The UCL Practitioner
Friday, September 24, 2004
Recent federal decision: Barnett v. Washington Mutual Bank
In Barnett v. Washington Mutual Bank, 2004 WL 2011462 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 9, 2004), the court followed Bronco Wine Co. v. Frank A. Logoluso Farms, 214 Cal.App.3d 699 (1989), in granting a motion to strike the non-class, representative UCL claims of the plaintiff loan officers. The loan officers alleged that their employer violated federal and state labor laws by not paying them overtime. Among other things, they sought restitution under the UCL. The court concluded that "these actions as presently framed are not appropriate for a non-class representative theory" because two factors suggested that the due process concerns recognized in Bronco Wine were present. First, "[t]he potential amount of restitution is great; potentially in the tens of thousands of dollars for each former loan officer. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the process for determining the amount of restitution is not automatic." The court distinguished two other overtime cases; in Cortez v. Purolator Air Filtration Prods. Co., 23 Cal.4th 163 (2000), the overtime was more easily calculable, and Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 115 Cal.App.4th 715 (2004) was a certified class action.

This holding is significant. Bronco Wine is often raised, but rarely followed. Curiously, the court did not mention the holding of Kraus v. Trinity Management Services, Inc., 23 Cal.3d 116, 138 (2000) that "in any case in which a defendant can demonstrate a potential for harm or show that the action is not one brought by a competent plaintiff for the benefit of injured parties, the court may decline to entertain the action as a representative suit."
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