Articles Posted in Class Action

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A class action employment lawsuit filed against a staffing firm and related companies settled for $19 million. Under the settlement agreement it was agreed that class counsel would request attorney fees of not more than one-third of the gross settlement amount. In seeking the trial court’s approval of the settlement, class counsel sought the maximum fee amount. One class member objected to the proposed settlement, arguing that the projected attorney fee was excessive and class counsel had not provided enough information to evaluate it. The trial court approved the settlement and awarded counsel the requested fee. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a trial court is permitted to calculate an attorney fee award from a class action common fund as a percentage of the fund, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion using the percentage of fund method to approve the fee request in this class action; and (2) trial courts have discretion to conduct a lodestar cross-check on a percentage fee, as the court did in this case. View "Laffitte v. Robert Half Int’l, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action

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When Plaintiff was hired by Defendants, he signed multiple arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. Plaintiff later sued Defendant, alleging racial discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The complaint sought to bring claims on behalf of a “class of current and former employees of color.” Defendants filed a motion to compel individual arbitration based on the arbitration agreements. The trial court granted the motion but struck the class allegations, concluding that the agreements did not permit class arbitration. The court of appeal reversed in part, ruling (1) the trial court erred in concluding that existing precedent compelled the court to determine whether class arbitration was available; and (2) the availability of class proceedings under an arbitration agreement is for an arbitrator to decide in the first instance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there is no universal rule allocating the decision of whether an arbitration agreement permits or prohibits classwide arbitration to a court or an arbitrator, but rather, who decides is in the first instance a matter of agreement with the parties’ agreement subject to interpretation under state contract law; and (2) under state law, the arbitration agreement in this case allocates the decision to the arbitrator. View "Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bayer AG and Bayer Corporation (collectively, Bayer) marketed Cipro, an antibiotic. In 1987, Bayer was issued a United States patent on the active ingredient in Cipro. Twelve years before the expiration of the patent, Barr Laboratories, Inc. filed an application to market a generic version of Cipro. Bayer responded with a patent infringement suit, and Barr counterclaimed for a declaratory judgment that the patent was invalid. In 1997, Bayer and Barr entered into a settlement agreement under which Bayer agreed to make a “reverse payment” to Barr in exchange for Barr dropping its patent challenge and consenting to stay out of the market. The settlement produced numerous state and federal antitrust suits. This case arose from nine such coordinated class action suits brought by indirect purchasers of Cipro in California. The complaint alleged that the Bayer-Barr reverse payment settlement violated the Cartwright Act, unfair competition law, an common law prohibition against monopolies. The trial court granted summary judgment for Bayer and Barr. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that parties illegally restrain trade when they privately agree to substitute consensual monopoly in place of potential competition that would have followed a finding of invalidity or noninfringement. View "In re Cipro Cases I & II" on Justia Law

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Defendant published a daily newspaper and contracted with individual carriers to deliver the paper. Named plaintiffs were four newspaper carriers for Defendant. Plaintiffs sued on behalf of a putative class of carriers, alleging that Defendant wrongly treated its carriers as independent contractors when they were employees as a matter of law. The trial court denied class certification, concluding that alleged individual variations in how carriers performed their work presented unmanageable individual issues that precluded certification. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that proof of employee status would not necessarily entail a host of individual inquiries. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) whether a common law employer-employee relationship exists turns principally on the degree of a hirer’s right to control how the end result is achieved; (2) whether the hirer’s right to control can be shown on a classwide basis will depend on the extent to which individual variations in the hirer’s rights concerning each putative class member exist, and whether such variations, if any, are manageable; and (3) the trial court in this case erred in rejecting certification based not on differences in Defendant’s right to exercise control but on variations in how that right was exercised. View "Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc." on Justia Law

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An Employee filed a class action complaint against his Employer. The Employee, however, had entered into an arbitration agreement with his Employer that waived his right to class proceedings. The Employee also sought to bring a representative action under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). The Court of Appeal concluded that the entire arbitration agreement, which included a PAGA waiver, should be enforced. The Supreme Court reversed, holding, as regards the class action complaint, (1) a state law that restricts enforcement of the waiver of the right to class proceedings in arbitration agreements on grounds of public policy or unconscionability is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA); but (2) the class action waiver at issue in this case was unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act, and the Employer waived its right to arbitrate. With regard to the PAGA action, the Court held (1) the FAA does not preempt a state law that prohibits waiver of PAGA representative actions in an employment contract; and (2) an arbitration agreement requiring an employee to give up the right to bring representative PAGA actions is contrary to public policy and unenforceable as a matter of state law. View "Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC" on Justia Law

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Loan officers for U.S. Bank National Association (USB) sued USB for unpaid overtime, asserting that they made been misclassified as exempt employees under the outside salesperson exemption. The trial court certified a class of plaintiffs and then determined the extent of USB’s liability to all class members by extrapolating from a random sample. The jury returned a verdict of approximately $15 million, resulting in an average recovery of more than $57,000 per person. The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment and ordered the class decertified. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal’s judgment in its entirety, holding that the trial court’s particular approach to sampling in this case was profoundly flawed and prevented USB from showing that some class members were entitled to no recovery. Remanded for a new retrial on both liability and restitution. View "Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were five independent retail pharmacies licensed in California, and Defendants were prescription drug claims processors. In 2002, Plaintiffs filed a federal class action suit alleging that Defendants failed to comply with Cal. Civil Code 2527, which requires prescription drug claims processors to compile and summarize information on pharmacy fees and transmit that information to their clients. The district court dismissed the cases for lack of standing without reaching the merits. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that Plaintiffs had standing, reversed the district court, and remanded. On remand, Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, contending that section 2527 unconstitutionally compels speech in violation of the California and U.S. Constitutions. The district court denied the motions. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to answer a question of state law. The Supreme Court answered by holding (1) section 2527 implicates the right to free speech guaranteed by the California Constitution and is subject to rational basis review; and (2) the statute satisfies that standard because the compelled factual disclosures are reasonably related to the Legislature's legitimate objective of promoting informed decisionmaking about prescription drug reimbursement rates. View "Beeman v. Anthem Prescription Mgmt." on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more. During the trial proceedings, the trial court excluded expert witness testimony challenging the reliability of the breach-alcohol testing machines used on Defendant. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the generic charge but found Defendant guilty of driving with 0.08 percent or more of alcohol in his blood. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court committed prejudicial error in excluding the challenged expert testimony. The Supreme Court reversed and affirmed Defendant's conviction, holding that the trial court properly excluded the challenged expert testimony, holding that the fundamental reliability of a federally approved, properly calibrated and employed breath-testing machine used in the application and enforcement of a per se statute is a matter that has been determined as policy by the Legislature, and a defendant's expert witness may not invite a jury to nullify that determination in the manner at issue here. View "People v. Vangelder" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose out of a class action lawsuit filed by Plaintiff, a resident of Defendant City, challenging the City's telephone users tax (TUT) and seeking refund of the taxes paid. The trial court ruled that class claims for a refund were barred under Woosley v. State and dismissed the case. The court of appeal reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff could file a class claim for a TUT refund under the recently decided Ardon v. City of Los Angeles. In Ardon, the Supreme Court held that the Government Claims Act (Act) permits a class action claim by taxpayers against a local government entity for the refund of an unlawful tax in the absence of a specific tax refund procedure set forth in an applicable governing claims statute. The City appealed, asserting that its municipal code contained an "applicable governing claims statute" barring class action claims for a tax refund. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a local ordinance is not a "statute" within the meaning of the Act. View "McWilliams v. City of Long Beach" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from the DLSE's investigation into whether Brinker was complying with its obligations to provide rest and meal breaks to its employees, maintain proper records, and pay premium wages in the event required breaks were not provided. The court considered on appeal issues of significance to class actions generally and to meal and rest break class actions in particular. The court concluded that the trial courts were not obligated as a matter of law to resolve threshold disputes over the elements of a plaintiff's claims, unless a particular determination was necessarily dispositive of the certification question. Because the parties have so requested, however, the court nevertheless addressed several threshold disputes. In regards to the nature of an employer's duty to provide meal periods, the court concluded that an employer's obligation was to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desired, but the employer need not ensure that no work was done. Further, in light of the substantial evidence submitted by plaintiffs of defendants' uniform policy, the court concluded that the trial court properly certified a rest break subclass. On the question of meal break subclass certification, the court remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. With respect to the third contested subclass, covering allegations that employees were required to work "off-the-clock," no evidence of common policies or means of proof was supplied, and the trial court therefore erred in certifying a subclass. View "Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Super. Ct. of San Diego Cty" on Justia Law