A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling is leaving former Wal-Mart employees with reason to celebrate. The Court recently upheld the lower courts ruling in favor of the former employees in Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. The appeal primarily hinged on whether the trial court used an improper method of certification when determining who should be admitted into the class of plaintiffs and an improper method of calculating damages. Attorneys for Wal-Mart have already considered petitioning their case to the United States Supreme Court, however the outlook for a reversal by SCOTUS does not seem likely.
Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated is no stranger to the courtroom, having been sued all over the world in various class action lawsuits. In 2006 a group of Pennsylvania Wal-Mart employees joined forces to bring a class action suit against the retail giant. Their claims were the Wal-Mart policies, supervisors, and practices resulted in the employees being forced to skip out on paid rest breaks and meal breaks. In addition, the employees were being forced to work, without clocking in, after their regularly scheduled shifts were completed. This was in violation of both state and federal laws regulating breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and Pennsylvania wage-and-hour laws. The plaintiff consisted on 188,000 members who worked for Wal-Mart Stores between 1998 and 2005.
After considering the evidence in the 2006 lawsuits the jury awarded the class of 188,000 a total of $187.6 million. This award was based on the claims that Wal-Mart did not pay the employees for their off-the-clock work and forced them to miss their scheduled meal breaks and rest breaks. On appeal, Wal-Mart attorneys attempted to show that the plaintiffs entire case was flawed because they did not demonstrate that there was a classwide premise for liability. A basic rule of class action lawsuits is that the plaintiffs must be similarly situated (i.e. they must have all been wronged by the defendant in a similar manner). Although Wal-Mart attempted to show that this was never proven, the Pennsylvania appellate court was not convinced. The appellate court noted that Wal-Marts own records showed that employees were not given the required number of breaks and the breaks did not last for the required amount of time. The court reduced the attorneys fees but upheld the verdict. Wal-Mart appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of the United States, back in 2011, made a ruling that governs how class action damages and liability may be calculated. In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, SCOTUS ruled that trial by formula is not a legal mechanism of calculation. In trial by formula calculations, a court appoints an officer to determine the amount of pay that is due to a set of class members; the class members serve as a sample set. The court will then multiply this sample set by the number of class members to determine how much is due to the class as a whole. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Wal-Mart argued that this banned method was used during trial and that the trial court improperly certified the class. Ultimately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the class was properly certified and that the ruling from Dukes was not applicable to this case. In this case, the court noted, the damages were calculated based on the employees pay ($8 per hour) and multiplied by the number of hours that pay was denied to the employee.
At Brownstone Law we understand the importance of the appeals process and are pleased to see labor laws being properly upheld.Tags: appeal, appeal attorneys, appeal lawyers federal, appealattorney
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