CALIFORNIA CLASS ACTION LAW

Tag: Lawsuit

Southern District Remands California Securities Law Class Action, Declining to Combine 2 Similar Cases for Purposes of CAFA Jurisdiction

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In Royalty Alliance, Inc. v. Tarsadia Hotel, et al., Nos. 09CV2739 DMS (CAB), 10CV1231 DMS (CAB), 2010 WL 3339202 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2010) (slip op.), the court remanded a securities class action to state court and also rejected defendant’s request that the court consider two similar class actions for the purpose of evaluating CAFA jurisdiction. Read the rest of this entry »

MDL Panel Transfers Google Street View Litigation to Northern District of California

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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred In re Google, Inc. Street View Electronic Communications Litigation, — F. Supp. 2d —-, 2010 WL 3303204 (U.S. Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. Aug. 17, 2010) to the Northern District of California, assigned to Hon. James Ware.  The cases involve common factual questions arising out of allegations that Google intentionally intercepted electronic communications sent or received over class members’ open, non-secured wireless networks.

Plaintiffs in one District of District of Columbia action moved for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings of this litigation in the District of District of Columbia. Plaintiffs in the other District of District of Columbia action and a potentially-related action supported the motion. Read the rest of this entry »

MDL Panel Denies Centralization in In re Diversified Lending Group, Inc., Securities Litigation

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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied centralization in In re Diversified Lending Group, Inc., Securities Litigation, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2010 WL 3270231 (U.S. Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. Aug. 17, 2010).  Common defendant Jackson National Life Insurance Company moved for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings of litigation in the Central District of California.  This litigation consists of five actions pending in three districts: three actions in the Central District of California and one action each in the Middle District of Florida and the Western District of Michigan.

The Panel concluded that common questions of fact predominated “as all actions arise out of an alleged fraud perpetrated by Diversified Lending Group.” Id. *1.  But only one of the actions contained a demand for class certification and it is already pending in the Central District of California. “Consequently, the Panel sees virtually no possibility for inconsistent pretrial class certification rulings.” Id. Read the rest of this entry »

Toyota Hybrid Brake Litigation Transferred to Central District of California by MDL Panel

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The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred the Toyota hybrid brake litigation to the Central District of California.  In re Toyota Motor Corp. Hybrid Brake Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2010 WL 3270115 (U.S. Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. Aug. 17, 2010).  The litigation consists of eight actions listed pending in the Central District of California, the Middle District of Alabama, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of Maryland, and the Northern District of Texas. Read the rest of this entry »

Central District Certifies ERISA Class

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Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of California certified an ERISA class in Tibble, et al. v. Edison International, et al., No. CV 07-5359 SVW (AGRx), 2009 WL 6764541 (C.D. Cal. June 30, 2009).  Plaintiffs brought a class action pursuant to ERISA § 502(a)(2) & (3) to recover for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties with respect to the Edison 401(k) Savings Plan (the “Plan”).

Plaintiffs allege that certain defendants breached their fiduciary duties to the Plan by (1) engaging in prohibited transactions in violation of ERISA § 406; (2) breach of the duty of loyalty in violation of ERISA § 404(a)(1) (A); (3) breach of the duty of prudence in violation of ERISA § 404(a)(1)(B); and (4) violation of the terms of the Plan documents in violation of ERISA § 404(a)(1)(D). (SAC ¶ 105.)

Plaintiffs sought certification of the following class: Read the rest of this entry »

MDL Panel Centralizes BP Securities Litigation in Southern District of Texas to Judge Keith P. Ellison

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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation considered a motion, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, to centralize certain securities litigation related to BP in the Western District of Louisiana.  In re BP P.L.C. Securities Litigation, MDL No. 2185, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2010 WL 3238321 (U.S. Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. Aug. 10, 2010).  The actions all involve alleged violations of Sections 10(b) (and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78a, et seq., and share allegations that BP and its executives misled the investing public concerning the company’s safety measures and commitment to conducting safe operations.  The Panel transferred the proceedings to the Southern District of Texas, to Judge Keith P. Ellison. 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 »

Transitions Lenses Antitrust Litigation Transferred to Middle District of Florida

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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, the Transitions Optical, Inc. actions transferred to the Middle District of Florida and assigned to the Honorable James D. Whittemore for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings.  In re Transitions Lenses Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 2173, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2010 WL 3153211 U.S. Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. Aug. 6, 2010).

Writing for the Panel, Chairman John G. Heyburn II concluded that:

On the basis of the papers filed and hearing session held, we find that these actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization under Section 1407 in the Middle District of Florida will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this antitrust litigation. These actions share factual questions relating to alleged anticompetitive conduct in the photochromic lens industry. Centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary. Read the rest of this entry »

Fourth District Invalidates Class-Wide Arbitration Clause

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In this next case, Fisher v. DCH Temecula Imports LLC, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2010 WL 3192912 (Cal. Ct. App. 4th Dist. Aug. 13, 2010), the Court of Appeal for the Fourth District upheld the trial court’s denial of a petition to compel arbitration.

Defendant DCH Temecula Imports LLC (DCH) appealed the denial of its petition to compel arbitration. The trial court found that an arbitration clause in a retail installment sales contract (RISC) for the sale of a car to plaintiff Amberlee Fisher, which included a waiver of the right to bring a class action lawsuit or request classwide arbitration, was unenforceable.  Fisher opposed enforcement of the arbitration clause, arguing that it required her to waive an unwaivable statutory right to bring a class action lawsuit under the California Legal Remedies Act (the CLRA) and that the arbitration agreement was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable.

Claims and Class Definition

Fisher filed her complaint for injunctive relief, restitution, rescission, and damages both on her own behalf and as a class action lawsuit.  The class definition was:

those who purchased a vehicle from DCH from July 28, 2003, to then present, and (1) after signing an RISC, DCH rescinded the original RISC and had the consumer sign a subsequent RISC for the same vehicle, but the new contract was dated the date of the original purchase contract and involved financing at an annual percentage rate greater than 0.00%, and/or (2) who executed an RISC for the purchase of a vehicle for personal use where registration and licensing fees were not properly disclosed on a separate line in the contract as required.

The six causes of action for the class were violation of the CLRA and Civil Code sections 1750 and 1780, subdivision (a)(2) for backdating contracts; violation of the CLRA and Civil Code sections 1750, subdivision (a) and 1770, subdivision (a) for improperly designating license and registration fees; violation of the Automobile Sales Finance Act (the ASFA) and Civil Code section 2981 for backdating the second sales contract; violation of the ASFA and Civil Code section 2981 for improperly designating license and registration fees; commission of unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent business practices and violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200 for backdating the second sales contracts; and commission of unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent business practices and violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200 for failing to properly designate license and registration fees.

Petition to Compel Arbitration

On December 1, 2008, DCH filed its notice of petition and petition for orders compelling binding contractual arbitration, severing injunctive relief claims if inarbitrable, staying or dismissing proceedings pending arbitration, and staying injunctive relief claims pending arbitration if inarbitrable (petition to compel arbitration). According to the petition to compel arbitration, DCH had demanded that Fisher enter into binding arbitration prior to filing the complaint, but she had refused.

The binding arbitration clause appeared in a box on the back of the agreement in both the first and second RISC that Fisher signed.

The page on which it appeared was neither signed nor initialed. In bold letters it stated, “ARBITRATION CLAUSE PLEASE REVIEW–IMPORTANT–AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS.” It stated: “Either you or we may choose to have any dispute between us decided by arbitration and not in court or by jury trial.” (Capitalization omitted.) It also stated, “If a dispute is arbitrated, you will give up your right to participate as a class representative or class member on any class claim you may have against us including any right to class arbitration or any consolidation of individual arbitrations.” (Capitalization omitted.) It further stated, “You expressly waive any right you may have to arbitrate a class action.” Finally, it included language that, if the waiver of class action lawsuits or classwide arbitration was found unenforceable, the entire arbitration clause was unenforceable.

The court faced the issue of whether the waiver of a state statutory right (CLRA) constitutes a ground that exists at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.  The court held that the “right to bring a class action lawsuit, an unwaivable statutory right under the CLRA, is ‘a separate, generally available contract defense not preempted by the FAA.'” Id. *11 (quoting Gutierrez v. Autowest, Inc., 114 Cal. App. 4th 77, 95 (2003)).

The manner in which the contract was written in this case gives the appearance that the class action waiver was included in the arbitration agreement in order to force Fisher to waive her statutory rights, and DCH could be protected by arguing that the FAA preempted the CLRA because the waiver was included in the arbitration agreement. This is the type of arbitration agreement criticized in Little v. Auto Stiegler, Inc., supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 1079 for hiding these types of waivers of unwaivable rights.

Our hands are tied as to ordering arbitration of any of Fisher’s individual claims in the agreement. It was DCH who chose to put the classwide arbitration and class action lawsuit waiver in the arbitration agreement and then included the “poison pill” provision that invalidated the remainder of the arbitration agreement if the classwide arbitration waiver was unenforceable. We cannot sever the offending class action waiver, as we are bound by the language of the contract. We therefore affirm the trial court’s ruling denying DCH’s petition to compel arbitration.

Id. *12.

Judges and Attorneys

Justice Betty Ann Richli wrote the opinion for the court.  Justices Hollenhorts and McKinster concurred.

The appeal was taken from the Superior Court of Riverside County, Hon. Mac R. Fisher.

Defendant and Appellant was represented by Christian J. Scali and Wade R. Kackstetter of Manning, Leaver, Bruder & Berberich.

Jonathan Morrison submitted an amicus brief for California New Car Dealers Association on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Plaintiff and Respondent was represented by Hallen D. Rosner and Christopher P. Barry of Rosner, Barry & Babbitt.

The Complex Litigator and The UCL Practioner also discuss this case.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

Northern District Approves $4.5 Million Settlement Against RadioShack, With $1.5 Million in Fees, and $5,000 Incentive Payments to Each Lead Plaintiff

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Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen (whose confirmation to the Northern District of California bench has unfortunately been stalled for far too long) approved the class settlement and attorney fee application in Stuart v. RadioShack Corp., 2010 WL 3155645, No. C-07-4499 EMC (N.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2010).

This class action was initiated in state court in June 2007, alleging that RadioShack had improperly failed to reimburse its employees for expenses they incurred in using their personal vehicles to perform inter-company transfers (“ICSTs”). Plaintiffs claimed for reimbursement pursuant to California Labor Code § 2802 and for a violation of California Business & Professions Code.  Subsequently Plaintiffs added a claim for recovery of penalties under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”).  The case was removed in August 2007. And in February 2009, Judge Chen granted the motion for class certification, certifying a class consisting of “all persons employed by RadioShack within the State of California, at any time from June 3, 2003, to the present, who drove their personal vehicles to and from RadioShack stores to carry out ICSTs and who were not reimbursed for mileage.”  On October 1, 2009–nine days before trial was scheduled to begin–the parties reached a settlement.

Under the Settlement Agreement, RadioShack will pay a total of $4.5 million for the release by the class, as an all-inclusive sum (proceeds to be distributed to the class, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses, costs of claim administration, incentive payments to the class representatives, and the PAGA award to the state), without reversion of any of the $4.5 million to RadioShack.

After attorney’s fees, litigation expenses, costs of claim administration, incentive payments, and the PAGA award to the state have been deducted from the $4.5 million, the remainder for distribution to the class members and/or donation to charity is $2,796,563.31.

Each class member’s award “depends on the number of weeks that the class member worked.”

The Court found that, importantly, “the amount available to the class after deductions for, e.g., fees and costs–i.e., $2,796,563.31–is not far off what the class might be awarded if it were to prevail on the merits after a trial.” Id. *4.

Plaintiffs’ counsel asked for an award of $1.5 million  (i.e., one-third of the total settlement amount), plus litigation expenses which total $78,436.69.

The Court has reviewed the expenses and determined that they are reasonable. The Court notes that the sum is not excessive given that this litigation has been ongoing for more than three years.

Attorneys Fees Application

The attorneys presented a fee application claiming $1.5 million as a lodestar for fees–excluding work performed in preparing for final approval and any post-judgment work that may be needed.  The $1.5 million sum represents 2,116.69 hours of work over a period of more than three years, at hourly rates of the billing attorneys ranging from $600 to $1,000.

After reviewing the billing records submitted by counsel as well as the declarations regarding the hourly rates of counsel, the court found that the number of hours was reasonable given the length of the lawsuit and the vigorous disputes over the course of the litigation (e.g., regarding RadioShack’s defense that it had no duty to reimburse until an employee made a request for reimbursement).

The court did express some “concerns about the $1,000 hourly rate” claimed by one of the attorneys.  “Based on the Court’s experience, this is an inordinately large hourly rate, even if the Court were to assume that [the attorney] has fifty years of experience.”  But the Court concluded that “given the 2,116.69 hours incurred, the average hourly rate for a fee award of $1.5 million total is $708, an amount that the Court deems appropriate, particularly when no multiplier is being sought on top of the lodestar.”

Compared to the percentage of the fund, the court noted that “the total settlement amount to be paid by RadioShack (with no possibility of reversion), the fee award represents one-third of the settlement amount.”  The court found that this was “well within the range of percentages which courts have upheld as reasonable in other class action lawsuits.”

The court also approved an incentive award of $5,000 for each of the two class representatives, for a total of $10,000.  The Court concluded that the incentive payments were appropriate and reasonable.  “Although the class representatives did not enter this litigation until late in the proceedings, due consideration must be given to the fact that they were willing and ready to go to trial.”  The court noted that if the “class representatives had asked for a larger sum, the Court might well have reached a different conclusion, but the $5,000 sought for each representative was viewed as “relatively modest.”

By CHARLES H. JUNG