Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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The plaintiffs (collectively, "Gunther") in this case were flight attendants who alleged their employer, Alaska Airlines, Inc. (Alaska), failed to provide California Labor Code section 226(a)-compliant wage statements. They sought penalties under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). After a bench trial, the trial court concluded that section 226(a) applied to the flight attendants because their employment was based in California and Alaska’s wage statements did not comply with section 226(a). The court found Alaska liable for over $25 million in heightened penalties under section 226.3 of PAGA. In a postjudgment order, the court awarded Gunther attorney’s fees. Notwithstanding the implications of Ward v. United Airlines, Inc., 9 Cal.5th 732 (2020, "Ward I"), Alaska contended that section 226(a) could not be applied to the flight attendants because it was preempted by federal law. Alaska also raised multiple challenges to PAGA penalties, including that the trial court erred in awarding heightened penalties under section 226.3 of PAGA. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal rejected Alaska’s argument that application of section 226 was preempted by federal law and affirmed the trial court’s determination that the flight attendants in this case were entitled to section 226(a)-compliant wage statements. The Court also concluded, however, that the trial court erred in awarding heightened penalties under section 226.3 because the plain language of the statute provided that heightened penalties applied only where the employer failed to provide wage statements or failed to keep required records, which was not the situation here. The Court found reversal of the penalty award did not require vacation of the attorney’s fees award. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court rejected Alaska’s defenses to the application of section 226(a). View "Gunther v. Alaska Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Viktorya Reznik appealed the district court’s dismissal of her Title VII retaliation action against her former employer, Defendant-Appellee inContact, Inc. (inContact). From January 2018 to May 2019, Reznik worked as a Director of Project Management for inContact, a Utah-based corporation offering cloud-based services to companies using call centers. In April 2019, Reznik received internal complaints about racial slurs in the workplace from two native Filipino employees who worked in the company’s Manila, Philippines office. They claimed that an inContact manager, Scott Mendenhall, had repeatedly subjected them and other native Filipino employees to racial slurs, calling them “monkeys” and “not human.” Mendenhall worked in the same Salt Lake County facility as Reznik. Weeks after Reznik reported the harassment to company management, she was terminated as "not a good culture fit" and "not a good fit." Following Reznik’s termination and administrative exhaustion, she filed her Title VII complaint in federal district court. inContact moved to dismiss and the district court granted the motion. According to the district court, Reznik failed to state a claim because she did not show an objectively reasonable belief that she opposed conduct unlawful under Title VII. Finding Reznik's belief she was opposing conduct unlawful under Title VII was objectively reasonable, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal. View "Reznik v. inContact" on Justia Law

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After a tractor manufactured by CNH caught fire, Floyd filed suit against CNH in federal court under a theory of product liability, claiming that its insureds owned the tractor and other property on the tractor, both of which were damaged in the fire, and that Floyd was subrogated to its insureds' claims against CNH because Floyd had paid its insureds' claim for the damage. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that section 1332's amount-in-controversy requirement was not satisfied in this case. The court concluded that the Iowa Supreme Court would hold that the economic-loss doctrine permits recovery only for the other property and not for the product itself. Accordingly, the Iowa Supreme Court would bar recovery in tort for damage that a defective product causes to itself, even if the plaintiff also seeks recovery for damage to other property. Here, Floyd's recovery is limited as a matter of law to the alleged $22,787.81 in damage to property other than the tractor. The court denied the motion to certify a question of law to the Iowa Supreme Court and upheld the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Floyd County Mutual Insurance Ass'n v. CNH Industrial America LLC" on Justia Law

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Moniz managed a staffing firm's (Adecco’s) relationship with Google. Correa was assigned to work at Google. Moniz and Correa sued Adecco to recover civil penalties for alleged violations of the Labor Code. Under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), an employee aggrieved by alleged Labor Code violations may act as an agent of the Labor Workforce and Development Agency (LWDA) to bring an action to recover civil penalties. If an aggrieved employee settles such an action, the court must review and approve the settlement; civil penalties are distributed 75 percent to the LWDA and 25 percent to the aggrieved employees.Moniz settled her case first. The court approved the settlement. Correa challenged the settlement process and approval, including the manner in which the court treated Correa's and LWDA's objections to the settlement, the standard used by the court to approve the settlement, numerous alleged legal deficiencies, and the trial court’s ruling denying her attorney fees and an incentive payment. The court of appeal reversed. While the court applied an appropriate standard of review by inquiring whether the settlement was “fair, adequate, and reasonable” as well as meaningful and consistent with the purposes of PAGA, it is not possible to infer from the record that the trial court assessed the fairness of the settlement’s allocation of civil penalties between the affected aggrieved employees or whether such allocation comports with PAGA. View "Moniz v. Adecco USA" on Justia Law

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A class of Louisiana medical providers sued Louisiana Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) in Louisiana state court, alleging that the PPOs violated the Louisiana PPO Act by discounting their bills without prior notice. After receiving class certification, the Class settled with all of the Louisiana defendants except Med-Comp; CorVel (Homeland’s insured) assigned to the Class its claims against Homeland. The assignment did not initially include the bad faith claim CorVel was pursuing against Homeland in Delaware. The Delaware Supreme Court ultimately held that the claim was time-barred. CorVel then assigned all of its claims against Homeland to the Class. The Class amended its complaint against MedComp in Louisiana state court to assert the bad faith claim against Homeland.The litigation then consisted of the Class's state law PPO Act claims against one non-diverse defendant (Med-Comp) and a state law bad faith claim as an assignee against one diverse defendant (Homeland). Homeland removed the case to federal court. The district court remanded the PPO Act claims against Med-Comp to state court and dismissed the bad faith claims as barred by the Delaware judgment.The Fifth Circuit reversed in part. The district court lacked jurisdiction because a non-diverse defendant remained from the original lawsuit. Med-Comp was not improperly joined because the Class has a possibility of recovery against Med-Comp (a non-diverse defendant) on the PPO Act claims. The court remanded with instructions to remand the entire case to state court. View "Williams v. Homeland Insurance Co. of New York" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased Berkeley property intending to demolish an existing structure and build a new residence. Richards, a licensed contractor, demolished the structure but did not build the new house. Plaintiffs sued Richards alleging breach of oral contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and promissory estoppel. Richards propounded requests for admission (RFAs) asking the plaintiffs to admit the parties did not enter into an oral contract and did not have a meeting of the minds. Plaintiffs denied the RFAs.The trial court denied Richards’s motion for summary judgment finding triable issues of material fact. After the close of evidence, Richards unsuccessfully moved for a directed verdict. The jury returned a defense verdict, concluding that Richards did not make a promise with clear and unambiguous terms. Richards moved for attorney fees and costs (Code of Civil Procedure 2033.420), arguing that the plaintiffs had no reasonable basis to deny the RFAs and “failed to realistically evaluate their claims and perform a reasonable investigation.” The court awarded Richards $239,170.86 in attorney fees and costs. The court of appeal affirmed. the trial court was well-positioned to evaluate the reasonableness issue as it presided over the case from start to finish. Neither the denial of summary judgment nor the denial of a directed verdict precluded the award. View "Spahn v. Richards" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Roy Kumar appealed a trial court’s order imposing terminating and monetary sanctions under Code of Civil Procedure section 128.7. The trial court found that Kumar’s first amended complaint was factually and legally frivolous because no reasonable attorney could conclude that Kumar’s claims against defendants Kelly Ramsey and Elizabeth Pintar were timely under the applicable four-year limitations period. On appeal, Kumar argued the trial court abused its discretion by granting the motion. Finding ample legal and factual support to conclude that Kumar made a plausible, nonfrivolous argument that the applicable statute of limitations did not bar his suit, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order. View "Kumar v. Ramsey" on Justia Law

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DCI Credit Services, Inc. (“DCI”) appealed a district court’s order denying its request to vacate the order granting summary judgment and awarding costs and attorney’s fees to Nicholas Plemper. DCI also appealed the dismissal of the complaint with prejudice and awarding Plemper costs and attorney’s fees. DCI filed the underlying action in May 2020, alleging Plemper owed $4,321.00 to Bakken Property Management for goods and/or services, and that the claim had been assigned to DCI. In September 2020, the district court granted DCI’s motion for default judgment. In October 2020, the district court granted Plemper’s motion for relief from judgment. DCI did not file a response to Plemper’s motion; Plemper then moved for summary judgment. There were settlement negotiations among the parties between the time of filing the motion for summary judgment and the court’s order. The parties exchanged emails agreeing that the matter should be dismissed but disagreed on whether costs should be awarded. In December 2020, without a response from DCI, the court granted Plemper’s motion for summary judgment and directed the clerk to enter judgment dismissing the complaint with prejudice and awarding Plemper his actual and statutory costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorney’s fees. Daniel Oster, attorney for DCI, had been seriously ill for about six months before he passed away on January 11, 2021. In February 2021, DCI moved to vacate the order granting Plemper’s motion for summary judgment, arguing: (1) Oster was not in good health during the time of the filing of the motion for summary judgment; and (2) there were ongoing settlement negotiations. Plemper filed a brief in opposition to the motion to vacate and requested the district court amend the existing judgment to add the attorney’s fees incurred in responding to the motion. The court denied DCI’s motion reasoning it failed to meet its burden and directed the clerk to enter judgment of dismissal and enter an award in favor of Plemper of actual and statutory costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorney’s fees. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, DCI argued the trial court erred in denying its motion to vacate because its late attorney kept his illness a secret. DCI also argued the court abused its discretion in awarding costs and attorney’s fees to Plemper. The Supreme Court affirmed in part the district court’s order denying DCI’s motion to vacate the order. The Supreme Court reversed in part the court’s order awarding costs and attorney’s fees and reversed in part the judgment awarding costs and attorney’s fees to Plemper in the amount of $1,625.00. View "DCI Credit Services v. Plemper" on Justia Law

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Tioga Properties, LLC, appealed a district court judgment awarding Wades Welding, LLC $27,669.90 relating to Wades Welding’s lawsuit for enforcement of construction liens and unjust enrichment. Janice Ellsworth owned Tioga Properties. Tioga Properties owned a restaurant and home (referred to by the parties as a “mobile home”) adjacent to each other in Tioga, North Dakota. Susan Gordon leased the restaurant from Tioga Properties. Gordon delivered rent payments to John Ellsworth Jr., Janice Ellsworth’s son. Gordon resided in the home but had no written lease for that property. In late 2016 and early 2017, Gordon hired Wades Welding to repair the home and restaurant. Wades Welding performed $19,840 of work on the home and $2,500 of work on the restaurant. Wades Welding delivered the invoices for its work to Ellsworth Jr. A day after Wades Welding completed its work at the home, Ellsworth evicted Gordon from the restaurant and home. Ellsworth Jr. supervised the eviction and Gordon left both properties within 48 hours. In December 2017, Wades Welding recorded construction liens against the properties after Tioga Properties failed to pay for the repairs. Tioga Properties sold the restaurant in July 2019. In September 2019, Tioga Properties served on Wades Welding a demand to enforce the home lien. In October 2019, Wades Welding sued Tioga Properties for breach of contract, foreclosure of the construction liens and unjust enrichment. Tioga Properties denied the allegations, claiming it did not authorize Wades Welding's work on the properties. The district court found Wades Welding's construction liens on both properties were valid, and ordered foreclosure of the home lien. The court found the lien on the restaurant was unenforceable due to a service error, but nonetheless awarded Wades Welding the amount of the repaired under the doctrine of unjust enrichment. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Wades Welding. View "Wades Welding v. Tioga Properties" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit dismissed the Media Entities' appeal of the district court's denial of their motion to intervene and in support of unsealing and vacating non-disclosure orders entered in two cases that were pending before that court. In this case, after briefing in the appeal concluded, the district court unsealed both cases and lifted the non-disclosure orders. The court held that the district court's recent orders in the underlying proceedings have rendered the Media Entities' appeal moot. The court explained that, at bottom, the Media Entities sought to intervene to challenge orders that are no longer in effect. View "In re: Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc." on Justia Law