Thursday, October 29, 2020

Olson v. Lyft (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 29, 2020)

Here's an interesting way to write an opinion.  You typically don't see the identities of the appellate counsel getting so much play, particularly so early in the opinion.

The style you're used to seeing in a case like this would go something like:  "Lyft claims that Brandon Olson must bring his Private Attorney General Act ("PAGA") claims in arbitration, but we agree with the California Supreme Court and a recent opinion from the Court of Appeal that arbitration for PAGA claims cannot be required."  Maybe you name the cases; whatever.

Instead, here's how Justice Richman begins his opinion:

"Brandon Olson is a driver for Lyft, Inc. (Lyft), whose terms of service include an agreement he could not bring a Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) claim in court and that disputes with Lyft must be resolved by individual arbitration. Olson sued Lyft alleging six PAGA claims, which Lyft petitioned to compel to arbitration. The petition acknowledged that Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348 (Iskanian) precluded enforcement of PAGA waivers, but asserted that Iskanian was wrongly decided and in any event was no longer good law in light of the 2018 opinion of the United States Supreme Court in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis (2018) 138 S.Ct. 1612 (Epic Systems). The trial court denied the petition in a comprehensive order rejecting Lyft’s arguments.

Lyft appeals and, represented by two prominent law firms, provides us with 96 pages of briefing, beginning with an argument as to what we “must follow” from United States Supreme Court opinions, going on to reassert its unsuccessful arguments below. Lyft’s opening brief cites 12 United States Supreme Court cases, two cases from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and, indeed, a 2013 case from an Ohio District Court. Olson, represented by a well-known appellate boutique, provides 54 pages of his own, included within which is a scholarly exposition of California jurisprudence dealing with arbitration.

We need not engage in any similar discussion, as we reject Lyft’s position based on Correia v. NB Baker Electric, Inc. (2019) 32 Cal.App.5th 602 (Correia), an opinion that thoughtfully analyzed—and rejected—the identical argument Lyft makes here. Other post-Epic Systems cases have agreed, including the only two other published Court of Appeal decisions and numerous California federal cases. Accordingly, we affirm the order denying arbitration."

That second paragraph is unusual.  Lots of focus on the identity of the lawyers.  One side is represented by "two prominent law firms."  (If you're interested, he's talking about Horvitz & Levy and Van Nest & Peters.)  The other side's represented by "a well-known appellate boutique."  (That's itself an interesting claim.  There's actually two firms that represent Olson: Olivier Schreiber & Chao and Outten & Golden. The former bills itself as a "civil rights" firm and the latter as an employment law firm.  You can likely guess as to which firm Justice Richman was thinking as the "appellate boutique," but still, it's unusual to focus on the lawyers, and even more unusual to mention one of the two listed counsel.)  Then there's the references to the briefs, including a detailed list of just how many cases were cited and from where. ("12 United States Supreme Court cases, two cases from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and, indeed, a 2013 case from an Ohio District Court.")

I'm not saying that's an absurd way to begin an opinion.

It's just not the usual approach.