Tag Archives: United States

Ninth Circuit Compels Arbitration in Kilgore v. KeyBank, But Avoids Vitiating Broughton-Cruz Rule

English: Diamond Katana aircraft owned by Amer...

English: Diamond Katana aircraft owned by American School of Aviation, an FAA Part 141 flight school based in Atwater, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a ruling that was expected to have a broad impact on mandatory employment arbitration agreements, the Ninth Circuit today compelled arbitration in Kilgore v. Keybank, National Association, but avoided a broad ruling vitiating the Broughton-Cruz rule.  Kilgore v. Keybank, National Association, No. 09-16703, __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. Apr. 11, 2013) (en banc).  The appeal involved a putative class action by former students of a failed flight-training school who seek broad injunctive relief against the bank that originated their student loans among others.  The en banc court held that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable under California law and reversed and remanded with instructions to compel arbitration.

Arbitration Clause

The Court quoted the relevant part of the arbitration clause as follows:

IF ARBITRATION IS CHOSEN BY ANY PARTY WITH RESPECT TO A CLAIM, NEITHER YOU NOR I WILL HAVE THE RIGHT TO LITIGATE THAT CLAIM IN COURT OR HAVE A JURY TRIAL ON THAT CLAIM . . . . FURTHER, I WILL NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE AS A REPRESENTATIVE OR MEMBER OF ANY CLASS OF CLAIMANTS PERTAINING TO ANY CLAIM SUBJECT TO ARBITRATION. . . . I UNDERSTAND THAT OTHER RIGHTS I WOULD HAVE IF I WENT TO COURT MAY ALSO NOT BE AVAILABLE IN ARBITRATION. . . .

Defendants sought a broad ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Concepcion vitiated the Broughton-Cruz rule that makes unenforceable arbitration agreements that bar certain claims for public injunctive relief.  The Ninth Circuit did not reach this question: Continue reading

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California Court of Appeal Reverses Arbitration Order in Wage Case, Citing Viability of Armendariz Bilateriality Rule

English: own work

English: own work (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed the lower court’s order granting a petition to compel arbitration in a putative wage & hour class action.  Compton v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. B236669, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2013 WL 1120619 (2d Dist. Mar 19, 2013).  Plaintiff was a property manager who was required to sign an arbitration agreement that also barred arbitration of class claims.  The trial court granted defendants’ petition to compel arbitration.

Normally an order compelling arbitration is not appealable.  But the Court of Appeal determined it had jurisdiction, citing the “death knell” doctrine:

An order compelling arbitration is not appealable. (Elijahjuan v. Superior Court (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 15, 19.) The parties argue over whether this matter is appealable under the “death knell” doctrine, which applies when an order effectively terminates a class action. Rather than parse the case law on that issue, we conclude that we have jurisdiction to treat this nonappealable order as a petition for writ of mandate in this unusual case because: (1) the unconscionability issue is one of law based on undisputed facts and has been fully briefed; (2) the record is sufficient to consider the issue and it appears that the trial court would be only a nominal party; (3) if we were to dismiss the appeal, and the ultimate reversal of the order is inevitable, it would come in a post-arbitration award after the substantial time and expense of arbitrating the dispute; and (4) as a result, dismissing the appeal would require the parties to arbitrate nonarbitrable claims and would be costly and dilatory.

The Court concluded that the arbitration agreement was unconscionably one-sided because (1) it exempted from arbitration claims the employer would more likely bring, such as claims for injunctive or equitable relief from trade secret disclosures; (2) it limited the time to demand arbitration to a period shorter than the relevant statutes of limitation; (3) it retained the statute of limitations period for itself  and (4) it suggested that the arbitrator had the discretion not to award mandatory attorney’s fees under the Labor Code.

The Court determined that it was not violating Concepcion by enforcing Armendariz’s bilaterality rule: Continue reading

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Engaging in Voluminous Discovery and Litigating Two Motions to Compel Sufficient to Waive Right to Arbitrate

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In an unpublished decision, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration in a wage and hour class action, where defendants conducted voluminous discovery and filed and fully litigating two motions to compel further responses to discovery, a motion for sanctions and a motion for a protective order.    Partridge, et al. v. Hott Wings, Inc., et al., No. A130266, 2012 WL 470458 (Feb. 14, 2012).

Discussion

The Court found that Defendants’ delay in filing their petition to compel arbitration “connotes an intent not to arbitrate”.  Id. Defendants conducted substantial discovery:

Between March 2010 and the October 2010 hearing on defendants’ motion to compel arbitration, defendants engaged in voluminous written discovery to which plaintiffs responded.   In addition, defendants deposed numerous plaintiffs and third party witnesses.   Although plaintiffs had begun deposing witnesses, they had not yet obtained basic documents from defendants through discovery.   The discovery focused on the liability of individual defendants and the franchise defendants that employ plaintiffs.   As a result of defendants’ discovery requests, plaintiffs provided information regarding plaintiffs’ estimated damages, which defendants were responsible for which violations, and the liability of the individual as well as the franchise defendants.   A reasonable inference is that the information gained from defendants’ discovery goes to significant issues in plaintiffs’ case.

Id.

In addition, the Court found that Defendants “substantially invoked the litigation machinery” by: Continue reading

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Unlicensed Law School Graduate Still May Be Exempt Under Learned Professions Exemption

Harvey A. Nell, Clerk and Recorder, Anaconda, MT

Image by Butte-Silver Bow Public Library via Flickr

The First District Court of Appeal held that summary judgment was properly granted in a wage and hour case because plaintiff unlicensed law school graduate performed duties that brought him within the exemption for learned professionals.  Zelasko-Barrett v. Brayton-Purcell, LLP, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2011 WL 3594015, No. A130540 (1st Dist. Aug. 17, 2011) .

Background

Plaintiff was employed by the Brayton-Purcell, LLP (Brayton) law firm as a Law Clerk II after he graduated from law school but before he passed the bar examination. Id. *1. After being admitted to the bar, plaintiff was designated as an associate attorney, and performed tasks customarily performed by junior attorneys. Id. He drafted pleadings, discover demands and responses, did legal research and drafted memoranda of points and authorities, interviewed witnesses, etc. Id. The trial court granted Brayton’s motion for summary judgment and sustained objections to numerous statements where plaintiff denied he was employed in a professional capacity and performed work covered by the professional exemption. Id.

Plaintiff filed an action after voluntarily departing from the law firm, and alleged that he had been misclassified.  Brayton successfully moved for summary judgment on the ground that in the Law Clerk II position plaintiff had been an “exempt professional employee.” Id. Plaintiff appealed. Id. Continue reading

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50 State Noncompete Survey Shows That California Is in Rare Company

John Burke, 10th Governor of North Dakota

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A 50 state noncompete survey shows that California is in elite company with respect to its general prohibition against noncompete agreements.  North Dakota and Oklahoma are the only other states to disallow noncompetes.

By CHARLES JUNG

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Eastern District of New York Holds That Contact List Is Not Entitled to Trade Secret Protection Because Information is Readily Duplicated Through Facebook or LinkedIn

Eastern District of New York Courthouse
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In a sign of the times, District Judge Arthur D. Spatt of the Eastern District of New York adopted the recommendations of Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson who denied a motion for preliminary injunction in a trade secrets misappropriation case involving a customer list.  Sasqua Group, Inc. v. Courtney, No. CV 10-528(ADS)(AKT), 2010 WL 3613855 (E.D.N.Y. 2010 Aug. 2, 2010) (slip op.). The court reasoned that because the information could be properly acquired or readily duplicated through public databases such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the information was not entitled to trade secret protection.  Id. *23.

In sum, Plaintiffs have failed to prove a physical appropriation or copying of confidential information or wrongful disclosure or use of a trade secret. See Leo Silfen, 29 N.Y.2d at 389, 328 N.Y.S.2d at 424, 278 N.E.2d 636. The information in Sasqua’s database concerning the needs of its clients, their preferences, hiring practices, and business strategies, as well as Sasqua’s acquaintance with key decision-makers at those firms may well have been a protectable trade secret in the early years of Sasqua’s existence when greater time, energy and resources may have been necessary to acquire the level of detailed information to build and retain the business relationships at issue here. However, for good or bad, the exponential proliferation of information made available through full-blown use of the Internet and the powerful tools it provides to access such information in 2010 is a very different story. Continue reading

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Ninth Circuit Holds That Newspaper Reporters Not Exempt

New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York T...
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On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in “all respects” the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs, a judgment after jury and bench trials, and an award of attorney’s fees to plaintiffs.  Wang v. Chinese Daily News, Inc., Nos. 08-55483, 08-56740, — F.3d —-, 2010 WL 3733568 (9th Cir. Sept. 27, 2010).  Among other things, the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff newspaper reporters were non-exempt.  (Thank you to Randy Renick for bringing this case to my attention.)

Background

Employees of Chinese Daily News, Inc. (“CDN”), a Chinese-language newspaper, filed suit against CDN on behalf of current, former, and future CDN employees based in CDN’s San Francisco and Monterey Park (Los Angeles), California locations.  Id. *1.  Plaintiffs claimed violations of the FLSA, California’s Labor Code, and California’s Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, alleging that employees were made to work in excess of eight hours per day and forty hours per week. Id. Continue reading

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Second District Reverses Class Action Judgment Relating to Bonuses Allegedly Due After Merger

Fiber Optic Candle
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The Second District reversed a trial court’s judgment in favor of employees in a class action trial.  Pearline Zalewa v. Tempo Research Corporation, B210429, 2010 WL 3735240 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist. Sept. 27, 2010).  Defendant  fiber-optic equipment manufacturer was sued in a class action by its former employees who claimed that the manufacturer breached an obligation to pay them annual bonuses, an obligation that allegedly continued for years after they were laid off from work during a business downturn.  Id. The court concluded that the employees were not entitled to any recovery: “All but two of the employees relinquished their right to sue when they were laid off, in return for compensation that exceeded their earned severance pay. In any event, there was no promise made to pay bonuses to the employees after they were laid off.”  Id.

The Trial Court’s Judgment

The trial court conducted a bench trial in January 2008, finding that plaintiffs were entitled to recover a direct bonus under theories of breach of contract, promissory estoppel, accounting, and unfair business practices. Id. The court deemed the bonus payments to be “wages” under the Labor Code. Id. And because the bonus payments are wages, plaintiffs were awarded prejudgment interest and attorney fees under the Labor Code. Id. The court enumerated the amount of the award for each employee, less offsets for monies already paid by defendants, plus interest. Id. The total amount of the award, including interest, was approximately $99,000, and plaintiffs’ counsel was awarded attorney fees of $881,715.  Id. Continue reading

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Second District Reverses Summary Judgment on All Wage and Hour Claims

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The Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed summary judgment on wage and hour claims in Porter v. Ralphs Grocery Company, No. B218220, 2010 WL 3704055 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist. Sept. 23, 2010).  Plaintiff alleged that defendant required him to work overtime off the clock, and by doing this defendant both denied plaintiff proper wages and made it difficult for plaintiff to calculate the overtime pay due him.  Id. *8.  Plaintiff also alleged that defendant failed to afford meal periods of at least one-half hour in which he was relieved of all duties, and that he regularly worked without taking the 10 minute rest breaks due him.  Id. Plaintiff alleged violation of Labor Code sections 1174, 226.7, and 512. Id. He also alleged violation of Labor Code sections 201 and 203 for failure to pay all sums due plaintiff immediately upon termination of his employment.  Id. Additionally, he alleged defendant retaliated against him for his having requested that he not have to work off the books. Id.

The Court of Appeal held that “when an employee continues to work at the end of his shift even when not requested or required to do so, and the employer knows or has reason to know about such continuing work, then the time is considered working time and it is the duty of management to see that the post-shift work is not performed if it does not want the employee to work past his shift.” Id. *9 (citing Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575 (2000)). Continue reading

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Southern District Requires Plaintiffs in CUTSA Case to Post $800,000 Bond for Fees and Costs Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 1030

Qualcomm Clown
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The United States District Court for the Southern District of California required plaintiffs in a UTSA case to post an $800,000 bond for fees and costs, pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 1030.  Gabriel Technologies Corporation v. Qualcomm Incorporated, No. 08 CV 1992 MMA (POR), Slip Copy, 2010 WL 3718848 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 20, 2010).

The action arose out of events related to technology licenses and related joint ventures between Plaintiffs and their predecessor in interest, and Defendants.  Id *1.  In the Fourth Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert claims for: (1) Breach of the Amended and Restated License Agreement; (2) Correction of Inventorship (pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 256); (3) Declaratory Judgment of Ownership Interest in the Patents (pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201); and (4) Misappropriation (pursuant to Cal. Uniform Trade Secrets Act). Id. *2. Defendants filed a motion for a cost bond under California Code of Civil Procedure section 1030. Id. The Court also has authority under Civil Local Rule 65.1.2(a) to require Plaintiffs to post a bond “where authorized by law and for good cause shown.” Continue reading

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