Ehlert Hicks and trial lawyers Jaret & Jaret recently succeeded in defending a trial court ruling denying an employer’s petition for arbitration. The plaintiff employee filed a discrimination and defamation complaint against her employer, a skilled nursing facility in Marin County. The employer contended that the plaintiff had agreed to arbitrate her claims when she completed the new-hire onboarding process. The trial court found otherwise. It credited the substantial evidence presented by the plaintiff showing that the employer’s human resources manager had electronically onboarded new employees, including plaintiff, and had signed the employer’s arbitration agreement on their behalf and without their knowledge or consent. The Court of Appeal affirmed, agreeing with the trial court that the employer had failed to authenticate the plaintiff’s electronic signature as her own and that therefore no valid arbitration agreement existed. The case will now be litigated in the trial court.
Most writ petitions in the California Courts of Appeal are summarily denied but Ehlert Hicks, along with trial counsel Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, recently obtained a win on behalf of a sexual-assault victim. The plaintiff–a medical doctor and post-graduate fellow at a teaching hospital jointly operated by the University of Southern California and Los Angeles County–sought to depose the former dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine (“KSOM”) concerning what KSOM and USC did, or failed to do, in response to the on-the-job sexual assault and ensuing retaliation the plaintiff suffered. The trial court entirely precluded the deposition from going forward, but after extensive briefing, the Court of Appeal issued an alternative writ instructing the trial court to vacate its order. The trial court promptly did so.
Ehlert Hicks represents world-renowned fantasy writer Peter S. Beagle, in an appeal brought by Connor Cochran, his former business manager and friend. At trial, Beagle won a $332,500 verdict against Cochran on his claims for financial elder abuse, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and defamation, after Cochran persuaded Beagle to transfer his intellectual property into a corporation that Cochran controlled.
Ehlert Hicks represents Ryan Hyams, a former CVS pharmacy worker who brought a wage-and-hour class and representative action against the company. Hyams asserted, among other things, a claim under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) premised on CVS’s violation of multiple laws that govern the employment of pharmacy workers. PAGA deputizes private litigants to help enforce the State’s labor laws because, given the size and complexity of California’s economy, it lacks the resources to conduct enforcement activities entirely on its own.
In 2020, Hyams moved to intervene in a competing wage-and-hour class action (Chalian v. CVS) in which the plaintiffs attempted to settle and release his PAGA claim, even though the State had never authorized them to act as its PAGA proxy. The district court denied intervention. Working with Hyams’s trial lawyers, Gunn Coble LLP, Ehlert Hicks has asked the Ninth Circuit to hold that plaintiffs who have been exclusively deputized to litigate a PAGA claim have a right to intervene in cases in which other plaintiffs attempt to settle it.
Ehlert Hicks and its co-counsel, Bloomekatz Law, persuaded the Ohio Supreme Court to accept review in a case in which a two-year-old girl was violently abused, and ultimately murdered, by her father. Following her death, the toddler’s grandmother brought suit against three caseworkers employed by the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, arguing that they were at least reckless in failing to take any steps to remove the little girl from her parents’ custody. The question before the Ohio Supreme Court is whether allegations that county caseworkers have lost their immunity to suit are subject to a heightened pleading standard or the ordinary notice pleading standard that governs virtually all other civil claims in Ohio. Oral argument is scheduled for April 28, 2021.
Pending before the California Supreme Court is the case of Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc., No. S258966, which poses the question as to whether employees may recover statutory penalties for: (1) an employer’s failure to pay all outstanding meal- and rest-break premium wages upon the employee’s separation from employment (“waiting-time penalties”), as well as (2) the employer’s failure to itemize meal- and rest-break premium pay on employees’ wage statements (“wage-statement penalties”). Ehlert Hicks authored an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff-employee on behalf of the California Employment Lawyers Association (“CELA”). Given the numerous federal courts that have addressed these questions (and the few number of State courts that have), the amicus brief focuses on the reasoning of the federal courts—the vast majority of which have sided with workers in holding that they may indeed recover waiting-time and wage-statement penalties in connection with meal- and rest-break premium payments.
Led by Scotia Hicks, Ehlert Hicks won a complete victory for app developer Six4Three, Inc. on cross-appeals in California’s First District Court of Appeal. The trial court had denied Facebook’s anti-SLAPP motion, but granted the anti-SLAPP motion brought by individual Facebook executives who are also named defendants in the case. Ehlert Hicks succeeded in convincing the Court of Appeal to affirm the denial of Facebook’s motion, but reverse the grant of the individual defendants’ motion. The case will now return to the trial court where Six4Three will be able to litigate its claims on the merits.
Allison Ehlert litigated a habeas appeal on behalf of a criminal defendant who was sentenced–likely incorrectly–as an armed career criminal. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed that the defendant’s case must go back to the district court for a merits determination of his armed-career-criminal challenge.
After Ehlert Hicks filed an opening brief challenging a federal district court’s calculation of its client’s sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, the government conceded that the district court erred. The government agreed with the arguments asserted by Ehlert Hicks and filed a motion urging the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the sentence and remand the case for resentencing.
Ehlert Hicks has asked the California Supreme Court to grant review in a case involving the elimination of pension benefits for a former CSU professor. The case raises an important question of law concerning California’s acceptance-of-the-judgment doctrine.