news 2013

Court preliminarily approves $1.9 million settlement of wage and hour class action

November 18, 2013 – The San Francisco Superior Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement of a class action on behalf of approximately 700 minimum wage workers, represented by Nick Carlin, who alleged the workers had been unlawfully denied meal and rest breaks. Under the settlement, class members are expected to receive roughly one hour of pay for each shift worked during the time period covered by the lawsuit or an average of over $1,500 each. Defendants will also pay PE&G's fees and costs, as well as $45,000 in penalties to the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency. The court will hold a final approval hearing on February 19, 2014.

Court appoints firm lead counsel in privacy case against Apple and others

October 22, 2013 – In an order issued today, Federal District Judge Jon Tigar has appointed PE&G (along with its co-counsel) lead attorneys in a class action involving Apple and many of the tech industry's largest application developers over the wide-spread practice of uploading consumers' address book data from iDevices without consumers' authorization or consent. The practice came to light following reporting in the New York Times and other major news publications in February of last year, and led to one app developer's civil prosecution by the Federal Trade Commission. The case has survived multiple attacks by Apple and the other defendants; those defendants' third round of motions to dismiss the class plaintiffs' consolidated amended complaint are set to be heard by Judge Tigar in January.

Firm defends against multi-million dollar damages claim for alleged misappropriation of intellectual property

October 11, 2013 – PE&G attorney Randy Erlewine recently helped conclude a settlement of claims against firm clients Development Specialists, Inc., and California Assignments. The latter entity became the Assignee for Benefit of Creditors of a Silicon Valley semiconductor fabrication plant. Before shutting down, the plant refused to release certain physical and intellectual property belonging to one of its customers, until that entity paid a disputed invoice. Following the assignment, the customer filed suit, claiming millions of dollars in damages for alleged conversion and misappropriation of its trade secrets and intellectual property used in the fabrication of semiconductor wafers. The firm vigorously defended against these highly complex and hotly litigated claims. The customer filed a notice of settlement today.

Firm launches trademark infringement case for celebrated Bay Area gentlemen's club

September 18, 2013 – Partner David Given was recently retained by the Gold Club of San Francisco in a case pitting it against a new gentlemen’s club opened last month in San Jose using the client’s same name and similar marks and logos. The firm commenced the client’s case against the new club in federal court, followed by an expedited motion for preliminary injunction. Following an hour-long hearing before Federal District Judge William H. Orrick, III, the court issued a carefully-reasoned 19-page decision, denying the request for a preliminary injunction but finding that the firm had raised “serious questions” about the nature of the new club’s various defenses to infringement. Acknowledging the urgency of the matter, the court ordered the parties to submit an “expedited schedule” for trial of the matter. The parties will be back in court on October 15th to discuss that subject and, most likely, to set the case for trial.

Court allows privacy case to proceed against Apple, sets date for consolidated complaint

August 5, 2013 – Federal District Judge Jon Tigar has ruled against Apple Inc. in a case regarding the uploading of private address book data from iDevice users’ phones and tablets without their knowledge or consent. In his 17-page order issued today, Judge Tigar sustained all but one of the claims made against Apple from legal attack, allowing the case to proceed to the discovery stage, whereinformation will be sought about Apple’s policies and practices. In earlier related proceedings, Judge Tigar allowed a consolidated amended complaint to be filed in four cases brought over the same issues and asserting substantially the same claims against Apple and 14 of the largest application developers, including Facebook, Path and Foursquare. PE&G is helping to lead the plaintiffs’ effort against Apple and these app developers in the case. Judge Tigar has ordered the consolidated amended complaint to be filed on or before Sept. 3rd.

Firm vindicates client's rights in Court of Appeal

August 1, 2013 – PE&G persuaded the California Court of Appeal to reverse a trial court decision allowing a trade organization to use the California Public Records Act to obtain a client’s private records.  The client, San Francisco Bar Pilots (“SFBP”), is a private association of licensed pilots who maneuver ships through the San Francisco Bay and related waterways.  The state imposes certain duties on SFBP, and in particular on the pilot who serves as “Port Agent.”  Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, a trade organization representing the shippers required to pay SFBP fees for pilotage, attempted to use the Public Records Act to obtain extensive records created and used by SFBP – but not by any public officer or agency.  In a published opinion, the Court of Appeal rejected PMSA’s assertion that SFBP’s records are public and agreed with the firm’s arguments that the evidence presented to the trial court unequivocally demonstrated that the records PMSA sought are private and not subject to the Public Records Act.

Randy Erlewine selected as Super Lawyer

July 9, 2013 – Partner Randy Erlewine has been selected again as a Super Lawyer in the 2013 list of Northern California Super Lawyers, an honor given to the top 5% of lawyers practicing in Northern California. Randy has previously received this award in each of the years from 2005 through 2010, as well as in 2012.

Court orders restaurant chain to turn over evidence, pay monetary sanction for obstruction

April 26, 2013 – Defendant restaurant chain and its owners stonewalled the firm's attempts to obtain material evidence, on behalf of its restaurant worker clients including records of time worked and wages earned by employees, and evidence of defendants' financial dealings. Paul A. Renne, Esq., acting as Pro Tem Judge of the San Francisco Superior Court, had "little sympathy" for defendants and flatly rejected their contentions -- including their argument that Judicial Council form interrogatories were vague and sought irrelevant information -- and he held that defendants had failed entirely to engage in a good faith effort to respond to plaintiffs' legitimate discovery requests. Judge Renne ordered the defendants to provide virtually all of the information plaintiffs requested, and also ordered defendants and their lawyers to pay $5,000 in monetary sanctions for their willful obstruction of discovery. The case is Sayre v. SFS 39, Inc., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC-12-523838.

Class case clears important hurdle

April 16, 2013 – PE&G attorney Nick Carlin thwarted an attempt by defendant restaurant chain to stall – potentially for years – the firm's clients' class action claims for wage theft and other violations of the California Labor Code. The restaurant chain recently began requiring its employees to sign arbitration agreements, and Mr. Carlin represents a separate group of employees in arbitration who were similarly deprived of their rights. The restaurant chain argued that all proceedings in the class action (involving plaintiffs who did not sign the arbitration agreement) should halt until after the arbitration is concluded. The firm's attorneys successfully argued to San Francisco Superior Court judge Marla Miller that this was an improper effort to hold the class action hostage and deny the firm's clients access to the justice system. The judge agreed, and permitted the class action to move forward. 

Firm joins class action over data privacy against Apple, app developers

March 22, 2013 – PE&G attorneys David Given and Nick Carlin have joined a team of lawyers who have brought a class case against Apple and certain developers of consumer applications made available on the App Store over users' privacy rights in their digital data. The core allegation of the complaint is that the apps in question pirated private user information, including address book data, from the user's iDevice by surreptitiously uploading that information without notice to the user and without the user's consent. The federal government recently prosecuted its own case against one such developer, Path, also named in the class action, over the same conduct. That case resulted in a consent order which included a permanent injunction together with civil penalties of $800,000. The class case was recently transferred to the San Francisco federal court, where one judge in another similar case has already sustained most of the claims against Path. The case is set for its first hearing before Federal District Judge Jon Tigar on April 4th.

Firm defends future baseball hall-of-famer in dispute over recording artist’s services

March 1, 2013 – PE&G partner David Given concluded his defense of future Hall-of-Fame baseball player Frank Thomas and his record label, W2W Records, in a lawsuit brought in California Superior Court. The lawsuit alleged that Frank and W2W Records “interfered” with a recording contract ostensibly covering the services of a young singer who recorded for W2W Records as part of a trio, Belle Voxx; that group’s release in 2011 received a fair amount of press and critical attention. Following that publicity, plaintiff record label appeared making various claims under a five-year-old contract between the singer and another, predecessor record label and, in October 2012, sued Frank and W2W Records. The firm, together with Chicago counsel, vigorously defended the clients against these claims (among other things, no one had performed under the previous recording contract for over three years), while guiding the case into an early resolution. Plaintiff filed a dismissal with prejudice of its case against the firm’s clients today.

State Court grants final approval to balance billing class action settlement

February 28, 2013 – The San Francisco Superior Court today granted final approval to the class settlement in Combrisson v. City and County of San Francisco. PE&G represents the class, patients of San Francisco General Hospital, who alleged that they were illegally balance billed by the hospital. Under the terms of the settlement, the class members will receive a 100% recovery of the amount they were overcharged. Attorneys' fees and costs of administration will be paid separately and did not reduce the class members' recovery. Firm attorney Nick Carlin led the effort. For more information about the case, see here.

David Given moderates panel at digital music seminar

January 26, 2013 – PE&G partner David Given helped organize and moderate a panel for the California Lawyers for the Arts during its 30th annual Music Business Seminar entitled "Fast Forward -- Protecting and Selling Music in the Digital Age" at the Berkeley Law campus.  David's panel focused on the streaming music business, and featured speakers from PandoraStereotypes and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as East Bay Ray, famed lead guitarist from punk-rock band (and firm client) Dead Kennedys.