CALIFORNIA CLASS ACTION LAW

Tag: Plaintiff

Fourth District Reverses Denial of Class Certification in Mail-In Rebate Case

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The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a denial of class certification in Kershenbaum v. Buy.com, Inc.,  No. G042303, 2010 WL 3800339 (Cal. Ct. App. 4th Dist. Sept. 30, 2010).  Plaintiff Richard M. Kershenbaum did not receive an advertised rebate on a product he purchased through Buy.com, Inc.’s Web site. Id. *1. Buy.com contended the rebate was offered by the product manufacturer, and it was therefore not responsible for compensating Kershenbaum. Id.

The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in denying the motion for class certification:

The different definitions of the proposed class contained in the memorandum of points and authorities and the proposed order did not warrant denial of the motion for lack of ascertainability. Any confusion caused by the different definitions could and should have been remedied by the trial court, either by correcting the proposed order, or by independently drafting a new order.

We further conclude the trial court erred in denying the motion on the ground that common questions of law did not predominate. The California choice-of-law provision in Buy.com’s terms of use agreement applies to the claims asserted by the class. Even if the choice-of-law provision did not apply, class certification was still appropriate because significant contacts with California have been shown to exist, and Buy.com cannot demonstrate that any foreign law, rather than California law, should apply to the class claims.

We also conclude the trial court erred in determining the claims asserted by the class were vague.

Finally, Kershenbaum had standing to assert a claim for misleading advertising; the trial court erred in determining otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

Central District Remands Class Action for Defendant’s Failure to Prove Amount in Controversy Under CAFA

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The Central District remanded a putative minimum wage and overtime class action suit in Munoz v. Central Parking Sys., Inc., No. CV 10-6172 PA (RCx), 2010 WL 3432239 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 30, 2010) (unpublished).

Plaintiff’s Complaint attempted to avoid removal, stating “[i]t is believed that the total sum owed to the Class alleged herein is less than $5 million, based upon the anticipated size of the Class and the amount in controversy for each member of the Class.”  Id. *1. Read the rest of this entry »

Granular Fee Opinion From Southern District, Reducing Hourly Rates from $250-400 to $225-295, and Reducing Fee for Low Success

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District Judge Larry Alan Burns, in Gold v. NCO Financial Systems, Inc., No. 09cv1646-LAB (CAB), 2010 WL 3339498 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2010) (slip op.) considered a fee motion after defendant’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 offer of judgment was accepted.  The court, in a quite granular opinion, reduced the requested  hourly rates of $250-400 to $225-295.  The court also reduced time for block billing, intra-office communication, and unnecessary work.  Id. **3-4.  Comparing the fees to the $3,000 judgment achieved for plaintiff, the court reduced the fee award by 1/3 to $6,207.43.  The court reduced the costs from a requested $2,406.51 to $71.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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