Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Plaintiffs filed suit against their former employer, Eurostar, alleging that the company violated California wage and hour laws by failing to provide employees with required meal and rest breaks and compelling employees to work off the clock at Eurostar's Warehouse Shoe Sale (WSS) retail shoe stores in California. The Court of Appeal held that, in the wake of Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, if the employer has a break policy that is compliant with the applicable wage order but silent as to certain requirements, the omission of those requirements did not support class certification in the absence of evidence of a uniform unlawful policy or practice. The court also held that where an employer has a uniform written break policy that on its face is unlawful, but in practice the policy has not been applied to company employees, is it not suitable for class certification. The court held that although trial courts must be wary of analyzing evidence of wage and hour violations at the class certification stage in a manner that prejudges the merits, they may properly consider the evidence to determine whether classwide liability can be established through common proof. In this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying class certification because plaintiffs failed to show they could prove Eurostar's liability for meal break, rest break, and off-the-clock violations by common proof at trial. Furthermore, the trial court did not err in considering the evidence submitted by the parties as to Eurostar's policy and practices to assist the court in making the threshold determination whether plaintiffs could prove liability for the alleged violations with common proof. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cacho v. Eurostar, Inc." on Justia Law

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Brown, a tenant in low-income, rent-controlled housing owned and managed by Upside, filed suit on behalf of herself and other similarly situated persons, alleging violations of Hayward’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance. According to Brown, Upside claimed an exemption to the ordinance based upon misleading information and thereafter imposed upon the often non-English-speaking tenants illegal rent increases, charged excessive late fees, and failed to pay required security deposit interest. Upside representatives approached the tenants individually with pre-written releases from the class action along with pre-written checks as “compensation.” The trial court invalidated those releases (signed by approximately 26 tenant putative class members) and required the parties to confer regarding a corrective notice for the putative class. The court found that the releases contained misleading and one-sided information regarding the underlying lawsuit. The court of appeal dismissed Upside’s appeal of the order as taken from a nonappealable order. The court rejected Upside’s argument that the order was appealable as an injunctive order within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1(a)(6) because it mandates certain actions on their part with respect to the putative class members. Section 904.1 provides no basis for appealing a standard interlocutory order. View "Brown v. Upside Gading, LP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action alleging claims for unfair and/or deceptive business practices under Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL) and violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). The trial court denied class certification. Plaintiff sought declarations that Dignity Health's billing practices as they relate to uninsured individuals who received emergency care at a Dignity Health hospital in California are "unfair, unconscionable and/or unreasonable" and that, because the prices to be charged are not adequately disclosed or readily available to those individuals, its admissions contract contains an "open price" term within the meaning of Civil Code section 1611. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court used an unduly restrictive standard to evaluate the proposed class's ascertainability; the trial court misperceived plaintiff's primary theory of liability in evaluating whether common issues of law or fact predominate; and, although substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that the class definition in the certification motion may not be manageable, a more limited class should be certified in this case. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to certify a modified issue class. View "Sarun v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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Williams stopped working for Impax in 2013. Four years later, she filed a class action complaint under the unfair competition law, identifying unlawful business practices in which Impax allegedly engaged, including failing to pay overtime wages, provide meal and rest periods, and pay minimum wages. Williams proposed a class of all individuals employed by Impax during the previous four years. The court struck the class allegations; because Williams could not pursue all remedies otherwise available to the putative class, due to the statute of limitations, Williams cannot be a suitable class representative. The court gave her 45 days to amend, suggesting the addition of another class representative. The court denied Williams’s request to conduct discovery to locate other class representatives. Williams neither sought review nor amended her complaint to name a new plaintiff. Her first amended complaint essentially re-alleged the class contentions from her original complaint, Williams asserted that the order was “impossible” to comply with. The court struck the class allegations and directed Williams to file a second amended complaint. The court of appeal dismissed; the order is not appealable under the death knell doctrine, which authorizes an interlocutory appeal of the first, but only the first, order in a case that extinguishes all of a plaintiff’s class claims. The court declined to address her argument that the court thwarted her from pursuing discovery of the class list, which she needed to name another class representative. View "Williams v. Impax Laboratories, Inc.," on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and a proposed class of similarly situated county utility ratepayers, filed suit against the city and the Department of Water and Power (DWP), alleging that DWP overcharged ratepayers for electric utility usage. After a class was certified for a proposed settlement, an unnamed class member timely objected and filed an application to intervene. The trial court denied the application, overruled the unnamed class member's objection, approved the settlement, and entered a judgment under the settlement terms. The Court of Appeal dismissed the unnamed class member's appeal, holding that she was not a party of record and has not utilized the procedures available to alter her status. Therefore, she lacked standing to appeal from the judgment. View "Eck v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Song-Beverly Credit Card Act (Civ. Code 1747) makes it unlawful for merchants to request or require customers to provide “personal identification information” as a condition to accepting a credit card for payment. In 2015, the court of appeal held (Harrold) the Act does not prohibit merchants from requesting such information unless the request is made under circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe the information is required to complete the transaction. The trial court decertified a class of plaintiffs who alleged that retailer Williams-Sonoma violated the Act by requesting their zip codes or email addresses because any violation would depend on the circumstances of the specific transaction. Zip codes and emails were requested regardless of the form of payment. If the customer declined, the sales clerk bypassed the request. Employees had discretion not to solicit the information at all and could explain that the information was not required and was only being collected for marketing purposes. Williams-Sonoma neither rewards its employees for collecting the information nor disciplines them if they do not. Williams-Sonoma required each of its California stores to post signs at the cash registers stating that zip codes and email addresses were requested solely for marketing purposes and were not required. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the court correctly applied the Harrold legal standard and its ruling is supported by substantial evidence. View "Williams-Sonoma Song-Beverly Act Cases" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's motion for class certification in an employee misclassification case against his former employer, and the trial court's order terminating depositions of class members. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for class certification based on issues of predominance and superiority. In this case, the record contained evidence sufficient to support the trial court's finding that variations between the hundreds of properties the 228 putative class members were responsible for would command individual inquiries. Similarly, the evidence to support the trial court's superiority determination was largely the same as evidence supporting the predominance determination. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it terminated depositions of putative class members whose declarations the employer submitted in opposition to plaintiff's motion for class certification. View "Modaraei v. Action Property Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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