Tag Archives: United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Northern District Denies Preliminary Injunction Where Plaintiff’s Declaration Failed to Show Customer List Was the Result of Substantial Time, Expense and Effort on Part of Plaintiff

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The Northern District of California denied defendants’ motion to dismiss based on UTSA preemption and denied plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.  Kovesdy v. Kovesdy, C 10-02012 SBA, 2010 WL 3619826 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 13, 2010) (slip op.). Plaintiff Eric Kovesdy (“Eric” or “Plaintiff”) sued his stepmother, Defendant Hedy Kovesdy (“Hedy”) for, inter alia, for misappropriation of trade secrets under California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 3426-3426.11, and trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a). Id. (1) Defendants moved to dismiss; and (2) Plaintiff moved for preliminary injunction.

Background

Peter Kovesdy (“Peter”) opened a professional tax practice known as Humex Income Tax (“Humex”).   Continue reading

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After Bench Trial on UCL Claim, Northern District Finds “On-Job Supervisor” Properly Classified as Exempt Under Administrative Exemption

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District Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California conducted a bench trial of plaintiff’s overtime claim under the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and found that defendant UPS met its burden of proving that plaintiff was properly classified as falling within the administrative exemption in his role as “On-Job Supervisor”.  Lopez v. United Parcel Service, Inc., C 08-05396 SI, 2010 WL 3630619 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2010).

Background

Plaintiff Ben Lopez sued defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”) contending that UPS improperly classified him as an employee exempt from overtime compensation under California law. Id. *1. Continue reading

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Northern District Strikes Aiding and Abetting Allegations From Overtime Class Action Complaint

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The Northern District of California granted a motion to strike aiding and abetting allegations from an overtime class action complaint.  Toy v. Triwire Engineering Solutions, Inc.,  No. C 10-1929 SI, 2010 WL 3448535 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2010) (slip op.).

Background

Plaintiff Jason Toy filed a putative class action in state court against defendants TriWire Engineering Solutions, Inc., Comcast Corporation, and Comcast Cable Communications Management LLC, alleging that TriWire and Comcast employed Toy as a cable technician to install, disconnect, and upgrade cable television and computer services for consumers throughout California.  Id. *1.  Plaintiff contended he was not exempt from overtime requirements, and was not paid overtime in accordance with the law. Id. Continue reading

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Northern District Compels Pre-Certification Production of Class-wide Timecards and Payroll Records

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The Northern District granted a putative class representative’s motion to compel timecard and payroll records for all employees in Valenzuela v. MC2 Pool & Spa, et al., No. C09-01698 RS (HRL), 2010 WL 3489596 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2010). Continue reading

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Northern District Notes That Trade Secret Law Allows Recovery of Saved Development Costs

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In a non-trade secrets intellectual property case, The Northern District of California noted, in dictum, that “trade secret law allows recovery of saved development costs.”  Oracle Corp. v. SAP AG, No. C 07-1658 PJH, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2010 WL 3258603, *14 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2010). Continue reading

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Saved Development Costs Available as Measure of Damages

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Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the Northern District of California issued an order this week on motions for partial summary judgment in Oracle Corp. v. SAP AG, et al., No. C 07-1658 PJH, 2010 WL 3258603 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2010) (slip op.).   In considering whether recovery of “saved development costs” is an available measure of damages, the court  distinguished Ajaxo, Inc. v. E*Trade Group, Inc., 135 Cal. App. 4th 21 (2005);

Continue reading

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Northern District of California Holds That Allegation of Denial of Overtime Based on Race or Sex States Discrimination Claim Under Title VII

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The Northern District of California considered whether an allegation of failure to allow overtime because of a plaintiff’s race or sex states a claim for discrimination under Title VII.  The court held that it did.

In Moore v. Contra Costa College District, No. C 09-4781 MEJ, 2010 WL 3324895 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2010) (slip op.), Plaintiff filed an employment discrimination complaint as a pro se litigant, bringing suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. Continue reading

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Northern District Approves 28.9% Fee Award in Wage and Hour Class Action Settlement

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Judge Jeffrey S. White approved a wage and hour class action settlement of a non-reversionary $1.8 million, inclusive of $520,000 in attorneys fees, in Ozga v. U.S. Remodelers, Inc., No. C 09-05112 JSW, 2010 WL 3186971 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2010).

Plaintiff filed a class action in the Alameda Superior Court on February 17, 2009, alleging that Defendant U.S. Remodelers Inc. violated the California Labor Code and violated California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders by: (1) requiring its Installer employees to work substantial amounts of time without compensation; (2) regularly failing to provide Installers with meal and rest periods; and (3) refusing to reimburse expenses that Installers incurred in the performance of their work duties, including travel expenses and equipment costs.

Defendant removed the action to this Court, and Plaintiff subsequently moved to remand.  But before the hearing on the motion to remand, the parties reached a settlement, which was facilitated, in part, by a mediation that occurred on October 1, 2009, before Michael Loeb.  The parties also engaged in some discovery, and Class Counsel interviewed a number of Settlement Class members.

The Court finds that the terms of the Settlement are fair, adequate and reasonable. As noted, the settlement was reached after the parties engaged in discovery, conducted a meditation, and continued to engage in arms-length negotiations. The parties agreed to a Settlement payment of $1,800,000.00, none of which will revert to the Defendant. The overall reaction to the settlement has been positive. The Claims Administrator has received 156 claim forms from the 270 Class Members. (Id., ¶¶ 20-21.) Neither the Claims Administrator nor the Court received any objections to the Settlement. No Class Member appeared at the final approval hearing to object. According to the Claims Administrator, assuming the Court were to grant in full Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs and service awards, approximately $1,108,917.72 would be available to distribute Class Members who submitted timely claim forms, for an average award of just over $7,000. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.)

The Court approved costs to be paid to the Claims Administrator of $10,000.00 from the Settlement Fund.

Attorneys Fees, Costs, and Service Awards

Plaintiff brought an unopposed fee application, seeking $600,000.00 in attorneys’ fees, $11,274.89 in costs, and $10,000.00 in service awards to him and to class member Boris Moskovich.

Plaintiff’s counsel sought an award of attorneys’ fees based on the percentage method, asking for 33 1/3% of the Settlement Fund.  The court agreed to depart from the 25% benchmark.  See Vizcaino v. Microsoft Corp., 290 F.3d 1043, 1047 (9th Cir. 2002) (noting that 25% is benchmark and “usual” range of awards is 20-30%); Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1029 (9th Cir. 1998) (stating that 25% is benchmark).  But the court would not vary from the benchmark to the degree requested by counsel.

The Court concludes that counsel did achieve an excellent result for the class, that the reaction to the settlement has been overwhelmingly positive, and that Plaintiff faced significant risk in prosecuting this case given the uncertain state of California law in similar wage and hour cases. The Court also recognizes that other courts have awarded settlement fees of up to 33 1/3% in such cases. However, the parties reached this settlement quickly and did not engage in any motion practice. Seee.g.Navarro v. Servisair, 2010 WL 1729538 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 27, 2010) (finding that proposed award of 30% of settlement fund unjustifiably departed from benchmark based in part on speed with which parties reached a settlement). Moreover, the requested percentage would amount to award that is more than double the fees actually incurred by counsel. Compare Vasquez v. Coast Valley Roofing, Inc., 266 F.R.D. 482, 491 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (awarding 33 1/3% of settlement fund which was “significantly less” than asserted lodestar).

Thus the court found that an award of  $520,000.00 was reasonable.

The court found counsels’ requests for costs in the amount of $11,274.89 reasonable.

The court also approved service awards in the amount of $10,000.00 for the lead plaintiff and for a class member.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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Northern District Approves $4.5 Million Settlement Against RadioShack in Expense Reimbursement Case, With $1.5 Million in Fees, and $5,000 Incentive Payments to Each Lead Plaintiff

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Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen (whose confirmation to the Northern District of California bench has unfortunately been stalled for far too long) approved the class settlement and attorney fee application in Stuart v. RadioShack Corp., 2010 WL 3155645, No. C-07-4499 EMC (N.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2010).

This class action was initiated in state court in June 2007, alleging that RadioShack had improperly failed to reimburse its employees for expenses they incurred in using their personal vehicles to perform inter-company transfers (“ICSTs”). Plaintiffs claimed for reimbursement pursuant to California Labor Code § 2802 and for a violation of California Business & Professions Code.  Subsequently Plaintiffs added a claim for recovery of penalties under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”).  The case was removed in August 2007. And in February 2009, Judge Chen granted the motion for class certification, certifying a class consisting of “all persons employed by RadioShack within the State of California, at any time from June 3, 2003, to the present, who drove their personal vehicles to and from RadioShack stores to carry out ICSTs and who were not reimbursed for mileage.”  On October 1, 2009–nine days before trial was scheduled to begin–the parties reached a settlement.

Under the Settlement Agreement, RadioShack will pay a total of $4.5 million for the release by the class, as an all-inclusive sum (proceeds to be distributed to the class, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses, costs of claim administration, incentive payments to the class representatives, and the PAGA award to the state), without reversion of any of the $4.5 million to RadioShack.

After attorney’s fees, litigation expenses, costs of claim administration, incentive payments, and the PAGA award to the state have been deducted from the $4.5 million, the remainder for distribution to the class members and/or donation to charity is $2,796,563.31.

Each class member’s award “depends on the number of weeks that the class member worked.”

The Court found that, importantly, “the amount available to the class after deductions for, e.g., fees and costs–i.e., $2,796,563.31–is not far off what the class might be awarded if it were to prevail on the merits after a trial.” Id. *4.

Plaintiffs’ counsel asked for an award of $1.5 million  (i.e., one-third of the total settlement amount), plus litigation expenses which total $78,436.69.

The Court has reviewed the expenses and determined that they are reasonable. The Court notes that the sum is not excessive given that this litigation has been ongoing for more than three years.

Attorneys Fees Application

The attorneys presented a fee application claiming $1.5 million as a lodestar for fees–excluding work performed in preparing for final approval and any post-judgment work that may be needed.  The $1.5 million sum represents 2,116.69 hours of work over a period of more than three years, at hourly rates of the billing attorneys ranging from $600 to $1,000.

After reviewing the billing records submitted by counsel as well as the declarations regarding the hourly rates of counsel, the court found that the number of hours was reasonable given the length of the lawsuit and the vigorous disputes over the course of the litigation (e.g., regarding RadioShack’s defense that it had no duty to reimburse until an employee made a request for reimbursement).

The court did express some “concerns about the $1,000 hourly rate” claimed by one of the attorneys.  “Based on the Court’s experience, this is an inordinately large hourly rate, even if the Court were to assume that [the attorney] has fifty years of experience.”  But the Court concluded that “given the 2,116.69 hours incurred, the average hourly rate for a fee award of $1.5 million total is $708, an amount that the Court deems appropriate, particularly when no multiplier is being sought on top of the lodestar.”

Compared to the percentage of the fund, the court noted that “the total settlement amount to be paid by RadioShack (with no possibility of reversion), the fee award represents one-third of the settlement amount.”  The court found that this was “well within the range of percentages which courts have upheld as reasonable in other class action lawsuits.”

The court also approved an incentive award of $5,000 for each of the two class representatives, for a total of $10,000.  The Court concluded that the incentive payments were appropriate and reasonable.  “Although the class representatives did not enter this litigation until late in the proceedings, due consideration must be given to the fact that they were willing and ready to go to trial.”  The court noted that if the “class representatives had asked for a larger sum, the Court might well have reached a different conclusion, but the $5,000 sought for each representative was viewed as “relatively modest.”

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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Judge Walker Lifts Stay

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Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the Northern District of California today lifted a stay on his decision where he ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.  Judge Walker, however, delayed implementation of the order to lift his stay until August 18.

Defendant-intervenors Dennis Hollingsworth, Gail Knight, Martin Gutierrez, Mark Jansson and ProtectMarriage.com brought a motion to stay the court’s judgment last week to ensure that Proposition 8 remains in effect as they pursue their appeal in the Ninth Circuit. In the alternative, proponents sought a brief stay to allow the court of appeals to consider the matter.

San Francisco asked the court to deny the stay and order the injunction against Proposition 8 to take effect immediately. California’s Governor and Attorney General also opposed any stay.

The Court held that “[b]ecause proponents fail to satisfy any of the factors necessary to warrant a stay, the court denies a stay except for a limited time solely in order to permit the court of appeals to consider the issue in an orderly manner.”

Federal courts look to four factors in deciding whether a stay is appropriate:

(1) whether proponents have made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits;

(2) whether proponents will be irreparably injured absent a stay;

(3) whether the stay will substantially injure other interested parties; and

(4) whether the stay is in the public interest.

See Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. —-, 129, S. Ct. 1749, 1761 (2009) (noting overlap with Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. —-, 129 S. Ct. 365, 374 (2008)).  The first two factors “are the most critical.”  Nken, 129 S. Ct. at 1757.

The order reads:

None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay. Accordingly, proponents’ motion for a stay is DENIED. Doc #705. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment forthwith. That judgment shall be STAYED until August 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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