CALIFORNIA CLASS ACTION LAW

Tag: United States District Court for the Central District of California

Central District Denies Twombly Challenge to Wage & Hour Class Action Pleadings, Holds That FLSA Is a Proper Predicate for a UCL Claim, but Strikes Fees Prayer Under C.C.P. § 1021.5

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The United States District Court for the Central District of California held that (1) relatively formulaic pleadings in a wage and hour case were sufficient to meet the pleading requirements of Rule 8, even under Twombly and Iqbal; (2) the FLSA is a proper predicate for a UCL claim; and (3) plaintiffs’ prayer for attorneys fees under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. section 1021.5 should be stricken. Whitaker v. Countrywide Financial Corp., No. CV CAS 09-5898 (PJWx), 2010 WL 4537098 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2010).

Background

A putative class action was brought on behalf of current and former employees of Countrywide Financial Corporation and Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (the “Countrywide Defendants”) against the Countrywide Defendants and Bank of America, the alleged successor employer and/or successor in liability to the Countrywide Defendants. Id. *1. The FAC alleges claims for: (1) failure to pay overtime in violation of Cal. Labor Code s 510 and s 1194 and IWC Wage Order 4-2001; (2) Cal. Labor Code s 203 waiting penalties; (3) failure to provide an accurate itemized wage statement pursuant to Cal. Labor Code s 226; (4) failure to pay minimum wage in violation of Cal. Labor Code s 1194 and IWC Wage Order No. 4-2001; (5) failure to pay minimum and overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. s 206(a); and (7) unfair competition pursuant to Cal. Business & Professions Code, s 17200 et seq. Id. Defendants moved to dismiss or strike plaintiffs’ first amended complaint.  Id.

Discussion

Defendants argued that plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed because they are factually devoid and simply “parrot the statutory language and proffer purely conclusory allegations”, thereby running afoul of the standards set out in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). Read the rest of this entry »

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Central District Strikes Opposition Filed by Terminated Former Co-Counsel in Putative Class Action

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In the latest round of an apparent falling out between law firms, the Central District of California struck a terminated firm’s  request to strike the notice of its termination, and considered but did not rule on the remaining firm’s alleged ethics violations.  Yumul v. Smart Balance, Inc., No. CV 10-00927 MMM (AJWx), 2010 WL 4352723 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 8, 2010).

Background

Plaintiff Rebecca Yumul filed a notice of termination of counsel, terminating Beck & Lee Business Trial Lawyers (“Beck & Lee”) as her counsel.  Id. *1. The notice was filed by Beck & Lee’s former co-counsel, the Weston firm (“Weston”), which continues to represent Yumul.  Id. Beck & Lee filed a pleading requesting that the court strike the notice of termination, alleging ethical violations by the Weston, and seeking Weston’s disqualification. Id. Beck & Lee asserts that Weston has filed a suit in the Southern District of California to determine the validity of the Joint Prosecution Agreement (“JPA”) that governed Beck & Lee’s co-counsel relationship with Weston in this and other class actions. Id. Yumul filed an ex parte application to strike Beck & Lee’s filings. Id.

Motion to Strike Terminated Counsel’s Opposition

The court granted plaintiff’s motion to strike Beck & Lee’s opposition to the notice of termination on the grounds that it interferes with her absolute right to discharge her attorney.  Id. 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 »

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 »

Ninth Circuit Issues 3-0 Opinion Reversing Denial of Class Certification in Tire Wear Case

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In a 3-0 opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday reversed a denial of class certification in Wolin v. Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC, Nos. 09-55104, 09-55105, — F.3d —-, 2010 WL 3222091 (9th Cir. Aug. 17, 2010).  Tire defect cases are normally difficult to certify.  Plaintiffs took the correct approach and positioned their class not as one for tire defect, but for vehicle alignment defect.

Kenneth Gable and Brian Wolin each brought a class action lawsuit against Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC (“Land Rover”) alleging that Land Rover’s LR3 vehicles suffer from an alignment geometry defect that causes tires to wear prematurely.  Id. *1.  The trial court denied their respective motions for class certification, holding that Gable and Wolin were unable to prove that a majority of potential class members suffered from the consequences of the alleged alignment defect. Read the rest of this entry »

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