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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tien v. Tenet Healthcare: Court of Appeal Reaffirms Another Pre-Brinker Order Denying Certification

In Tien v. Tenet Healthcare Corp. (2/16/11) 192 Cal.App.4th 1055 (discussed here) the trial court initially certified meal period, waiting time penalty, and check stub claims. After the Court of Appeal issued Brinker v. Superior Court (4/12/12) 53 Cal.4th 1004 (discussed here) and Brinkley v. Public Storage, Inc. (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1278, the trial court granted Tenet's motion for reconsideration and denied certification on all issues. The Court of Appeal affirmed, and the California Supreme Court added Tien to its list of Brinker grant-and-holds.

On remand following Brinker, the Court of Appeal has affirmed its earlier decision. 
Tien v. Tenet Healthcare Corp. (10/4/12).  This should not come as much of a surprise, as Tien comes from the same Court of Appeal (Second District, Division Eight) that recently affirmed its earlier decisions in two other Brinker grant-and-holds: Lamps Plus Overtime Cases (8/20/12) (discussed here); and Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (8/21/12) (discussed here).

In any case, here's what the Court says in Tien:

First, the denial of certification is reviewed on a substantial evidence standard, unless the trial court "has evaluated class certification using improper criteria or an incorrect legal analysis." Slip op. at 8-9.

Second, substantial evidence supported the trial court's decision. Slip op. at 9-12. Substantial evidence supported the trial court's decision that individual issues predominated with regard to the meal period, rest period, and check stub claims. Ibid.

Third, the trial court did not err in refusing to reverse its decision after the Supreme Court granted review in Brinkley. Slip op. at 12-15. "Although Brinkley's depublication meant the trial court could no longer rely on that decision after January 2009, appellants cite no authority that the court's reliance on Brinkley before its depublication violated the rule prohibiting citation of depublished decisions." Slip op. at 13. The Court distinguished Cicairos v. Summit Logistics, Inc. (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 949, and held that the trial court had no obligation to follow it. Slip op. at 13-15.

Fourth, any error that the trial court committed in failing to give the plaintiffs an opportunity to argue Brinkley was harmless, given that the court did give them the opportunity to argue Brinker. Slip op. at 15.

Fifth, the trial court did not err in considering the merits of an employer's obligation to provide meal periods. Slip op. at 16-18.

Finally, the trial court did not err in reversing its tentative decision to grant certification, and the appellants could not use the tentative order to impeach the final order denying certification. Slip op. at 18-20.

The opinion is available here.

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