Category: Class Action

How Lawsuits Can Help Solve Problems

One of the great things about living in America, is we have something called “the rule of law.”

So, just what is that?

Well, in the U.S., instead of having a king sitting on a throne, we believe “the law is king.” That means that we believe we are ruled by laws, not other men and women. “The rule of law.” It’s precious stuff, friends.

So, what does any of that have to do with lawsuits.

Well, it turns out, that people just living their daily lives, are going to have problems that come up in dealing with other people.

There’s two ways to solve problems having to do with money, property or your person, what we call “civil” problems.

One is something called “self help.” In other words, if your neighbor built a high fence and you don’t like it, self help is taking a saw and cutting it down without permission.

Only we learned a long time ago that self help causes all kinds of problems. If you don’t believe me, try cutting down your neighbor’s fence and report back to me what happens. No, just kidding. Don’t do that. Self-help isn’t really all that helpful.

The other way to solve civil problems is something called a civil justice system.

When someone wants to solve a problem using the civil justice system, they file papers asking for some kind of relief. That’s basically what a lawsuit is. Pretty simple, huh?

Now, there is plenty of debate these days about whether there are too many lawsuits, or too few, and all that kind of stuff that I know you hear about all the time.

But, the truth is, when you have a civil problem, it become real important to you that someone can help you solve that problem in the fairest, least expensive and quickest way.

Now, I’m not here to give you legal advice and there are differences in how courts work in each state and in the federal system. Still, spend a little time with me and I think I can tell you some things that you didn’t know before and, hopefully, will help you with whatever problem you need to fix.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Defective Product Litigation and Injury Lawsuits

On the surface, product liability would seem to be a pretty cut and dry area of the law and being a litigation attorney may not seem super exciting. I mean it all seems like common sense. Some manufacturer or seller creates or distributes a product, a consumer purchases it and is injured, or perhaps even dies as a result of using it and naturally the manufacturer is automatically responsible for said injury and attempts to make things right. However, this area of law has many pitfalls that await consumers who have been harmed and for the inexperienced personal injury attorneys who try these cases.

Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit

According to some estimates, injuries, deaths and property damage from defective and recalled products cost the public more than $500 billion each year. Recently, a man in San Jose was awarded a $9.8 million judgment in a product liability case involving a surgical stapler that caused him grave bodily harm. Thus, product liability cases, unfortunately, are not an insignificant part of the legal system. In this case, without the proper legal counsel as to the circumstances, criteria and time limits involved in filing suit in a personal injury claim for product liability,it could have ended even more tragically for this person. Knowing when to file a case is one of the first steps to succeeding in personal injury cases involving product liability. In the state of California, for example, an action must be brought within two years from the time when the injury occurred. Here are some other things to know when filing a personal injury claim involving a defective product:

Establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product

There are four legal means for establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product:

  • Negligence: This is when expected, reasonable care is not taken and an obligation to do so exists. Negligence can occur when defective partsor improper assembly result in some injury.
  • Breach of Warranty: This is when a seller fails to uphold a claim or promise regarding their product.
  • False Advertising: This is when a consumer is misled into believing that a product is safer than it actually is.
  • Strict Liability: This is when the manufacturer or seller of a defective product is responsible for all injuries occurring from the use of the product. This also means that everyone involved in the making of a consumer product is potentially liable for any personal injury that results from using the product.

Obviously, manufacturers and sellers never mean to harm consumers with the products they create or distribute. However, intent is irrelevant when you suffer an injury and are required to pay hospital bills or when a loved one is struck down through no fault of his or her own. How can you be made whole after you are harmed by faulty—even deadly—products? We are Daniels Law, a Hollywood law firm that specializes in all areas of personal injury including the very complicated area of product liability. We are familiar with all aspects of product liability and can inform you as to your time limits to file and the types of product defects (design, manufacturing errors and false advertising) there are. We know that the cost to life and limb in these cases can be inestimable.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Attorneys can be held liable for engaging in civil conspiracy with their clients

Landowners, who previously received judgment against their neighbors for the unlawful dumping of toxic materials on their property, sought to amend a complaint to add a cause of action against the defendants’ trial attorneys for civil conspiracy. The trial court said they could and the Court of Appeal agreed. (Rickley v. Goodfriend (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th1136.)

The appellate court cited Skarbrevik v. Cohen, England & Whitfield(1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 692, 709-710, saying “a conspiracy claim against an attorney is … proper if the attorney who conspires with a client to injure another violates his or her own duty to the plaintiff.” For example, a conspiracy claim might be brought when a corporation and its attorneys attempt to hide from potential investors the instances in which other investors have threatened litigation against the corporation. However, if a plaintiff attempts to assert a conspiracy claim based on duties owed by the opposing client, and not the opposing counsel, and the opposing counsel was acting within the scope of his or her professional responsibilities, the claim has no merit.

Here, the appellate court found the defendant-attorneys owed a duty to both the plaintiffs and the defendants. At the request of the defendants, the trial court directed the remediation funds for both properties be paid by the defendants, and placed in the trust fund of the defendant-attorneys. By holding the funds for the benefit of all parties, the defendant-attorneys assumed a duty to disburse the money equitably and without prejudice to the plaintiffs’ interest. The defendant attorneys, as agents of their law firm, breached their duty to the plaintiffs to abstain from interfering with the remediation process and distributed the remediation funds in a prejudicial manner only to their clients. One defendant attorney sent continual unapproved e-mails to the contractors, while another defendant attorney personally supervised and preformed work on the defendants’ property, in violation of a court order. The defendant-attorneys also distributed $115,000 from the trust account without the plaintiffs’ knowledge, the majority of which was spent on remediation of the defendants property, with little if any going toward the remediation of the plaintiffs’ property.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Asking for Whom the Statute Tolls: Continuing Representation and the Statute of Limitations

  1. Continuing Representation and Tolling.As a general rule, the statute of limitations for legal malpractice claims is tolled during the time that an attorney continues to represent a client. A recent Court of Appeal decision, Lockley v. Law Office of Cantrell, Green, Pekich, Cruz & McCort, 91 Cal. App. 4th 875, 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 877 (2001), demonstrates that where there is objective evidence of a continuing attorney-client relationship, tolling becomes an indefinite proposition. Lockley involved plaintiff Kim David Lockley, a former City of Seal Beach police officer of Korean descent who was subjected to racial taunts and harassment at work. When his brother became involved in legal problems out of state, the City targeted Lockley in an April 1988 internal affairs investigation and terminated him. Lockley appealed the firing to the civil service board, filed a workers’ compensation claim and filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint alleging racial discrimination.

    Cantrell, Green, Pekich, Cruz & McCort (“Cantrell”) represented Lockley on his workers compensation claim. The City and Lockley entered into a compromise and release agreement (“C&R”) under which Lockley agreed to relinquish all claims against the City. For its part, the City agreed to process an application for retirement benefits for Lockley, treating him as having a non-work related disability and to notify the Public Employees Retirement System (“PERS”) that Lockley was entitled to retirement benefits. With the C&R in hand, Lockley resigned from the force and dropped all his claims.

    The City reneged on its agreement. It notified PERS that Lockley was terminated for misconduct and delayed notifying PERS of Lockley’s entitlement to retirement benefits for four months, long enough to disqualify him.

    Lockley revived his workers’ compensation claim. After a long episode of legal wrangling, the matter worked its way up to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, where Justice Sonenshine’s concurring opinion wondered aloud why Lockley’s attorney had not pursued a breach of contract claim after the City breached the C&R agreement.

    Cantrell filed a petition for rehearing, asking that Justice Sonenshine’s remarks be deleted or clarified. The Court of Appeal ordered a modification of the opinion to add a footnote stating: “Lockley’s attorney on this appeal did not represent him at the time.”

    Lockley sued Cantrell for legal malpractice on February 8, 2000. The trial court sustained a demurrer without leave to amend based on the statute of limitations after taking judicial notice of the modified opinion. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed.

  2. The Statute of Limitations.The statute of limitations for legal malpractice is found at Code of Civil Procedure section 340.6, which states:

    (a) An action against an attorney for a wrongful act or omission, other than for actual fraud, arising in the performance of professional services shall be commenced within one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the facts constituting the wrongful act or omission, or four years from the date of the wrongful act or omission, whichever occurs first. In no event shall the time for commencement of legal action exceed four years except that the period shall be tolled during the time that any of the following exist:

    (1) The plaintiff has not sustained actual injury;

    (2) The attorney continues to represent the plaintiff regarding the specific subject matter in which the alleged wrongful act or omission occurred;

    (3) The attorney willfully conceals the facts constituting the wrongful act or omission when such facts are known to the attorney, except that this subdivision shall toll only the four year limitation; and

    (4) The plaintiff is under a legal or physical disability which restricts the plaintiff’s ability to commence legal action.

    (b) In an action based upon an instrument in writing, the effective date of which depends upon some act or event of the future, the period of limitations provided for by this section shall commence to run upon the occurrence of such act or event.

    The statute was adopted in 1997 as the Legislature’s response to the companion cases of Neel v. Magana, Olney, Levy, Catchcart & Gelfand, 6 Cal. 3d 176, 98 Cal. Rptr. 837 (1971) and Budd v. Nixen, 6 Cal. 3d 195, 98 Cal. Rptr. 849 (1971), which established that delayed discovery and lack of actual (called “appreciable”) harm both acted to toll the statute of limitations.

    In Neel, the Supreme Court acknowledged that introducing tolling into the limitations equation came with a cost.

    We recognize that the instant ruling will impose an increased burden upon the legal profession. An attorney’s error may not work damage or achieve discovery for many years after the act, and the extension of liability into the future poses a disturbing prospect. On the other hand, when an attorney raises the statute of limitations to occlude a client’s action before that client has had a reasonable opportunity to bring suit, the resulting band of the action not only starkly works an injustice upon the client but partially impugns the very integrity of the legal profession.

    The solution, the high court suggested, was for the Legislature to provide a limitation period for legal malpractice similar to that found in Section 340.5, the medical malpractice statute, which has a one year from date of discovery, four year absolute limit.

    Section 340.6 adopted the one year/four year scheme as suggested in Neel. However, along with the notion of defined time limits are specific tolling mechanisms designed to extend the time frames in (1) absence of actual damage, (2) during continuing representation, (3) where there is misrepresentation by the attorney and (4) where physical or legal disability restricts the client.

    An attorney’s special fiducial relationship with the client, combined with the reality that defective legal work will not always cause appreciable harm for sometime are the primary reasons why tolling is specifically incorporated in Section 340.6.

    1. Continuing Representation is Interpreted Broadly

    The purpose of the “continuous representation” rule is to avoid disrupting the attorney-client relationship by a lawsuit and to enable an attorney to correct or minimize an apparent error, while at the same time preventing lawyers from defeating malpractice claims by continuing to represent the client until the statute has run. Laird v. Blacker, 2 Cal. 4th 606, 618, 7 Cal. Rptr. 2d 550 (1992).

    The Court of Appeal in Lockley applied an objective standard in analyzing whether Cantrell’s representation of Lockley met the standard for tolling.

    “Continuity of representation ultimately depends, not on the client’s subjective beliefs, but rather on evidence of an ongoing mutual relationship and of activities in furtherance of the relationship.” The general rule is that the attorney’s representation does not end “until the agreed tasks or events have occurred, the client consents to termination or a court grants an application by counsel for withdrawal.” [Emphasis in original.]Lockley, supra, 91 Cal. App. 4th at 887-888, 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 877.

    Using the objective standard, the Court held that Lockley’s complaint stated a claim that avoided the statute of limitations by virtue of its allegations that Cantrell had continued to represent him until within one year of filing. “On appeal, Lockley contends that statute of limitations governing attorney malpractice claims was tolled while [Cantrell] continued to represent him. This is a correct statement of the law.” 91 Cal. App. 4th at 887.

    In reaching its holding, the Second District panel decided it was not bound by the Fourth District’s earlier footnote implying that Cantrell’s representation of Lockley was not continuous. In a lengthy discussion of judicial notice doctrine, the Second District concluded that the additional footnote added to Justice Sonenshine’s concurring opinion did not meet the standard of being based on an adversary proceeding adjudicating a fact question and found no substantial evidence in the record to support the conclusion. The question of whether or not Cantrell’s representation was continuous, the Second District determined, remained in dispute.

    Cantrell, for its part, argued that during the relevant period, it represented Lockley only on his workers’ compensation claim, not the C&R agreement. Since the two items were not the same specific subject matter, the continuing representation doctrine did not apply.

    The Court of Appeal rejected that argument without difficulty. Distinguishing Foxborough v. Van Atta, 26 Cal. App. 4th 217, 229, 31 Cal. Rptr. 2d 525 (1994) (“the limitations period is not tolled when an attorney’s subsequent role is only tangentially related to the legal representation the attorney provided to the plaintiff”), in which a continuing representation was held as not occurring where the attorney was discharged, then rehired as an expert witness, the court found that Cantrell’s argument attempted to draw too fine a line in defining the limits of representation.

    On its face, Lockley’s complaint alleges [Cantrell] continuously represented appellant’s legal interests on the same specific matter of “claim for worker’s compensation from 1988 until March 1999.” We may reasonably infer from the amended complaint that Lockley hired [Cantrell] in only one capacity, that of legal representative. [Emphasis in original.]

    Lockley, supra, 91 Cal. App. 4th at 889, 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 877.

    1. Applying Lockley’s Lesson

    The moral of the story is that in analyzing whether there is a continuing representation that will toll the statute of limitations, look to see if the attorney has continued to represent the client without interruption in the same capacity throughout the relationship.

    As a practical matter, Lockley means that as long as there are objective facts pointing to the continuation of an attorney-client relationship past what would otherwise be a time barred by the statute of limitations, there will be an argument that the Section 340.6(a)(2) tolling provision applies and a claim is timely.

    In your own practice, Lockley underlines the importance of documenting precisely the outlines of the attorney-client relationship in a fee agreement and the termination of that relationship in writing.

    As counselors-at-law who are privileged to represent people in California’s legal system, we carry great responsibility. Section 340.6 and decisional law such as Lockley underline that a breach of that responsibility carries with it a consequence that the prudent lawyer should not ignore.

    Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

     

No special relationship formed when police do not act to put citizen in harm’s way

Greyhound Lines, Inc., appealed against a judgment dismissing Greyhound’s cross-complaint, alleging that CHP assumed a special relationship duty to the bus passengers.  They argued that a special relationship was created between CHP and the bus passengers when the CHP operators assured the 911 callers that emergency assistance was on the way and then failed to properly input the dispatch codes.  The appellate court found that a special relationship had not been formed between the CHP and the bus passengers.  And in the absence of a special relationship, a person who has not created a peril has no duty to come to the aid of another.

The appellate court cited Clemente v. State of California 40 Cal.3d 213, 219 Cal.Rptr 445, 707 P.2d 818, saying a special relationship may be created when “CHP voluntarily assumes a protective duty toward a certain member of the public and undertakes action on behalf of that member thereby inducing reliance, when an express promise to warn of a danger induced reliance, or when the actions of CHP place a person in peril or increase the risk of harm.” For example, the CHP could be held liable if they made misrepresentations that induced a citizens’ detrimental reliance, placed a citizen in harm’s way, or lulled a citizen into false security and then withdrew essential safety precautions.

Here, the appellate court found that CHP did not either induce the bus passengers to rely on CHP to their detriment or increase their risk of harm.  The non-action of the CHP 911 operators, i.e., their failure to include the lane blockage information in the dispatch, left the bus passengers in exactly the same position they already occupied.  Without detrimental reliance by, or an increase in the risk of harm to, the bus passengers, no special relationship is formed.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Your rights as an employee in California

Obviously your job is important to you. It feeds your family. Pays the rent. Helps educate your children.

You work hard for your employer. You show up on time and stay late when needed. You do your best to succeed.

Though you have to meet the requirements expected at work, you also have certain rights under the law as an employee.

For example, generally speaking, you employer has to pay you the minimum wage. Most hourly employees are also entitled to regular breaks, overtime pay, worker’s compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and unpaid time off for serious illness or a new baby.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is generally prohibited, as is discrimination based on certain characteristics such as gender, race, national origin or religion. If you suffer from a disability, your employer may be required to accommodate you by making changes in the workplace so your can perform the essential functions of your job position.

Sometimes a situation at work will seem unfair or even intolerable. When it does, it is best not to suffer in silence. Let your supervisor know that there is a problem, or if appropriate, consult with human resources. Most workplace problems can be resolved informally when there is communication. You may be surprised with the result!

If your employer is unwilling to help you solve your workplace problem, there may be other solutions. The California Department of Industrial Relations can help you understand your rights and provides services for employees in the state.  There are low-income clinics and workshops aimed to assist California workers, you can find references to them on the internet.

Of course, if you have a serious employment problem, whether its wage and hour, wrongful termination or discrimination, Daniels Legal | Law Offices is on your side.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Due Process

Labor Code Section 203 provides a waiting time penalty that is consistent with constitutional due process.

State Farm v. Campbell (2003) 538 U.S. 408 concerns constitutional due process limits on punitive damages, not civil penalties.  As the Supreme Court notes, one prong of its test in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore (1996) 517 U.S. 559 (which refused to sustain a $2 million punitive damages award accompanying $4,000 in compensatory damages) is “the difference between the punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases.”  The evil Campbell sought to remedy was the risk of an excessive punitive award imposed by a lay jury.  “We have admonished that ‘[p]unitive damages pose an acute danger of arbitrary deprivation of property.  Jury instructions typically leave the jury with wide discretion in choosing amounts, and the presentation of evidence of a defendant’s net worth creates the potential that juries will use their verdicts to express biases against big businesses, particularly those without strong local presences.”

The law does not view wage penalties as implicating property rights, which puts the 203 penalty outside of Campbell right at the start.

“A statute entitled ‘An act to provide for the protection of servants and employees of railroads,’ relating to the payment of unpaid wages without abatement or deduction on discharge of an employe[e], does not amount to deprivation of property, as the act is purely prospective in its operation.  It does not interfere with vested rights, existing contracts, or destroy, or sensibly encroach upon, the right to contract, although it imposes a duty in reference to the payment of wages actually earned, which restricts future contracts in the particular named.”  [Citation omitted.]

Moore v. Indian Spring Channel Gold Mining Co. (1918) 37 Cal.App. 370, 378 (quoting St. Louis, etc., R.R. Co. v. Paul, 173 U.S. 409).

When the section 203 penalty scheme withstood a constitutional due process challenge early in the last century in Moore v. Indian Sprint Channel Gold Mining Co. (1918) 37 Cal.App. 370, the remedial purpose of the penalty was highlighted in the decision.  After a penal statute imposing misdemeanor liability and a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars was ruled unconstitutional (Matter of Crane, 26 Cal.App. 22), the legislature changed the law to impose a penalty based on wages with a thirty day limit.

Appellant expresses difficulty in discovering any material distinction between the two acts.  In the act of 1911, continues the brief, the penalty is nothing more nor less than a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars; while in the amendment of 1915 the penalty is in effect a fine not exceeding thirty times the servant’s daily wage.”  It seems to us that the distinction is obvious in this:  The act of 1911 declares that a violation of its provisions is a crime for which the violator is answerable to the state, while by the amendment he must compensate the wage-earner by way of penalty.”

Moore at 373-374.  The court of appeal compared the penalty to other statutes, such as Code of Civil Procedure sections 732, 733 and 735 which impose treble damages on tenants who commit waste, cut down trees or forcibly detain property.  “The constitutionality of these sections is not questioned.  They are held not to be penal, but remedial.”  Id. at 375.

The Court of Appeal distinguished between remedial civil penalties and punitive damages in Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Superior Court (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 261, and held that a government entity is not immune from civil penalties imposed by the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civil Code section 52 et seq.) under Government Code section 818, which bars imposing punitive damages against public entities.  “[A] number of courts have concluded that to be condemned as punitive, a penalty, generally speaking, must simply and solely serve that purpose.”  Id.at  272  “It is apparent from this legislative history that section 52 has at least two important non-punitive purposes.  The first is simply to provide increased compensation to the plaintiff.  The second purpose, and perhaps the most important one, is to encourage private parties to seek redress through the civil justice system by making it more economically attractive for them to sue. . . . If not for the civil penalty, many such litigants would neither have the economic incentive nor the means to retain counsel to pursue perpetrators under the statute.”  Id. at 271-272.

Moore notes that the 203 penalty has a similar purpose.  “There has been a pronounced tendency in state and national legislation for many years, not only to ameliorate the working conditions of the wage earner, but to safeguard him in his relations to his employer in respect of hours of labor and the compensation to be paid for his labor. . .  the public safety and welfare demand . . . laws which are designed to secure [for labor] a reasonable wage, [and] to provid, where practicable, for the enforcement of payment by way of liens on the product of his labor . . . The intention of the penalty imposed by the act in question is to make it to the interest of the employer to keep faith with [its] employees and thus avoid injury to them and possible injury to the public at large.”  Id. at 381-382.

Note:  Moore repeatedly refers to the wage and labor laws under discussion as applicable to a class, e.g., “The act refers to all wage-earners, designated as employees, as the class referred to, and it unquestionably applies equally to all of the class.”  Id. at 379.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

A Settlement Doesn’t Mean It’s Over

DHL Express Inc. has agreed to settle a putative wage-and-hour class action brought in California federal court by former employees.

Although DHL has agreed this week on the settlement, the case is not actually closed.

Once the parties agree to a settlement, the Court needs to approve it.  The process is generally a motion for preliminary approval, where we explain the terms of the settlement to the Court, preliminary approval (or disapproval) by the Court, notice to the class about the terms of the settlement with an opportunity to object or opt out, motion for final approval and final approval (or disapproval) by the Court.

It can take quite awhile for the entire process, much more cumbersome than a conventional individual case.

More on Class Actions: 5 Tips for Understanding Class Actions

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Five Tips for Understanding Class Action

  1. Class Actions Help Address Common Problems.

A notice in the mail is usually how we learn that we might be connected to a class action. The notice might say that a claim has been made on our behalf, or that we can receive some benefit by mailing back a form. So, what is it all about, this “class action” thing and is it a good thing or a bad thing?

  1. Class Actions are a Unique Class of Case.

In simplest terms, class actions are a way for groups of people with common problems to seek a common solution. Class actions typically seek to solve simple questions that impact large number of people.

So, that notice that comes in the mail is worth reading, because it means that someone is trying to determine if you have been harmed by a third party and, if so, how you might have been damaged.

  1. Understanding Class Action Procedure is Important.

Class actions can be brought in either state of federal court. Though state courts remain an important forum for class action litigation, recent federal legislation has tended to make Class actions more of a federal area than traditionally.

Class actions start with the filing of a complaint. Generally, the complaint will have specifics about what it is that the class actions seek to address and what kind of remedies the plaintiff class is looking for. The class plaintiffs named in the complaint seek to be representatives for the entire class.

  1. Resources for researching Class Actions.

When you get a class action notice in the mail, it will always contain certain types of information. Most importantly, the notice will include the names of the lawyers of both sides of the case. If you have questions, simply pick up the phone and call or, if available, use the Internet to find the informational website that is often set up to give class members the lastest scope on what is happening with the case.

The notice will also tell you where the case is being litigated and include the case name and docket number. With this information and a web browser, you can often log onto the court’s website and get detailed information about when the complaint was filed, what has happened in the case and any critical dates you should know about.

  1. Deciding whether to respond.

In the not so distant past, class actions might settle for a small discount or non-cash benefit to the class members, known as a “coupon settlement,” along with a fee for the attorneys. These coupon settlements have been criticized as not providing a real benefit to the class members.

The law has changed so the judges are now supposed to look hard at settlements to make sure the class is receiving something of substance where there is a legitimate legal claim. So read the notice closely. You may be pleasantly surprised that the legal system is working for you, just as it should.

***

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

A Class Act

One of the reasons I enjoy class actions and complex litigation is they force you to be disciplined. Take the simple task of organizing and interviewing percipient witnesses.

In individual cases, you have a list of witnesses, you interview or depose them as seems appropriate and it’s pretty much a simple process.  In class actions, you need a system or things can get out of hand pretty quick.

One of my favorite parts of prosecuting a class action is getting a contact list for the potential (we call them “putative”) class members and conducting the initial interviews that tell me just what it is that I have on my plate.

Getting the list isn’t always a simple deal. In the wage and hour cases I’ve litigating during the past several years, I’ve seen both extremes.  Sometimes the defense will give up the list almost upon request. Usually this means they are feeling pretty good about their prospects. Sometimes, the defense fights tooth and nail, withholding the list until ordered by the court. Usually this means they are feeling insecure and then prepare for a bloody discovery battle.

We generally ask for a class list as soon as discovery opens and we ask in at least three different ways, which is further explained in this article on my website.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.