In May 2014, class action defense attorney Tim Freudenberger from Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger
In the Duran case, the California Supreme Court affirmed in full a Court of Appeal decision overturning a multi-million dollar judgment in favor of a class of business banking officers who alleged that they were misclassified as exempt outside salespersons and owed overtime wages. The California Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal that the trial plan resulting in the judgment was fundamentally flawed and violated U.S. Bank’s due process rights. In addition to holding that the trial plan was unconstitutional and required reversal of the judgment, the Supreme Court also held that the class was properly decertified due to the lack of manageability of individual issues surrounding U.S. Bank's exemption defense.
The Supreme Court emphasized that the presence of common issues does not necessarily mean that class certification is appropriate if there are still individual issues that cannot be effectively managed at trial, as was the case in Duran.
Typically, the plaintiff’s bar relies on statistical evidence to establish manageability at the certification stage as well as proof of class claims at trial. However, as Duran makes clear, statistical evidence must be scientifically valid and sound. The sampling and attempt at “representative testimony” in Duran fell short from such a standard.
As expected, Duran has provided the lower courts with fundamental standards to follow in deciding whether certification should be granted. Moreover, lower courts have relied on Duran in both misclassification and non-misclassification wage and hour cases.
Duran may also be responsible for precluding lower courts from relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court in certifying class actions based on the mere appearance of common proof as presented by plaintiffs, without a strict analysis of whether individualized issues make class treatment inappropriate.
Some post-Duran cases exemplify its importance at the class certification stage and the impact of the decision. For instance, in B
In Safeway v. Superior Court, 190 Cal. Rptr. 3d 131 (2015), certification of a meal period violation class was upheld. There, the Court of Appeal relied on Duran in its analysis of the certification ruling and quoted some of the cornerstones established in Duran: “The key questions concern whether common issues
In Koval v. Pacific Bell Telephone Co., 232 Cal. App. 4th 1050 (2014) the Court of Appeal upheld the denial of class certification. There, the plaintiff filed a purported class action on behalf of service technicians alleging that the company failed to provide meal and rest breaks by failing to relinquish control over their activities during meal and rest breaks. The trial court denied certification because, while facially valid, there was too much variation in the meal and rest break policies and how they were implemented, making the class unmanageable. On review, the Court of Appeal agreed that the purported class was “totally unmanageable” and appreciated the trial court’s concerns. In fact, the appellate court opinion included the following quote from Duran: “Trial courts must pay careful attention to manageability when deciding whether to certify a class action. In considering whether a class action is a superior device for resolving a controversy, the manageability of individual issues is just as important as the existence of common questions uniting the proposed class.”
As these cases demonstrate, Duran has
Timothy M. Freudenberger is a founding partner and chair of CDF's class action defense litigation practice group. Mr. Freudenberger has practiced at the forefront in the defense of wage and hour and other class actions as these high-profile cases have threatened employers throughout California. Mr. Freudenberger was named Best Lawyers® “Lawyer of the Year” in class action – defense in Orange County in 2017 and was also listed
Nancy N. Lubrano is a labor and employment defense attorney at Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP. She has extensive experience defending her clients that have workforces in California against single plaintiff claims as well as