CALIFORNIA CLASS ACTION LAW

Category: Other News of Interest

Second District Publishes Attorney Disqualification Opinion: Khani v. Ford Motor Company

1961 Ford H-Series trucks

1961 Ford H-Series trucks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District yesterday ordered published Khani v. Ford Motor Company, et al., No. B239611, __ Cal.App.4th __ (2d Dist. Apr. 25, 2013).   Plaintiff, represented by attorney Shahian, brought a suit under California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code, § 1790, et seq., popularly known as California‘s Lemon Law) for defects in a 2008 Lincoln Navigator.

Ford moved to disqualify Shahian and his law firm.  Ford presented a declaration from Shahian’s former law firm which was Ford’s corporate counsel.  The declaration stated that Shahian worked on 150 cases, including California Lemon Law cases and was purportedly privy to confidential client communications and information relating to the defense of such cases. Shahian provided unspecified “input” to Ford‘s Office of General Counsel and Consumer Affairs and communicated regularly with Ford about lemon law cases.  The court granted the disqualification motion.

The Court of Appeal reversed:

The evidence in this case does not establish that any information to which Shahian was exposed during his representation of Ford would be material to his representation of Khani in this case. While Ford presented evidence that Shahian represented it in California Lemon Law cases, it did not establish that any confidential information about the defense in those cases would be at issue in this case. Neither the allegedly defective 2008 Lincoln Navigator nor its repair history by Galpin Motors was the subject of any lawsuit in which Shahian represented Ford. Takahashi‘s declaration does not show that Ford had any policies, practices, or procedures generally applicable to the evaluation, settlement or litigation of California Lemon Law cases at the time Shahian represented Ford, or that any such policies, practices, or procedures continued in existence unchanged between 2007 and 2011. Nor does it show that the same decision makers that were involved in cases Shahian handled for Ford are involved in this case.

The trial court abused its discretion in concluding that the prior cases were substantially related to the current case just because they involved claims under the same statute. The substantial relationship test does not subject an attorney to automatic disqualification on this ground alone. (See Banning Ranch Conservancy v. Superior Court (2011) 193 Cal.App.4th 903, 918 [successive representations in cases under 6 California Environmental Quality Act not substantially related].)1 The court also incorrectly assumed that Shahian‘s exposure to playbook information in prior lemon law cases was sufficient to disqualify him in this case without any showing of its materiality. (See Farris, supra, 119 Cal.App.4th at p. 680; see also Elliott v. McFarland Unified School Dist. (1985) 165 Cal.App.3d 562, 572 [conclusory statements insufficient].) Ford‘s bare-bones evidence in this case is insufficient to establish that Shahian‘s previous representation of Ford in California Lemon Law cases exposed him to confidential information that would be material to his current representation of Khani.

Judges & Attorneys

Presiding Justice Norman L. Epstein issued the opinion for the court.  Associate Justices Thomas L. Willhite, Jr. and Steven C. Suzukawa concurred.

Appeal from order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Judge Amy D. Hogue.

Strategic Legal Practices, Payam Shahian, Gielegheim & Associates and Neil Gielegheim, for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Baker & Hostetler, Mary L. Arens, Rosslyn Hummer, and Jack Samet for Defendants and Respondents.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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U.S. Supreme Court Set to Hear Oral Argument in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, a Case Which Many Predict Will End Consumer Class Actions

from here to eternity
Image by gato-gato-gato via Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010). This is a critical case, in which the Court may effectively end most court-based consumer class actions.

Term “Address” Under Corporations Code Encompasses Email Addresses

WorldMark - Estes Park
Image by Rojer via Flickr

The Court of Appeal for the Third District issued an important decision on Monday, holding that the term “addresses” in section 8330 of the Corporations Code encompasses email addresses.  Worldmark v. Wyndham Resort Development Corp., No. C061019, — Cal. Rptr. 3d —-, 2010 WL 3312607 (Cal. Ct. App. 3d Dist. Aug. 23, 2010).  The California Corporations Code grants members of a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation the right to inspect and copy, or obtain for a reasonable charge, the record of the names, addresses, and voting rights of the members of the corporation upon 10 business days’ written notice, provided it is for a purpose reasonably related to the person’s interest as a member. Corp. Code § 8330(a)(1)(2).   Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Sued Over BlackBerry Overtime

Photo by Cheon Fong Liew

A  Chicago police sergeant has brought an FLSA collective action against the city for overtime pay related to the off-hours use of his BlackBerry PDA device.  The complaint in Allen v. City of Chicago, No. 10-CV-03183, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  You can view the complaint here.

The complaint alleges that it is brought by a Chicago Police Sergeant on behalf of himself and other similarly situated members of the Chicago Police Department for purposes of obtaining relief under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 as amended, 29 U.S.C. §201, et. seq. (hereinafter “FLSA”) for unpaid overtime compensation, liquidated damages, costs, attorneys’ fees, declaratory and/or injunctive relief, and/or any such other relief the Court may deem appropriate.

Defendant has willfully violated the FLSA by intentionally failing and refusing to pay Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees all compensation due them under the FLSA and its implementing regulations over the course of the last three years. Defendant administered an unlawful compensation system that failed to provide hourly compensation and premium overtime compensation to employees that work overtime hours “off the clock.” Plaintiff and similarly situated employees were issued personal data assistants (“PDA’s”), such as BlackBerry devices, that they are required to use outside their normal working hours without receiving any compensation for such hours. Defendant’s deliberate failure to compensate its Chicago Police Department employees for these hours worked violates federal law as set forth in FSLA.

The plaintiff’s attorneys are MaryAnn Pohl and Paul D. Geiger.

By CHARLES H. JUNG