Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Chavez v. Occidental Chemical Corp
The Court of Appeals answered questions certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding whether New York recognizes so-called American Pipe tolling of the statute of limitations for absent class members of a putative class action filed in another jurisdiction.In 2012, Plaintiffs filed individual lawsuits alleging injuries based upon the manufacturing of a nematicide by Occidental Chemical Corporation. The cases were consolidated, and the action was transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Occidental moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Plaintiffs' claims were time-barred under New York law. Plaintiffs argued in response that a putative class action originally filed in Texas state court in 1993 had tolled the applicable three-year statute of limitations. The New York District Court Judge denied the motion and certified an interlocutory appeal to the Second Circuit, which, in turn, certified questions to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals answered (1) New York recognizes American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 US 538 (1974), tolling for absent class members of putative class actions filed in other state and federal courts; and (2) a non-merits dismissal of class certification, as occurred here in 1995, extinguishes tolling. View "Chavez v. Occidental Chemical Corp" on Justia Law
Maddicks v Big City Properties, LLC
The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division modifying Supreme Court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' amended class action complaint by denying the part of the motion seeking dismissal of the class action claims against Defendants except to the extent those allegations addressed the cause of action for violation of N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law 349, holding that the claims for class relief should not have been dismissed without a judicial determination as to whether the prerequisites of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 902 had been satisfied.Plaintiffs, current and former tenants in buildings within multiple apartment buildings, alleged that individual corporate defendants that owned various buildings at issue were owned or controlled by a single holding company and that Defendants, in an effort to extract additional value from the properties, engaged in improper and illegal conduct" by, among other things, inflating rents above the amounts Defendant were legally permitted to charge. Before an answer was filed, Supreme Court dismissed the complaint, concluding that there was no basis for class relief. The Appellate Division modified Supreme Court's order, concluding that dismissal at this stage was premature. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that dismissal of class claims based on allegations of a methodical attempt to illegally inflate rents was premature. View "Maddicks v Big City Properties, LLC" on Justia Law
Andryeyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc.
In these joint appeals from putative class actions, the Supreme Court reversed the orders of the Appellate Division rejecting the New York State Department of Labor's (DOL) interpretation of the DOL's Miscellaneous Industries and Occupations Minimum Wage Order (Wage Order), holding that DOL's interpretation of its Wage Order did not conflict with the promulgated language, nor did DOL adopt on irrational or unreasonable construction.Under the Wage Order, an employer must pay its home health care aid employees for each hour of a twenty-four-hour shift. At issue in this case was DOL's interpretation of its Wage Order to require payment for at least thirteen hours of a twenty-four-hour shift if the employee is allowed a sleep break of at least eight hours and actually receives five hours of uninterrupted sleep and three hours of meal break time. Supreme Court refused to adopt DOL's interpretation and determined that class certification was appropriate. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that DOL's interpretation was neither rational nor reasonable because it conflicted with the plain language of the Wage Order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Appellate Division failed to afford adequate deference to DOL's interpretation of the Wage Order. View "Andryeyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc." on Justia Law
Desrosiers v. Perry Ellis Menswear, LLC
N.Y. C.P.L.R. 908 applies to class actions that are settled or dismissed before the class has been certified, and not just to certified class actions.Plaintiff filed a class action against Defendants alleging that Defendants improperly classified employees as interns. Plaintiff accepted Defendants’ offer of compromise. When Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, the time within which Plaintiff was required to move for class certification pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 902 had expired. Supreme Court dismissed the complaint but denied Plaintiff’s cross motion to provide notice of the dismissal to putative class members pursuant to section 908. The appellate division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that notice to putative class members of a proposed dismissal, discontinuance, or compromise must be given. View "Desrosiers v. Perry Ellis Menswear, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Class Action
Selective Ins. Co. of Am. v. County of Rensselaer
In 2002, Plaintiffs commenced a proposed class action civil rights suit against the County of Rensselaer. The County invoked Selective Insurance Company’s duty to provide a defense under the policies that the company sold to the County. Selective agreed to defend the County in the action, subject to the insurance policy limits and the deductible. Selective’s counsel and the County agreed to settle the actions for $1,000 per plaintiff, determined to be slightly more than 800 individuals in total, with attorney fees also being recoverable. Selective abided by the terms of the settlement. The County, however, refused to pay Selective more than a single deductible payment. Selective then commenced this action for money damages, arguing that each class member was subject to a separate deductible. Supreme Court concluded that a separate deductible payment applied to each class member and that all legal fees should be allocated to one policy. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the class action suit did not constitute one occurrence under the relevant policies’ definition of “occurrence” and that the attorney’s fees generated in defending that suit were properly allocated to the named plaintiff. View "Selective Ins. Co. of Am. v. County of Rensselaer" on Justia Law
Borden v. 400 E. 55th St. Assoc., L.P.
In these three putative class actions, Plaintiffs, current or former tenants of separate apartment buildings, sought damages for rent overcharges. All plaintiffs initially sought treble damages but then waived that demand. At issue was whether Plaintiffs’ claims could properly be brought as class actions. Defendants argued, among other things, that these actions were to “recover a penalty” because, even without trebling, the remedy provided by the Rent Stabilization Law (RSL) 26-516 is a penalty. In each case, the Appellate Division certified a question to the Court of Appeals. The Court answered (1) N.Y. C.P.L.R. 901(b), which prohibits any claim for penalties to be brought as a class action, permits otherwise qualified plaintiffs to utilize the class action mechanism to recover compensatory overcharges even though the RSL 26-516 does not specifically authorize class action recovery and imposes treble damages upon a finding of willful violation; and (2) maintaining these actions as class actions does not contravene the letter or the spirit of the C.P.L.R. or the RSL. View "Borden v. 400 E. 55th St. Assoc., L.P." on Justia Law
Barenboim v. Starbucks Corp.
Under N.Y. Labor Law 196-d, an employer's "agent" may not retain tips. Two former Starbucks baristas brought a putative class action in the U.S. district court alleging that Starbucks' policy of allowing shift supervisors to receive distributions violated section 196-d. The district court concluded that the supervisors could participate in tip pools because their responsibilities did not render them Starbucks agents. Meanwhile, several former Starbucks assistant store managers filed a separate complaint asserting that assistant store managers should be entitled to participate in the tips pools. The U.S. district court concluded that section 196-d does not compel an employer to include any particular eligible employee in a tip pool. On appeal from both cases, the court of appeals certified two questions of law to the New York Court of Appeals, which answered by holding (1) an employee whose personal service to patrons is a principal part of his duties may participate in a tip allocation arrangement under section 196-d even if he possesses limited supervisory responsibilities, but an employee granted meaningful control over subordinates is not eligible to participate in a tip pool; and (2) Starbucks' decision to exclude assistant store managers from the tip pool was not contrary to section 196-d. View "Barenboim v. Starbucks Corp." on Justia Law
People v. Pealer
After his vehicle was stopped by a police officer, Defendant was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and a breathalyzer test computed his blood alcohol content at close to twice the legal limit. Defendant was subsequently indicted for felony DWI. During the jury trial, the People offered into evidence documents pertaining to the routine calibration and maintenance of the breathalyzer machine used in Defendant's breath test to demonstrate it was in proper working order at the time Defendant was tested. Defendant raised a Confrontation Clause challenge to the documents, contending that he was entitled to cross-examine the authors of the records. The county court allowed the documents to be received in evidence, and Defendant was convicted of felony DWI. The appellate division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that documents pertaining to the routine inspection, maintenance, and calibration of breathalyzer machines are nontestimonial, and consequently, the Confrontation Clause was not implicated in this case, and the trial judge did not err in declining Defendant's request to cross-examine the authors of the testing records before the court ruled on their admissibility. View "People v. Pealer" on Justia Law
Swezey v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc.
At issue here was national assets stolen by President Ferdinand Marcos. Victims of Marcos' human rights abuses ("Pimentel class") obtained a judgment against Marcos' estate and, in enforcing the judgment, sought to obtain assets also sought by the Republic of the Philippines and its commission organized to retrieve the assets (collectively, Republic). In dispute was the assets of Arelma, a Panamanian corporation, which were held in a brokerage account. The brokerage firm commenced an interpleader action in federal court. The district court awarded ownership of the Arelma assets to the Pimentel claimants. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that the assertion of sovereign immunity by the Republic required dismissal for lack of a required party. Petitioner then commenced this turnover proceeding seeking to execute the Pimental judgment against the Arelma account. Meanwhile, a Philippine court determined the assets had been forfeited to the Republic. PNB and Arelma moved to intervene, requesting dismissal. Supreme Court denied the motion. The appellate division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the appellate division did not err in concluding that dismissal was required under N.Y.C.P.L.R. 1001, as the Republic was a necessary party but could not be subject to joinder in light of the assertion of sovereign immunity. View "Swezey v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc." on Justia Law
Corsello v Verizon N.Y., Inc.
Verizon attached a box to a building that plaintiffs owned and used the box to transmit telephone communications to and from Verizon's customers in other buildings. Plaintiffs claimed that Verizon took their property without paying them just compensation and deceived them into believing that no compensation was owed. The court held that plaintiffs have stated a valid "inverse condemnation" claim for just compensation, and that the claim was not time-barred. However, their claim for an alleged violation of General Business Law 349 was barred by the statute of limitations, and their unjust enrichment claim was legally insufficient. The court also held that the courts below properly denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification. View "Corsello v Verizon N.Y., Inc." on Justia Law