April 13, 2012

Summary of April 11, 2012 conference report for civil cases

The following is our summary of the Supreme Court’s actions on petitions for review in civil cases from the Court’s conference on Wednesday, April 11, 2012. The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted, (2) review has been denied but one or more justices has voted for review, or (3) the Court has ordered depublished an opinion of the Court of Appeal. This week, we note that the Court has depublished a Court of Appeal opinion in a civil case for the third time this year.

Review Granted

Muldrow v. Surrex Solutions, S200557—Review Granted and Held—April 11, 2012

This is a wage-and-hour class action by corporate recruiters against their employer for failure to pay overtime and failure to provide meal periods, among other claims. The question presented is whether an employer is required to pay overtime wages to employees who are subject to the commissioned employees exemption. According to the exemption, employers are not required to pay overtime wages to employees whose earnings exceed 1 ½ times the minimum wage if more than half of that employee’s compensation is earned from commissions.

The Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division One, held in a published opinion, Muldrow v. Surrex Solutions Corp. (2012) 202 Cal.App.4th 1232, that the plaintiff employees were subject to the commissioned employees exemption because they were employed “principally in selling a product or service” and their commissions were sufficiently related to the price of services. Further action in this matter has been deferred pending consideration and disposition of a related issue in Brinker Restaurant v. Superior Court (Hohnbaum), S166350, concerning the proper interpretation of California’s statutes and regulations governing an employer’s duty to provide meal and rest breaks to hourly workers.

Review Denied (with dissenting justices)

American States Insurance v. National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford, S200088—Review Denied [Kennard, J., voting for review]—April 11, 2012

This was an action by an initial general liability insurer against a subsequent insurer for equitable contribution and declaratory relief, after settlement of a homeowners association’s underlying action against the insureds. The questions presented were: (1) whether the equitable contribution claim is governed by a two-year or four-year statute of limitations; and (2) whether the initial insurer, who paid the defense and indemnity costs to settle the claims against the insureds, had a subrogation claim against the subsequent insurer. The Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division One, held in a published decision, American States Ins. Co. v. National Fire Ins. Co. of Hartford (2011) 202 Cal.App.4th 692, that: (1) the equitable contribution claim is governed by a two-year statute of limitations; and (2) the initial insurer lacked any subrogation claim against the subsequent insurer.

Depublished

Kumar v. Yu, S199291—Depublished Court of Appeal Opinion—April 11, 2012

This was an action by a landlord against a former commercial tenant for breach of lease, property damage and rent for the balance of the lease term. This issues presented were: (1) whether excess rent payments can be used in calculating the plaintiff landlord’s damages for breach of a commercial lease; (2) whether the tenant was the prevailing party for purposes of an award of attorney’s fees; and (3) whether the lease’s attorney’s fees provision applied to the tenant’s cross-complaint, which was not an action on the contract. The Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Seven, held in a published decision, Kumar v. Yu (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 1463, that: (1) the trial court properly included excess rent payments in calculating the plaintiff landlord’s damages; (2) the trial court properly determined the tenant was the prevailing party on the landlord’s claims; but (3) the statute governing the award of attorney fees in an action on a contract was inapplicable to the tenant’s cross-complaint because it was not based on an alleged breach of the lease by the landlord, but upon statutory violations unrelated to performance or interpretation of the lease.

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