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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Superior Court: Where Trial Court Relied on Just One Case in Granting Class Certification, Subsequent Depublication of That Case Required Court to Reconsider Certification Order

In Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Superior Court (Wilson) (7/23/13) --- Cal.App.4th ---, the Court of Appeal held that when a trial court relies on just one case in making an order granting class certification, the California Supreme Court's subsequent depublication of that case constitutes a change of law, and the trial court must review its earlier order on a motion for reconsideration. 

The plaintiffs filed a putative wage and hour class action on behalf of individuals employed by the defendant as claims adjusters. While the plaintiffs' motion for class certification was pending, the Court of Appeal issued its decision in Harris v. Superior Court (July 23, 2012) (discussed here), holding that a trial court should have denied a defendant's motion to decertify a class of claims adjusters and should have granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the defendant's administrative exemption defense. 

Relying entirely on Harris and stating that it had no choice but to do so, the trial court granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Less than a month later, the California Supreme Court depublished Harris (discussed here). The trial court denied the defendant's motion for reconsideration, and the defendant appealed. 

First, the Court held that the trial court's decision was subject to review on a petition for writ of mandate. Slip op. at 17-18.

Second, the Court held that depublication may constitute a change of law sufficient to warrant reconsideration under Code of Civil Procedure section 1008. Slip op. at 18-21.

Finally, the Court held that under the circumstances of this case, the trial court abused its discretion by denying the defendant's motion for reconsideration. Slip op. at 21-23.

The Court remanded to the trial court to reconsider its order granting class certification.

The opinion is available here.

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