CALIFORNIA CLASS ACTION LAW

Tag: Defendant

Blog Status: In Trial, So Fewer Updates This Week

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I am in trial, so there will be fewer updates until December 11.

Best,

Charles

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Northern District Denies Discovery of Class Member Identities on Privacy Grounds

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The United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied the production of names, addresses and telephone numbers of non-opt-in members of a FLSA collective and putative Labor Code class action.  Hill v. R+L Carriers Shared Services, LLC, No. C 09-1907 CW (MEJ), 2010 WL 4175958 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2010).  Plaintiff Glenn Hill is a former employee of Defendant R+L Carriers Shared Services, LLC, which provides administrative employees to transportation companies all across the United States.  Id. *1. Plaintiff worked as a “dispatcher” at Defendant’s San Lorenzo terminal in California, and brought a collective and class action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), California’s wage-and-hour laws and California Business & Professions Code section 17200. Id.

Background

Plaintiff sought two sub-classes: those employees in California and those that he refers to as a Nationwide Collective.  Id. The California Class is defined as “all persons who worked for any period of time in California who were classified as Dispatchers (including “City Dispatchers” and any other position(s) who are either called, or work(ed) as, dispatchers) in the four years prior to the filing of this Complaint, up through the final disposition of this action.” Id. In Defendant contended that a collective action under the FLSA is improper because the job duties, work schedules, and salary of its employees varies across the United States, as well as in the State of California. Id.

Hon. Claudia Wilken, the presiding judge in this matter, conditionally certified a class of Nationwide Collective Plaintiffs.  Judge Wilken also ordered Defendant to “disclose to Plaintiff, subject to a protective order if necessary, the number, location and actual job titles of persons who are classified as dispatchers.”  Id. Defendant provided the class members’ contact information to a third-party administrator, who propounded notice to all putative class members.  Id. Defendant also disclosed the number, location and actual job titles of putative class members to Plaintiff. Id. Two California putative members subsequently opted into the case. Id. Read the rest of this entry »

Eastern District Remands Class Action for Failure to Meet CAFA Amount in Controversy

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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California remanded a class action case for failure to meet the $5,000,000 amount in controversy requirement under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”).  Rhoades v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Co., Inc., No. 2:10-cv-1788-GEB-KJM, 2010 WL 3958702 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 8, 2010).  Plaintiffs alleged that they and the members of the putative class were “employed in the State of California by the Defendant[ ] to adjust insurance claims and their positions were known as ‘Claims Adjuster,’ ‘Claims Generalist Associate,’ or similar titles” during the past four years. Id. Plaintiffs and members of the putative class were allegedly “not paid overtime wages for all hours worked” and were not “provided accurate itemized wage statements.” Id.

Apparently attempting to avoid federal court jurisdiction, Plaintiffs also alleged that “the individual members of the classes herein have sustained damages under the seventy-five thousand … jurisdictional threshold and that the aggregate claim is under the five million dollar … threshold, [and argue therefore] removal under the CAFA would be improper.” Id. Plaintiffs state in their prayer for relief: “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that the damages, back-wages, restitution, penalties, interest and attorneys’s [sic] fees do not exceed an aggregate of $4,999,999.99 and that Plaintiffs’ individual claims do not exceed $74,999.99.” Id. Read the rest of this entry »

Judge Lucy H. Koh Invalidates 38 “Opt-Out” Forms, Grants Curative Notice, and Orders Defendants to Show Cause Why They Should Not be Sanctioned Pursuant to Rule 11

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Issuing a robust opinion in a putative wage and hour class and FLSA collective action, Judge Lucy H. Koh invalidated opt-out forms solicited by defendants, granted plaintiff’s request for a curative notice at defendants’ expense, and ordered defendants to show cause why they should not be sanctioned pursuant to Rule 11.  Li v. A Perfect Day Franchise, Inc., No. 10-CV-01189-LHK, 2010 WL 3835596 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2010).  The court concluded that based on the record, it appeared likely that “the opt-out forms submitted by Defendants on September 7, 2010 were fraudulently created after the September 2, 2010 hearing on the underlying motions.”  Id. *11.  The court admonished that “Defendants will not be permitted to defraud this Court by submitting false testimony.” Id. *12.

Background

Named plaintiffs are former workers for A Perfect Day Franchise, Inc., which owns and operates spas. Id. *1. Named plaintiffs describe themselves and the majority of the putative class as being native Chinese speakers, with limited English proficiency and little or no formal education. Id. Plaintiffs claim that they paid for a massage training course offered by an entity related to Perfect Day, the Minjian Hand Healing Institute.  Id. Plaintiffs allege they paid for the course based on promises, contained in advertisements for the training program, that they would be employed by Perfect Day and would earn a minimum income once it was completed, but that these promises were not honored by Perfect Day, and that Perfect Day has miscategorized them as independent contractors rather than employees. Id. Read the rest of this entry »

Central District Orders Pre-Certification Disclosure of Name and Contact Information for Putative Class Members, Finding that Such Disclosure Was “Common Practice” in Class Actions

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The Central District granted plaintiff’s motion to compel disclosure of the name and contact information (full name, last known addresses and telephone numbers) for class members of a putative class action for unpaid commission wages.  Celia Alvarez, et al. v. The Hyatt Regency Long Beach, et al., CV 09-04791-GAF (VBKx).  According to the court, the class was defined as all non-exempt employees for the period commencing May 7, 2005.  (Thank you to Radhika Sainath for alerting me to the decision.)

Defendants contended that the information was not relevant for class certification and invaded the privacy rights of the putative class.  Plaintiffs offered to enter into a protective order and offer that the information be given to a third party who would send the class members an opt-out letter.  Defendant rejected these proposal. Read the rest of this entry »

Plaintiffs in Wage & Hour Class Action Granted Temporary Restraining Order

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In an unusual move, plaintiffs in Arrendondo v. Delano Farms Company, No. CV F 09-1247 LJO DLB, 2010 WL 3212000 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2010), sought and were granted atemporary restraining order.  Plaintiffs filed an Application pursuant to  Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 requesting a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) against defendant Delano Farms Company to restrain potential retaliation and threats to witnesses and putative class members by defendant.  The Application was supported by declarations of three witnesses and potential class members who heard threats by a supervisor of Delano Farms as well as declarations from Jessica Arciniega and Thomas P. Lynch, attorneys representing plaintiffs, and Aida Sotelo, a paralegal who investigated the threats. Read the rest of this entry »

Northern District Approves 28.9% Fee Award in Wage and Hour Class Action Settlement

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Judge Jeffrey S. White approved a wage and hour class action settlement of a non-reversionary $1.8 million, inclusive of $520,000 in attorneys fees, in Ozga v. U.S. Remodelers, Inc., No. C 09-05112 JSW, 2010 WL 3186971 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2010).

Plaintiff filed a class action in the Alameda Superior Court on February 17, 2009, alleging that Defendant U.S. Remodelers Inc. violated the California Labor Code and violated California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders by: (1) requiring its Installer employees to work substantial amounts of time without compensation; (2) regularly failing to provide Installers with meal and rest periods; and (3) refusing to reimburse expenses that Installers incurred in the performance of their work duties, including travel expenses and equipment costs.

Defendant removed the action to this Court, and Plaintiff subsequently moved to remand.  But before the hearing on the motion to remand, the parties reached a settlement, which was facilitated, in part, by a mediation that occurred on October 1, 2009, before Michael Loeb.  The parties also engaged in some discovery, and Class Counsel interviewed a number of Settlement Class members.

The Court finds that the terms of the Settlement are fair, adequate and reasonable. As noted, the settlement was reached after the parties engaged in discovery, conducted a meditation, and continued to engage in arms-length negotiations. The parties agreed to a Settlement payment of $1,800,000.00, none of which will revert to the Defendant. The overall reaction to the settlement has been positive. The Claims Administrator has received 156 claim forms from the 270 Class Members. (Id., ¶¶ 20-21.) Neither the Claims Administrator nor the Court received any objections to the Settlement. No Class Member appeared at the final approval hearing to object. According to the Claims Administrator, assuming the Court were to grant in full Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs and service awards, approximately $1,108,917.72 would be available to distribute Class Members who submitted timely claim forms, for an average award of just over $7,000. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.)

The Court approved costs to be paid to the Claims Administrator of $10,000.00 from the Settlement Fund.

Attorneys Fees, Costs, and Service Awards

Plaintiff brought an unopposed fee application, seeking $600,000.00 in attorneys’ fees, $11,274.89 in costs, and $10,000.00 in service awards to him and to class member Boris Moskovich.

Plaintiff’s counsel sought an award of attorneys’ fees based on the percentage method, asking for 33 1/3% of the Settlement Fund.  The court agreed to depart from the 25% benchmark.  See Vizcaino v. Microsoft Corp., 290 F.3d 1043, 1047 (9th Cir. 2002) (noting that 25% is benchmark and “usual” range of awards is 20-30%); Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1029 (9th Cir. 1998) (stating that 25% is benchmark).  But the court would not vary from the benchmark to the degree requested by counsel.

The Court concludes that counsel did achieve an excellent result for the class, that the reaction to the settlement has been overwhelmingly positive, and that Plaintiff faced significant risk in prosecuting this case given the uncertain state of California law in similar wage and hour cases. The Court also recognizes that other courts have awarded settlement fees of up to 33 1/3% in such cases. However, the parties reached this settlement quickly and did not engage in any motion practice. See, e.g., Navarro v. Servisair, 2010 WL 1729538 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 27, 2010) (finding that proposed award of 30% of settlement fund unjustifiably departed from benchmark based in part on speed with which parties reached a settlement). Moreover, the requested percentage would amount to award that is more than double the fees actually incurred by counsel. Compare Vasquez v. Coast Valley Roofing, Inc., 266 F.R.D. 482, 491 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (awarding 33 1/3% of settlement fund which was “significantly less” than asserted lodestar).

Thus the court found that an award of  $520,000.00 was reasonable.

The court found counsels’ requests for costs in the amount of $11,274.89 reasonable.

The court also approved service awards in the amount of $10,000.00 for the lead plaintiff and for a class member.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

Central District Remands Wage and Hour Class Action Based on Local Controversy Exception to CAFA

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In Coleman v. Estes Express Lines, Inc., No. CV 10-2242 ABC (AJWx), — F. Supp. 2d —-, 2010 WL 3156850 (C.D. Cal. July 19, 2010) a wage and hour plaintiff brought a motion to remand, after the case was removed pursuant to CAFA.  The Court granted Plaintiff’s remand motion.

While Defendants have demonstrated that more than $5,000,000 is in controversy under CAFA, Plaintiff has demonstrated that CAFA’s Local Controversy exception applies in this case. Therefore, the Court must decline to exercise jurisdiction. See Serrano, 478 F .3d at 1022. Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED and this case is REMANDED to Los Angeles Superior Court.

Judges and Attorneys

The judge is Hon. Audrey B. Collins.

Plaintiffs were represented by Mark P. Estrella, Miriam L. Schimmel, Robert E. Byrnes, Sue Jin Kim of Initiative Legal Group APC and Payam Shahian of Strategic Legal Practices APC.

Defendants were represented by David L. Terry, David L. Woodard of Poyner Spruill LLP and Sarah N. Drechsler and Timothy M. Freudenberger of Carlton Disante & Freudenberger LLP.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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