Ninth Circuit concludes that the Dynamex "ABC test" applies retroactively

I missed this little nugget when it came out last month, but it’s worth noting regardless because it may move the needle in existing cases. In Vazquez, et al. v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc. (9th Cir. May 2, 2009), the Ninth Circuit considered whether Dynamex Ops. W. Inc. v. Superior Court, 416 P.3d 1 (Cal. 2018) applied to a District Court decision that pre-dated Dynamex.

On that point, the Court agreed that the default rule of retroactive application of judicial decisions should apply after a thorough analysis of the limited bases for an exception to that default rule:

Given the strong presumption of retroactivity, the emphasis in Dynamex on its holding as a clarification rather than as a departure from established law, and the lack of any indication that California courts are likely to hold that Dynamex applies only prospectively, we see no basis to do so either.

Slip op., at 26. The Court then considered whether due process considerations could preclude retroactive application and held that such considerations did not:

Applying Dynamex retroactively is neither arbitrary nor irrational. The Dynamex court explained that “wage orders are the type of remedial legislation that must be liberally construed in a manner that services its remedial purpose.” 416 P.3d at 32. Moreover, Dynamex made clear that California wage orders serve multiple purposes. One is to compensate workers and ensure they can provide for themselves and their families. Id. But second, wage orders accord benefits to entire industries by “ensuring that . . . responsible companies are not hurt by unfair competition from competitor businesses that utilize substandard employment practices.” Id. And finally, wage orders benefit society at large. Without them, “the public will often be left to assume responsibility for the ill effects to workers and their families resulting from substandard wages or unhealthy and unsafe working conditions.” Id. It is with these purposes in mind that the California Supreme Court embraced the ABC test and found it to be “faithful” to the history of California’s employment classification law “and to the fundamental purpose of the wage orders.” Id. at 40.

Slip op., at 27-28.

The balance of the Opinion examined the merits of the case, providing significant guidance to the District Court on remand.

Separate from the content of the Opinion, I am impressed by the formatting of the Opinion. The Opinion contains a hyper-linked table of contents that improves navigation through the long decision. Because I was curious about the formatting, I did a quick spot check of recent opinions and could not find a similarly formatted document. This makes me wonder why this is not standard. I note that Judge Block, of the Eastern District of New York (sitting by designation) authored the opinion. If you happen to know why the formatting of this Opinion is so good, leave a comment.

The prevailing plaintiffs were represented by Shannon Liss-Riordan of Lichten & Liss-Riordan P.C., Boston, Massachusetts.

Central District of California Local Rule 23-3 finally addressed in published Ninth Circuit opinion

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For years I've heard grumbling about Civil Local Rule 23-3 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.  I may have been been responsible for some of that grumbling myself.  If you haven't run into this rule, Local Rule 23-3 requires the filing of a class certification motion within 90 days of the commencement of the action.  While many judges would accept stipulations to waive the rule, some did not.  In ABS Entertainment Inc. v. CBS Corp. (9th Cir. Aug. 20, 2018), the Ninth Circuit finally addressed this Local Rule in a published opinion (I believe there was commentary in an unpublished opinion a number of years ago):

Central District of California Local Rule 23-3 sets a strict 90-day time frame from the filing of a complaint to the motion for class action certification. This bright line rule is in direct contrast to the flexibility of the Federal Rule, which calls for a determination on class certification “[a]t an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(1)(A). That flexible approach makes sense. The class action determination can only be decided after the district court undertakes a “rigorous analysis” of the prerequisites for certification. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 350–51 (2011) (quoting Gen. Tele. Co. of SW v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982)). To undertake that analysis may require discovery. Kamm v. Cal. City Dev. Co., 509 F.2d 205, 210 (9th Cir.1975) (“The propriety of a class action cannot be determined in some cases without discovery;” “To deny discovery in [such cases] would be an abuse of discretion.”).
The district court’s actions here demonstrate the impracticability of the 90-day limit, particularly in combination with the district court’s summary and unexplained denial of the parties’ joint stipulation to extend the 90-day deadline based on the need for pre-certification discovery. See Barbara J. Rothstein & Thomas E. Willging, Federal Judicial Center, Managing Class Action Litigation: A Pocket Guide for Judges 9 (3d ed. 2010) (“Considering [Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(1)], you should feel free to ignore local rules calling for specific time limits; such local rules appear to be inconsistent with the federal rules and, as such, obsolete.”); Federal Judicial Center, Manual for Complex Litigation, Fourth § 21.133 (“Some local rules specify a short period within which the plaintiff must file a motion to certify a class action. Such rules, however, may be inconsistent with Rule 23(c)(1)(A)’s emphasis on the parties’ obligation to present the court with sufficient information to support an informed decision on certification. Parties need sufficient time to develop an adequate record.”).
Although the district court’s application and interpretation of its Local Rules is entitled to “a large measure of discretion,” Lance, Inc. v. Dewco Servs., Inc., 422 F.2d 778, 784 (9th Cir. 1970), Local Rules cannot be incompatible with Federal Rules. Fed. R. Civ. P. 83(a)(1). We conclude that the bright-line of Local Rule 23-3 is incompatible with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

Slip op., at 49-50.  I only wonder whether the inclusion of this discussion at the end of a massive copyright opinion will give it more attention -- perhaps enough to lead to a repeal of Local Rule 23-3 entirely -- or less because it will get lost at the end of this unusually long opinion.

California Supreme Court agreed to hear certified question about employer exit searches in Frlekin v. Apple

The California Supreme Court has agreed to weigh in on the issue of whether time spent on security searches is compensable.  Here is the Court's description of the issue:

Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., S243805. (9th Cir. No. 15-17382; ___ F.3d ___, 2017 WL 3723235; Northern District of California; Nos. C 13-03451 WHA, No. C 13-03775 WHA, C 13-04727 WHA.) Request under California Rules of Court rule 8.548, that this court decide a question of California law presented in a matter pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The question presented is: “Is time spent on the employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages or bags voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees compensable as ‘hours worked’ within the meaning of California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 7?”

Justice Chin was recused and did not participate in the decision.  Between this and other issues currently before the California Supreme Court, we will see more changes in wage and hour litigation in the next few years.

Allstate tests new method for mooting class claims; falls short in Chen v. Allstate Ins. Co.

Normal people see laws as barriers. Lawyers see laws as an agility course.  After Pitts v. Terrible Herbst, Inc., 653 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2011) and Gomez v. Campbell-Ewald Co., 768 F.3d 871 (9th Cir. 2014), aff’d, 136 S. Ct. 663 (2016), you'd have to forgive ordinary citizens for thinking that the question of whether you can moot a class action by offering up full individual relief to the putative class representative was pretty well settled. But where some see finality, Allstate insurance saw...opportunity.  Specifically, Allstate looked to Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663 (2016) for the secret to mooting class representative claims.  In Chen v. Allstate Inc. Co. (9th Cir. Apr. 12, 2016), the Ninth Circuit sent the wily insurance coyote back to the drawing board.

The plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Allstate, alleging he received unsolicited automated telephone calls to his cellphone, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Before a motion for class certification had been made, Allstate made an offer of judgment to the plaintiffs under Rule 68 of the F.R.C.P., depositing $20,000 in full settlement of individual monetary claims in an escrow account “pending entry of a final District Court order or judgment directing the escrow agent to pay the tendered funds to Pacleb, requiring Allstate to stop sending non-emergency telephone calls and short message service messages to Pacleb in the future and dismissing this action as moot.”  Slip op. at 4, 7.  Allstate extended the Rule 68 offer beyond 14 days and then moved for entry of judgment and dismissal.  One plaintiff accepted the offer while the motion was pending.

The district court denied the motion, holding that, under Pitts v. Terrible Herbst, Inc., 653 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2011), the plaintiff's class allegations presented a justiciable controversy and rejected the notion that Pitts was no longer good law.  The district court later certified the issue for interlocutory appeal.

On appeal, Allstate asked the Court to take up the hypothetical issue raised in Campbell-Ewald, which was whether the deposit of the full amount of a plaintiff's individual claim in an account payable to the plaintiff, followed by entry of judgment for the plaintiff in that amount, is sufficient to moot the case.  Allstate argued that the judgment it consented to would offer complete relief, the district should be compelled to enter judgment on those terms, mooting the plaintiff's individual claims, and the remaining class allegations would then be insufficient to preserve a live controversy.  While the Court agreed with the first contention, it rejected the second and third contentions.

The Court began by reviewing the relief that Allstate had consented to in the district court.  Considering both the monetary and injunctive aspects of that relief, the Court found that complete individual relief was offered.  Slip op., at 12-14.

Next, the Court considered whether the decision in Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 133 S. Ct. 1523 (2013) vitiated Pitts.  The Court concluded that it did not:

In Gomez, 768 F.3d at 875–76, however, we squarely rejected that very argument. Because Genesis Healthcare concerned collective actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rather than class actions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, Gomez held Pitts was not clearly irreconcilable with Genesis Healthcare. See id. Although Genesis Healthcare “undermined some of the reasoning employed in Pitts . . . , courts have universally concluded that the Genesis discussion does not apply to class actions.” Id. at 875. “In fact, Genesis itself emphasizes that ‘Rule 23 [class] actions are fundamentally different from collective actions under the FLSA.’” Id. at 875–76 (alteration in original) (quoting Genesis Healthcare, 133 S. Ct. at 1529).

Slip op., at 16.  The Court then held that it was bound by Gomez, which was decided en banc.

Next, the Court went further, holding that even if Pitts were not controlling, the Court would reject an attempt to moot the action prior to a fair opportunity to move for class certification.  The Court noted that placing funds in an escrow account was not the same as the actual receipt of all relief by a plaintiff.  This will likely just bait the next enterprising defendant into actually tendering the funds into an account in the name of the plaintiff to see if the outcome is any different (remember, there are no obstacles, only new paths).

Finally, the Court considered whether to order the district court to enter judgment.  The Court concluded that doing so would be inconsistent with Campbell-Ewald, which affords a putative class representative with a live claim a fair opportunity to show certification is warranted:

Even if that is true, however, Campbell-Ewald clearly suggests it would be inappropriate to enter judgment under these circumstances. As Campbell-Ewald explained, “[w]hile a class lacks independent status until certified, a would-be class representative with a live claim of her own must be accorded a fair opportunity to show that certification is warranted.” Campbell-Ewald, 136 S. Ct. at 672 (emphasis added) (citation omitted) (citing Sosna, 419 U.S. at 399). Accordingly, when a defendant consents to judgment affording complete relief on a named plaintiff’s individual claims before certification, but fails to offer complete relief on the plaintiff’s class claims, a court should not enter judgment on the individual claims, over the plaintiff’s objection, before the plaintiff has had a fair opportunity to move for class certification.

Slip op., at 22-23.  The Court noted the long-recognized principle that class relief is the only feasible relief in many circumstances and concluded that "a district court should decline to enter a judgment affording complete relief on a named plaintiff’s individual claims, over the plaintiff’s objection, before the plaintiff has had a fair opportunity to move for class certification." Slip op., at 26.

The Court affirmed the district court.

If you anticipate that the Supreme Court will take up the first case to test its Genesis Healthcare hypothetical, don't hold your breath. If anything, the Supreme Court would want to see more than one Circuit tackle the issue and see if a significant split develops before wading back into these waters. That doesn't mean that enterprising defendants won't look for another way to moot class claims before certification.

Ninth Circuit finds that California's "good cause" requirement for a license

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The Ninth Circuit did us a solid yesterday.  In Edward Peruta v. County of San Diego (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2014), the Court held, 2-1, that California's restrictions (as applied in San Diego County) on firearm carry in public improperly infringe upon the Second Amendment's guarantee of a citizen's right to keep and bear arms.  At least in the more populated counties of California, you essentially cannot obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon; almost no cause (other than being best buddies with the Sheriff or a prominent politician) is good enough.  Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City are both on the extreme end of this construction.  But this gives me hope that when I choose to carry a weapon for self defense, it will be a lawful act.  I am not suggesting, by the way, that I would ever choose to act in an unlawful manner; I'm just looking forward to the time when fewer of my rights will be implicitly negated by impossible requirements attached to their exercise.

The discussion of what it means to "bear" arms, in the historical context, is highly entertaining.

PAGA claims of multiple employees are not a "common and undivided interest"

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In  Urbino v. Orkin Servs. of California, Inc. (9th Cir. Aug. 13, 2013), the Ninth Circuit took up the question of whether PAGA claims aggregate for purposes of CAFA's damage prerequisite.  Plaintiff, a California citizen, worked in a nonexempt, hourly paid position for defendants, each of whom is a corporate citizen of another state, in California. Alleging that defendants illegally deprived him and other nonexempt employees of meal periods, overtime and vacation wages, and accurate itemized wage statements, plaintiff filed a representative PAGA action.  Defendants removed.  Plaintiff moved to remand.  The district court was obligated to decide whether the potential penalties could be combined or aggregated to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement. If they could, federal diversity jurisdiction would lie because statutory penalties for initial violations of California’s Labor Code would total $405,500 and penalties for subsequent violations would aggregate to $9,004,050. If not, the $75,000 threshold would not be met because penalties arising from plaintiff’s claims would be limited to $11,602.40.  Acknowledging a split of opinion, the district court found PAGA claims to be common and undivided and therefore capable of aggregation.

The Court examined the "common and undivided interest" exception to the rule that multiple plaintiffs cannot aggregate claims.  Observing that common questions do not create that common and undivided interest, the Court said:

But simply because claims may have “questions of fact and law common to the group” does not mean they have a common and undivided interest.  Potrero Hill Cmty. Action Comm. v. Hous. Auth., 410 F.2d 974, 977 (9th Cir. 1969). Only where the claims can strictly “be asserted by pluralistic entities as such,” id., or, stated differently, the defendant “owes an obligation to the group of plaintiffs as a group and not to the individuals severally,” will a common and undivided interest exist, Gibson v. Chrysler Corp., 261 F.3d 927, 944 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Morrison v. Allstate Indem. Co., 228 F.3d 1255, 1262 (11th Cir. 2000)).

Slip op., at 8.

The defendants then argued that the interest asserted by plaintiff was not his, but was actually the state's interest.  The Court's majority did not find that argument compelling:

To the extent Plaintiff can—and does—assert anything but his individual interest, however, we are unpersuaded that such a suit, the primary benefit of which will inure to the state, satisfies the requirements of federal diversity jurisdiction. The state, as the real party in interest, is not a “citizen” for diversity purposes. See Navarro Sav. Ass’n v. Lee, 446 U.S. 458, 461 (1980) (courts “must disregard nominal or formal parties and rest jurisdiction only upon the citizenship of real parties to the controversy.”); Mo., Kan. & Tex. Ry. Co. v. Hickman, 183 U.S. 53, 59 (1901); see also Moor v. Cnty. of Alameda, 411 U.S. 693, 717 (1973) (explaining that “a State is not a ‘citizen’ for purposes of the diversity jurisdiction”).

Slip op., at 9.   By the way, this cleverly avoids deciding an unnecessary issue that is of some consequence in the world of arbitration.  It does, however, suggest a point upon which the California Supreme Court will likely have to express an opinion when it decides whether PAGA claims are excused from arbitration clause enforcement or, alternatively, from arbitration clauses that preclude “class” claims.

The dissent, like the majority opinion, is also relatively short, but it is also well argued.

Thanks to the tipster for directing me to the decision (since I don't know whether you want to be identified, you remain anonymous).

NOTE:  This is an updated version of an earlier post on this case.  The older post has been removed. 

Ninth Circuit confirms that Lowdermilk is overruled and damage caps won't save you from CAFA (Rodriquez v. AT&T Mobility)

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In Rodriguez v. AT&T Mobility Services LLC (9th Cir. Aug. 27, 2013), the plaintiff brought a putative class action against AT&T Mobility Services, LLC, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated retail sales managers of AT&T wireless stores in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.  The plaintiff asserted various claims related to alleged unpaid wages, overtime compensation, and damages for statutory violations, filing in Los Angeles County Superior Court in a doomed effort to escape federal court.  AT&T removed the case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).  Plaintiff moved to remand the case to state court, arguing that defendant could not establish subject-matter jurisdiction because the total amount in controversy did not exceed $5 million.  Plaintiff cited his First Amended Complaint, in which he alleged as much, that “the aggregate amount in controversy is less than five million dollars.” To bolster his position, in that pleading, he also “waive[d] seeking more than five million dollars ($5,000,000) regarding the aggregate amount in controversy for the class claims alleged.”  The district court rejected AT&T’s argument and ordered remand to state court.  The trial court did not address the parties’ calculations of amount in controversy.

The Ninth Circuit recognized the applicability of the U.S. Supreme Court's first CAFA decision, Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 1345 (2013).  As to Standard Fire, the parties agreed that Standard Fire mandated reversal of the district court's remand order, which was issued before Standard Fire was decided.  The Ninth Circuit directed the district court to reconsider the remand motion. Slip op., at 7.

On the second issue involved in the appeal, the burden of proof, the Court held that Standard Fire overruled Lowdermilk v. U.S. Bank National Association, 479 F.3d 994 (9th Cir. 2007), which had imposed a "legal certainty" standard, instead of a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, for defeating a pleading’s allegations of amount-in-controversy:

The reasoning behind Lowdermilk's imposition of the legal certainty standard is clearly irreconcilable with Standard Fire. We hold that Standard Fire has so undermined the reasoning of our decision in Lowdermilk that the latter has been effectively overruled. A defendant seeking removal of a putative class action must demonstrate, by a preponderance of evidence, that the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum. This standard conforms with a defendant's burden of proof when the plaintiff does not plead a specific amount in controversy.

Slip op., at 14.  The Court went on to observe that a “lead plaintiff of a putative class cannot reduce the amount in controversy on behalf of absent class members, so there is no justification for assigning to the allegation weight so significant that it affects a defendant's right to a federal forum under § 1332(d)(2).”  Slip op., at 15.

With this decision in mind, a lead plaintiff is taking a serious chance with their adequacy if there is an attempted waiver of any recovery exceeding $5 million that cannot be supported down the road as having been based on a good faith calculation of recoverable damages.

In Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, Ninth Circuit joins others to hold that FLSA and Rule 23 Classes are not incompatible

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Today the Ninth Circuit, in Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. (9th Cir. April 12, 2013) joined other circuits in concluding that FLSA opt-in collective actions are not incompatible with state law claims asserted as Rule 23 class actions:

In sum, we agree with the other circuits to consider the issue that the fact that Rule 23 class actions use an opt-out mechanism while FLSA collective actions use an opt-in
mechanism does not create a conflict warranting dismissal of the state law claims.

Slip op., at 9.  I will write up a bit more later, but this holding should put an end to the wasteful motion practice around this issue in the Ninth Circuit.  Given the agreement manifesting between the Circuits, it is unlikely that we will see Supreme Court review of this issue any time soon.

Sullivan v. Oracle Corporation addresses how California law applies to nonresident employees working both in and outside California

Today, the California Supreme Court issued an Opinion following its acceptance of questions about the construction of California law from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  In Sullivan v. Oracle Corporation (June 30, 2011), the Court addressed (1) whether the Labor Code's overtime provisions apply to plaintiffs' claims for compensation for work performed in this state [with the ancillary question of whether the same claims can serve as predicates for claims under California's unfair competition law (UCL) (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.)], and (2) whether the plaintiffs' claims for overtime compensation under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) (29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.; see id., § 207(a)) for work performed in other states can serve as predicates for UCL claims.

The Court responded "yes" to the first question group, and "no" to the second.

On the first issue, the Court said:  "The California Labor Code does apply to overtime work performed in California for a California-based employer by out-of-state plaintiffs in the circumstances of this case, such that overtime pay is required for work in excess of eight hours per day or in excess of forty hours per week. (See Sullivan III, supra, 557 F.3d 979, 983.)"  (Slip op., at 18.)

On the related UCL question, the Court said: "Business and Professions Code section 17200 does apply to the overtime work described in question one. (See Sullivan III, supra, 557 F.3d 979, 983.)"  Slip op., at 19.)

The full answer to the last issues was:  "Business and Professions Code section 17200 does not apply to overtime work performed outside California for a California-based employer by out-of-state plaintiffs in the circumstances of this case based solely on the employer's failure to comply with the overtime provisions of the FLSA."  (Slip op., at 23.)

The Opinion was issued by a unanimous Court.

Ninth Circuit discusses individual privacy interests in FOIA context

While not directly applicable to class member identity discovery, the Ninth Circuit recently provided some guidance about individual privacy interests and how they are weighed against a countervailing set of interests to keep them confidential.  Prudential Locations LLC v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (9th Cir. June 9, 2011) involved a Freedom of Information Act request for identification of various informants that advised the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) about their suspicions that Prudential Locations LLC was violating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2617, which was passed, in part, to “eliminat[e] . . . kickbacks or referral fees that tend to increase unnecessarily the costs of certain settlement services.” 12 U.S.C. § 2601(b)(2).

The Court described the process of review as one in which the Court must first identify a non-trivial privacy interest.  If such an interest is identified, the Court must then “balance the privacy interest protected by the exemption[ ] against the public interest in government openness that would be served by disclosure.”  Finally, the Court said that it must evaluate the likelihood that a privacy invastion would occur.  The Court concluded that HUD had failed to provide the trial court with sufficient information to rule on the request and remanded to give HUD an opportunity to do so.

While not precisely analagous to the test applied when discovery of class member identity is sought, this opinion at least suggests the type of analysis that must occur then balancing an asserted privacy interest in identity and contact information with the strong right to discover that information.