On remand after Brinker, Court of Appeal reconsiders prior decision and orders certificaiton in Faulkinbury


The press of obligations at work left little time for my blogging, which I regret.  And, I haven't seen anything all that interesting in the class action/complex litigation arena in the last few weeks.  That did change last week when, in Faulkinbury v. Boyd & Associates, Inc. (May 10, 2013), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division Three) [What?!?] reconsidered its prior decision following remand after Brinker.  The Court concluded that, along with the overtime class it previously ordered certified, the meal period and rest break claims should also have been certified.

Just to summarize, if my prose above was too painful to follow, the trial court denied class certification as to all claims, covered by three subclasses referred to as the Meal Break Class, the Rest Break Class and the Overtime Class.  The Court of Appeal, in a decision previously published as Faulkinbury v. Boyd & Associates, Inc., 185 Cal. App. 4th 1363 (2010), review granted Oct. 13, 2010, S184995 (Faulkinbury I), reversed the order denying certification of the overtime class but affirmed the order denying certification of the Meal Break Class and the Rest Break Class.  Then Brinker.  Then review granted.  Then remand with an order to vacate Faulkinbury I and reconsider in light of Brinker.

Summarizing the Supreme Court's guidance regarding the consideration of merits at the certification stage, the Court said:

The Supreme Court confirmed a class certification motion should not be a vehicle for resolving the merits of a claim, but recognized too that “[w]hen evidence or legal issues germane to the certification question bear as well on aspects of the merits, a court may properly evaluate them.”  (Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at pp. 1023‑1024.)  The court concluded:  “Presented with a class certification motion, a trial court must examine the plaintiff’s theory of recovery, assess the nature of the legal and factual disputes likely to be presented, and decide whether individual or common issues predominate.  To the extent the propriety of certification depends upon disputed threshold legal or factual questions, a court may, and indeed must, resolve them.  Out of respect for the problems arising from one-way intervention, however, a court generally should eschew resolution of such issues unless necessary.  [Citations.]  Consequently, a trial court does not abuse its discretion if it certifies (or denies certification of) a class without deciding one or more issues affecting the nature of a given element if resolution of such issues would not affect the ultimate certification decision.”  (Id. at p. 1025.)

Slip op., at 6.  Continuing, the Court observed that the Supreme Court "emphasized that '[c]laims alleging that a uniform policy consistently applied to a group of employees is in violation of the wage and hour laws are of the sort routinely, and properly, found suitable for class treatment.'"  Slip op., at 7.  The support for that last proposition was summarized as follows:

Brinker court cited three Court of Appeal cases:  Jaimez v. Daiohs USA, Inc. (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 1286 (Jaimez); Ghazaryan v. Diva Limousine, Ltd. (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 1524 (Ghazaryan); and Bufil v. Dollar Financial Group, Inc. (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1193 (Bufil).  In Jaimez, Ghazaryan, and Bufil, the Court of Appeal held the trial court abused its discretion by denying class certification.  (Jaimez, supra, at pp. 1299‑1307; Ghazaryan, supra, at pp. 1534‑1538; Bufil, supra, at pp. 1205‑1206.)  These courts reasoned that the plaintiffs were challenging a uniform employment policy that allegedly violated California law, and, therefore, this violation could be proved (or disproved) through common facts and law.  (Jaimez, supra, at pp. 1299‑1300; Ghazaryan, supra, at pp. 1536‑1538; Bufil, supra, at p. 1206.)  The courts in Jaimez and Ghazaryan also concluded that common issues predominated even if the employment policy did not affect each employee in the same way and damages would need to be proved individually.  (Jaimez, supra, at pp. 1301, 1303‑1305; Ghazaryan, supra, at p. 1536.)

Slip op., at 7, n. 1.

This is one area in which California certification procedural law appears to track somewhat more favorably for certification than does federal law applying Rule 23.  At the very least, it appears to conceptually negate the flavor-of-the-month argument, magically extracted from Wal-Mart, that a defendant is entitled to assert individual defenses in every case against every class member, thereby defeating class certification in virtually every conceivable case (which, logically, could not be true or someone might have noticed this over the decades upon decades of class action jurisprudence, but I digress as I so often do).  Wal-Mart, a case about a specific intent type of violation, says nothing of the sort, absent very creative quote extraction, coupled with very creative editorial content used to describe that very creative quote extraction. But stated another way, Brinker doesn't diverge from the federal track so much as hold the line that California has charted for some time, while cagey defense counsel try to move the tracks over on the federal side.  I suspect that, when the dust settles, the tracks will have moved back to a point closer to convergence, but not until there isn't much left of that Wal-Mart horse to beat.

Turning back to the Faulkinbury II decision, other observations of note include:

  • Justice Werdegar's concurrence in Brinker is identified as providing guidance on the question of missed meal breaks, Slip op., at 10.
  • The Court agreed with the analysis of Brinker supplied by Bradley v. Networkers Internat., LLC, 211 Cal. App. 4th 1129 (2012), Slip op., at 16.
  • Without deciding the lawfulness of the policy, the Court concluded that the question of whether the on-duty meal period policy was legal was a question suitable for certification, even if questions existed as to the frequency that meal periods were missed or the reasons as to why they were missed.  Slip op., at 15-16.

I can't promise that work obligations won't steal blogging time, but I will keep doing my best to highlight major decisions and events, intermingled with my brand of commentary.