Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
De Leon v. Marcos, et al
Plaintiff Ferdinand De Leon appealed a district court’s judgment entered in favor of Defendant Denman Investment Corporation, Inc. Plaintiff represents a class of over 9500 people who brought human rights claims against the former president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. In 1995, the class obtained a $2 billion judgment in the federal district court of Hawai'i. Several years later, the class registered the judgment in the federal district court in Illinois in an attempt to enforce it. The judgment was revived in 2008 and remains in effect until 2017 under Illinois law. Plaintiff then registered the Illinois revival in federal district court in Colorado. While ancillary lawsuits proceeded, Plaintiff filed a putative class action in 2009, seeking to enforce the Illinois judgment in Colorado against property that Defendant owned nominally for the benefit of the Marcos estate. Defendant moved to dismiss the Colorado suit, contending that, among other things, the Illinois judgement was unenforceable in Colorado. The Colorado court denied Defendant's motion, denied a motion to certify the class, and dismissed the sole claim against the Marcoses. But while that motion to dismiss was pending, Plaintiff filed an "advice of settlement" indicating that the parties reached a settlement-in-principle in this suit and the ancillary suit. Later that year, the district court entered its orders. Of import here was the court's finding that the Illinois judgment could not be re-registered in Colorado, and therefore, Plaintiff lacked standing to enforce the judgment. Plaintiff moved to vacate or modify the court's decision in light of the advice of settlement. Defendant responded by filing a notice of its intent not to participate in the appeal, stating that it had settled all claims with the class members. Upon careful consideration of the legal authority and the lengthy court record of this case, the Tenth Circuit concluded that language in the settlement stipulating that once the settlement agreement was executed the parties would dismiss their pending lawsuit controlled in this case. The Court concluded that the district court should have "treated the stipulation as a self-executing dismissal;" Accordingly, the district court's granting of Defendant's motion to dismiss on the merits was void because it was issued after the stipulation was filed and therefore in the absence of jurisdiction." The Court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case with directions to the lower court to dismiss the entire action with prejudice.
Tomlinson v. El Paso Corp.
Petitioners Wayne Tomlinson, Alice Ballesteros and Gary Muckelroy appealed the dismissal of their claims against El Paso Corporation and the El Paso Pension Plan (collectively "El Paso") brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Plaintiffs' claims concern "wear-away" periods that occurred during El Paso's transition to a new pension plan. They contended that the wear-away periods violated the ADEA's prohibition on age discrimination and the anti-backloading and notice provisions of ERISA. The trial court found that El Paso's transition favored, rather than discriminated against, older employees; and the plan was frontloaded rather than backloaded. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit's review concluded that ERISA did not require notification of wear-away periods so long as employees were informed and forewarned of plan changes. The Court affirmed the lower court's decision dismissing Petitioners' claims.
Dudley-Barton v. Service Corporation International
Plaintiffs Cynthia Dudley-Barton, Richard Ice, Richard Mason, Deana Murphy and Susan Schmitz filed a class action lawsuit against Service Corporation International (SCI) based on allegedly unlawful employment practices and policies. Plaintiffs sought to recover unpaid wages based on SCI's purported failure to compensate its employees for time spent outside of regular work hours but on company business. In making these assertions, Plaintiffs brought four claims for violation of Colorado wage and labor laws, and state claims for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, conversion and misrepresentation. Shortly after Plaintiffs filed their complaint, SCI removed the case to federal court. Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand. The district court granted Plaintiffs' motion, concluding that SCI had not established that the amount in controversy exceeded the $5 million jurisdictional threshold required under federal law. SCI appealed the remand to state court to the Tenth Circuit. But before SCI filed its appeal, Plaintiffs moved to dismiss their state court petition against SCI without prejudice. The Tenth Circuit subsequently granted SCI's petition for leave to appeal. The Tenth Circuit dismissed this appeal as moot.
Salazar v. Butterball, LLC
The issues central to this case are whether donning doffing poultry processing workers’ personal protective equipment is "changing clothes" under 29 U.S.C. 204 and whether a turkey processing plant is a “food and beverage industry” under Colorado law. Plaintiffs/Appellants Clara Salazar and Juanita Ybarra brought suit on behalf of hourly production employees at Defendant/Appellee Butterball, LLC’s Colorado turkey processing plant. Plaintiffs claimed that Butterball’s failure to compensate them for the time spent changing in and out of their personal protective equipment violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Colorado Minimum Wage Order. The district court entered summary judgment in Butterball’s favor, holding that the donning and doffing time was excluded and that the Colorado Wage Order did not apply to Butterball. Upon consideration of the submitted briefs and the applicable legal authority, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decisions. The Court found that donning and doffing time is not "hours worked" as defined by FLSA. Furthermore, Butterball is a reseller, and the Colorado regulation applied only to employers "that sell food directly to the consuming public." Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s decisions.
In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation
Appellants challenged a district courtâs discovery order that directed them to disclose what they called privileged information. To achieve this end, the Appellants filed an interlocutory appeal and a petition for writ of mandamus with the Tenth Circuit. The Appellants in this case include motor fuel retailers and the retail motor fuel trade associations to which the retailers belong. The Plaintiffs in this case are consumers and other interested parties. Collectively they filed twelve putative class action cases in seven federal district courts. The Plaintiffs alleged that the retailersâ âvolumetric pricing systemâ for retail motor fuel overcharges customers. When the temperature of the fuel rises, the fuelâs volume expands, but the actual energy content stays the same â customers pay for âmoreâ fuel but half the energy. Plaintiffs allege that the temperature fluctuations and fuel volumes are accounted for in every aspect of the Appellantsâ âvolumetric pricing systemâ except at the retail level, thus overcharging retail customers. The Tenth Circuit held that Appellants devoted a majority of their appellate brief to their contention that a First Amendment privilege should be presumed with respect to the information Plaintiffs sought to discover. However, Appellants made an âunwise strategic decisionâ by seeking a presumption when they failed to prove the information was indeed privileged. The Court dismissed Appellantsâ interlocutory appeal and denied their application for writ of mandamus.
Farmers Insurance Exchange, et al v. Countryman
Defendants-Appellants Farmers Insurance Exchange (Farmers) and Mid-Century Insurance Company (Mid-Century) removed a putative class action suit from state court to federal district court. Upon motion of Plaintiff-Appellee Lawrence Countryman, the federal court remanded the case back to the state court based on a procedural defect in the Defendantsâ notice of removal. Specifically, Defendants were required to attach copies of all process, pleadings and orders for both Farmers and Mid-Century. The copies served to all parties in this case only contained those pertaining to Farmers, not Mid-Century. Defendants supplemented their joint notice or removal to include the missing Mid Century documents. Defendants challenged the lower courtâs remand of the case to state court. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found that the Defendantsâ omission was an inadvertent, procedural defect that was timely cured, and caused no prejudice to Plaintiffs. The Court vacated the district courtâs decision, and remanded the case back to federal court.
Montez v. Owens, et al
In the early 1990s, Colorado state prisoners initiated a class action lawsuit alleging that state officials were committing ongoing violations of disabled prisonersâ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. In 2003, the parties entered into a consent decree setting forth the actions the government officials would take to bring the prison system into compliance with these laws. Claimant Larry Gordon filed an individual claim for damages under the plan devised by the inmates and officials. Mr. Gordonâs claim was denied, and he filed an appeal to the Tenth Circuit. Because the class action suit covered the issue Mr. Gordon raised in his appeal, his case was remanded to a panel that was working on the logistics of enforcing the plan. The parties could not resolve their disagreements concerning enforcement of the plan, and took their disagreement to the district court. The court ruled that its orders on appeal from the panelâs decisions would be final and not appealable to the Tenth Circuit. Mr. Gordonâs claim for damages would eventually be denied by the district court, and he appealed despite the courtâs earlier ruling. The issue before the Tenth Circuit was whether it could actually review appeals from denied claims of damages that stemmed from the consent decree and plan. The officials wanted the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. However, Court held that even if the language of the agreement provided that the lower courtâs review would be final, an appeal could be made to the Tenth Circuit since the Courtâs jurisdiction is invoked by statute. The Court affirmed the lower courtsâ decision to dismiss the officialsâ motion, and Mr. Gordonâs claim for damages.