivalent of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 23(b)(1)(A) or (b)(2) (28 U.S.C.), for which he was not required to establish the ascertainability of the class, that common issues predominated and that class action litigation was a superior means of proceeding. Hefczyc also contended that even if the trial court properly imposed those three requirements in this action, the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that those requirements were not met. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that Hefczyc's arguments lacked merit, and accordingly affirmed the order denying class certification. View "Hefczyz v. Rady Children's Hosp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Paul Kendall's second amended complaint made several types of class-wide claims that challenged the billing and collection practices of the health facility operating an emergency room where he received care, defendant and respondent Scripps Health (Scripps). Kendall contended that "selfpay" patients, who signed a form during the reception process at the emergency room (an "Agreement for Services at a Scripps Facility"), were being unfairly billed under that contractual agreement at prescribed rates that are listed on a publicly available "charge description master" (Charge Master). This appeal arose out of the trial court's order denying Kendall's motion to certify a proposed class of self-pay patients for the pursuit of two overriding legal theories that applied to both the declaratory relief and statutory claims. Scripps opposed the motion, arguing a class action was not shown to be an appropriate method to pursue the case because of a lack of predominant common issues and of any convincing showing of an ability to ascertain the identity of all the proposed class members. The trial court denied the motion for class certification, concluding that Kendall had not presented any substantial evidence showing there were predominant common issues of law and fact among the putative class members. On appeal, Kendall contends the trial court's order denying class certification of his statutory claims reflects the use of improper criteria and an incorrect legal analysis. Finding no abuse of discretion or lack of substantial evidence, the Court of Appeal affirmed the order denying class certification. View "Kendall v. Scripps Health" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal treated the consolidated appeal as a petition for writ of mandate and reached the merits of the superior court's order compelling arbitration of plaintiff's individual claims and terminating the class claims. The court granted the petition in part, finding plaintiff's cause of action under the Labor Code for Doty Bros.' failure to timely pay wages upon his separation from employment and his unfair competition action based on that alleged statutory violation were not encompassed by the arbitration provision in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The court denied the petition in all other respects, holding that the remaining causes of action were subject to arbitration, and the trial court's termination of the class claims were proper on the ground that the CBA did not authorize classwide arbitration. View "Cortez v. Doty Bros. Equipment Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are current and former correctional peace officers who work or worked at various state correctional facilities. They brought coordinated class actions alleging they were improperly denied pay for the time they spent under their employer’s control before and after their work shifts while traveling to and from their work posts, attending briefings, checking out mandatory equipment, and submitting to searches at security checkpoints. Plaintiffs alleged causes of action for failure to pay contractual overtime (Lab. Code, 222, 223), failure to pay the California minimum wage (1182.11, 1182.12, 1194), failure to keep accurate records of hours worked (1174), and failure to pay overtime in breach of common law contractual obligations. The court certified classes, with two subclasses, distinguishing between employees represented by unions and those not represented, then held that plaintiffs’ entitlement to overtime pay is controlled by federal, rather than California, law, the entered judgment for defendants. The court of appeal reversed as to the subclass of unrepresented supervisory employees and affirmed as to the subclass of represented employees. View "Stoetzl v. State of California" on Justia Law

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A defendant in a putative class action can waive its right to compel arbitration against absent class members by deciding not to seek arbitration against the named plaintiff. In this wage and hour class action, the Court of Appeals held that Plan B waived its right to seek arbitration by filing and then withdrawing a motion to compel arbitration against the named plaintiff, Maria Elena Sprunk, and then waiting until after a class had been certified to seek arbitration against class members. The court held that Plan B provided sufficient evidence of the arbitration agreements; sufficient evidence supported the trial court's waiver finding; and substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that Plan B delayed filing its motions to compel arbitration so that it could obtain a strategic advantage. The court explained that the the four-year delay resulted in Sprunk conducting class-related discovery and preparing and arguing an extensive class certification motion that never would have been necessary if individual arbitration had been ordered earlier in the case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's motion to compel arbitration. View "Sprunk v. Prisma LLC" on Justia Law

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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