Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Schoshinski v. City of Los Angeles (Cal. Ct. App. - March 14, 2017)

I admit that the underlying issue is a troubling one.  The City of Los Angeles settled a class action and agreed to (1) stop charging some illegal trash fees to residents of multi-family residences that didn't actually receive trash services from the City, and (2) reimburse those people all the money they previously made.  That's the part of the resulting judgment, which includes injunctive relief.

Yet while the City apparently paid some people, it didn't pay (a number of) others, and stopped some of the charges, but not to everyone.

That's a problem.  A serious one.  We should take judgments seriously.  We should follow them.

But here's the thing:

You can't prosecute a separate class action that seeks the same (or similar) relief to the class action that was already settled.  Claim preclusion.  Which is what the Court of Appeal rightly holds.

Yes, the City should not violate the judgment.  Yes, there should be a way to make that not happen.

But a new class action isn't the proper way.  Instead, the trial court retained jurisdiction to enforce its orders.  So the proper remedy is a motion for contempt (or similar relief).  A word -- interestingly -- that is contained nowhere in Justice Bigelow's opinion.

That's how you enforce an injunction.  Not with a new lawsuit.

Even if, as here, the City seems either uninterested in or unable to follow the judgment to which it agreed.