If you lose a summary adjudication motion and motion for class certification, you cannot settle all of your individual claims and stipulate to the entry of a judgment bawed upon that settlement while still preserving your right to appeal the summary adjudication and class certification issued. If you try, your appeal will be dismissed as moot. Larner v. L.A. Doctors Hosp. Assocs. (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 1291.
Josephine Larner, a nurse, sued her former hospital employer for violation of overtime laws, purporting to represent a class of current and former nonexempt employees. The trial court granted in part the hospital’s motion for summary adjudication of Larner’s claim that the hospital failed to pay for overtime hours. Larner then amended her complaint, stating individual and class claims for failure to properly calculate overtime pay rates and for failure to keep accurate and complete wage records. The trial court denied Larner’s motion for class certification. The parties entered into a settlement agreement and stipulated to the entry of final judgment in favor of the hospital. Larner appeals both the summary adjudication of her overtime hours claim and the denial of her certification motion. We dismiss the appeal as moot.
“Generally, courts decide only ‘actual controversies’ which will result in a judgment that offers relief to the parties. [Citations.] Thus, appellate courts as a rule will not render opinions on moot questions . . . . The policy behind this rule is that courts decide justiciable controversies and will normally not render advisory opinions. [Citations.] [¶] One such event occurring for which a reviewing court will dismiss an appeal is when the underlying claim is settled or compromised.” (Ebensteiner Co., Inc. v. Chadmar Group (2006) 143 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1178-1179.) When a case has settled, dismissal of the appeal is the appropriate disposition because “settlement operates as a merger and ban as to all preexisting claims and those alleged in the lawsuit that have been resolved.” (Id. at p. 1179, citing Armstrong v. Sacramento Valley R. Co. (1919) 179 Cal. 648, 651].)
This may not mean that a plaintiff cannot settle a case individually and still proceed with some classwide claims on behalf of others. See La Sala v. American Sav. & Loan Assn. (1971) 5 Cal.3d 864, 871. Individual relief to the named plaintiffs in a class action does not, in itself, render those plaintiffs unfit per se to represent the class. Kagan v. Gibraltar Sav. & Loan Assn. (1984) 35 Cal.3d 582, 594. A defendant’s offer to settle, by waiving its right to enforce a complained-of clause in a contract against class representatives, or by offering the named plaintiff reimbursement of fees the class action challenged as improperly deducted, does not necessarily end the class action. Even after an offer of individual relief, the named plaintiff may retain an interest in proceeding on behalf of the other members of the class who are similarly situated. If, because of such relief, the court concludes that the named plaintiff is no longer a suitable representative, the court should grant the plaintiff leave to amend the complaint to redefine the class, or add new class representatives, or both.
You just can't do it by stipulating to a final judgment on the settlement after losing your class certification motion, and then appealing, as they did here. You can download the full text of Larner here in PDF or Word format.
Peculiar procedural detail: "After a number of continuances, the court set a final trial date of July 11, 2007 on Larner’s remaining claims. On May 23, 2007, Larner moved for certification of two separate classes, one for each of her two remaining issues: improper calculation of overtime rates and failure to keep accurate and complete wage records. The trial court denied the motion on June 20, 2007, because the motion was unduly tardy, because Larner’s claims were not typical of the proposed classes, and because the class definitions were overbroad." A certification motion set for hearing three weeks before trial? That must have been a nightmare.