Watching how they make the sausage...Eastern District set to try Taco Bell wage & hour class actions

Class actions don't make it to trial all that often.  But when they get close, things can get pretty ugly.  In Medlock, et al. v. Taco Bell Corp., et al., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (Magistrate Stanley A. Boone presiding) issued an Order on nine motions in limine filed by the Plaintiffs. See 2016 WL 430438 (February 4, 2016).

In Medlock, the Court certified three classes, on claims for meal period violations, rest period violations, and improper time record adjustments.  With trial approaching on February 22, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed nine motions in limine to exclude expert testimony (motions 1 and 2), rates of meal and rest period violation (motion 3), challenges to the authenticity of raw time clock data (motion 4), evidence of job performance or discipline (motion 5), evidence related to elements of class certification (motion 6), evidence of explicit instructions to class members to skip meal or rest periods (motion 7), evidence of the likeability of working at Taco Bell (motion 8), and alterations to the testimony of Taco Bell's Rule 30(b)(6) designee.  The court denied all motions other than motion 6, and that motion was limited to ordering that the defendants could not discuss the Rule 23 elements before the jury.

Considering the evidence the Court described as potentially probative, it appears that the jury will get to hear the kitchen sink of Defendants' reasons why meal and rest periods were missed. 

And yes, I am not dead.

In Ayyad v. Sprint Spectrum, L.P., Sprint's call cannot be completed as dialed

I did warn you, but in the post below, so you might not be aware that you were warned.  In Ayyad v. Sprint Spectrum, L.P. (October 29, 2012), the Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division Five) had yet more work to do in the long-running saga of the Cellphone Termination Fee Cases.  In Cellphone Termination Fee Cases, 193 Cal. App. 4th 298 (2011) the Court affirmed a December 2008 judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in this class action against Sprint Spectrum, L.P. (Sprint).  The Court also affirmed the trial court's order granting Plaintiffs a partial new trial on the issue of Sprint's actual damages and the calculation of a setoff to which Sprint might be entitled.  The case was then remanded for further proceedings limited to those issues.  But, when the matter returned to the trial court, Sprint moved to compel arbitration of the named plaintiffs' claims, the same claims addressed in the Court's affirmance of the 2008 judgment.  The trial court declined to consider the motion, finding that jurisdiction on remand was limited to the issues set forth in the Court's opinion.

While this sounds like it could be a case about arbitration law, it isn't.  It is entirely a decision about trial court jurisdiction after an appeal and remand with directions:

As the language of the cited cases indicates, the rule requiring a trial court to follow the terms of the remittitur is jurisdictional in nature. (People v. Dutra (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 1359, 1367 (Dutra).) The issues the trial court may address in the remand proceedings are therefore limited to those specified in the reviewing court‘s directions, and if the reviewing court does not direct the trial court to take a particular action or make a particular determination, the trial court is not authorized to do so. (Bach, supra, 215 Cal.App.3d at pp. 302, 303, 304; accord, Hanna v. City of Los Angeles (1989) 212 Cal.App.3d 363, 376 (Hanna) [where on prior appeal reviewing court did not direct trial court on remand to determine whether statutory violations had occurred, any such determination would be in excess of jurisdiction on remand].)

Slip op., at 8.  The Court then explained that a new trial on damages only did not open the door for the trial court to consider other issues raised by Sprint.

Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo Bank Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law now available

The Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law After Bench Trial by United Stated District Court Judge William Alsup (Northern District of California) in Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo & Co. is now available for review - all 90 pages of it.

You can view the embedded opinion in the flash viewer below:

If the viewer isn't working for you (say, if you are viewing this on an iPad or iPhone), you can download the opinion here.

U.S.D.C. Judge finds Affinity Logistics drivers are independent contractors...under Georgia law

On March 22, 2010, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California issued its Memorandum Decision and Order finding that drivers for Affinity Logistics were properly classified as independent contractors following a bench trial of the claims of a certified class of delivery truck drivers.  Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp., ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2010 WL 1038226 (S.C. Cal. Mar. 22, 2010).  Unlike California's strong presumption in favor of and employer-employee relationship, Georgia law apparently includes a presumption that a contract specifying an independent contractor relationship is presumed true.  According to Judge Sammartino, the plaintiffs didn't meet their burden in the bench trial for the certified class of delivery/logistics drivers.

The plaintiffs submitted evidence of highly detailed manuals specifying how work was to be performed.  The Court did not believe defendant's testimony that the detailed manuals were mere "wishes" about how work should be performed.  The problem, according to the Court, was that no real evidence demonstrated that the manuals were given to all drivers or that any of them read the manuals.  Coupled with evidence that drivers could have someone else drive the route for them, this absence of substantial proof of control, according to the Court, doomed plaintiffs' claims.


Courtroom View Network is providing live coverage of eBay v. Craigslist

The Delaware Court of Chancery, in Georgetown, Delaware, is playing host to a wild one.  Courtroom View Network is now providing live coverage of eBay v. Craigslist, otherwise known as eBay Domestic Holdings, Inc. v. Craig Newmark.  California online mainstays eBay and Craiglist are involved in a bi-coastal battle over director voting rights and the alleged theft of confidential information.  In a nutshell, eBay claims that Craiglist's directors unfairly diluted eBay's 28.4 percent minority shareholder stake in Craigslist and eliminated eBay's right to appoint a director.  In another lawsuit filed in San Francisco, Craigslist claimed that eBay used its shareholder position to obtain confidential competitive information to gain an unfair commercial advantage in developing eBay's own competing online classified ad business,

Courtroom View Network is providing free access to a sample clip of cross-examination of Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay.  Other media outlets have more coverage of the opening day of trial.  See, e.g., Shannon P. Duffy, Craigslist, eBay Face Off in Closely Watched Trial (December 8, 2009)

True, it's not a class action, but this is complex litigation at its best.  Two cyber-goliaths trying to strangle each other on opposite sides of the country is too good to pass up.  I just don't know who to root for.

Breaking News: Plaintiff class wins second trial against alter ego defendants associated with Global Vision Products (Avacor hair regrowth formula)

In January 2008, class plaintiffs who purchased the hair regrowth formula Avacor prevailed at trial against Global Vision Products, Inc.  The plaintiff alleged that Avacor was not an all natural or herbal formulation, but contained the drug Minoxidil (Rogaine).  The initial verdict for the plaintiff class was approximately $37 million.  However, Global Vision Products filed for bankruptcy protection.

Today, after a second phase of trial, a jury returned a verdict against individual defendants Robert DeBenedictis and Henry Edelson on an alter ego theory.

I will provide some additional information about this verdict after reviewing materials from the trial.  Until then, Courtroom View Network, which recorded video of the entire trial, has provided access to a free clip from the trial.