Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Piplack v. In-N-Out Burgers (Cal. Ct. App. - March 7, 2023)

I was keenly interested in reading this opinion at the outset because it involves a lawsuit against In-N-Out Burgers, which has a fair amount of cachet in the youthful fast food world. Who's suing such an esteemed burger joint, and for what?

Alas, it's just another one of these post-Viking PAGA arbitration cases. On the one hand, California says that you don't generally have to arbitrate PAGA claims since they're representative actions. On the other hand, the Supreme Court recently said that the FAA requires the plaintiff to arbitrate his individual PAGA claim. So what do you do with the representative claims when the individual has to arbitrate his own? Can the plaintiff still sue in court in a representative capacity -- e.g., with standing -- even though he's not go claims of his own in court?

The Supreme Court said "No." Since the individual can't bring his own claims in court, he can't still have his representative claims in court either.

But the Court of Appeal says: "Uh, actually, Supreme Court, you're wrong. I know you think you know what California law is on this issue. But, respectfully, you're not the last word on that one. We're going to still let the employee sue in court for his representative claims."

Which is pretty darn bold. Yet entirely within the province of a state court, which has the final word on the contours of state law, including but not limited to standing under state law (which may be -- and is -- different than federal standing principles).

So, in the end, an interesting opinion less because of who the defendant is and more for what the Court of Appeal actually holds.