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Tsyn v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

June 27, 2016

VLAD TSYN, et al., Plaintiffs,


          LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge.


         This is an overtime-pay case under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and counterpart California laws. (4th Am. Compl. - ECF No. 128.)[1] The plaintiffs work or have worked for defendant Wells Fargo Advisors as licensed financial advisors. They claim that Wells Fargo misclassified them as exempt from the overtime-pay mandate of the FLSA and similar California laws and so failed to pay them requisite compensation. Beyond their overtime claim, the plaintiffs also sue for wrongful deductions from their pay, failure to timely pay wages that were due when their employment ended, and other related theories. (E.g., Id. at 11-14 [¶¶ 45-65].) All the plaintiffs‘ claims arise from their work at Wells Fargo. (See, e.g., Id. at 7-9 [¶¶ 26-33].) The court previously granted Wells Fargo summary judgment against the FLSA claims of plaintiffs Vlad Tsyn and Catherine Horan-Walker and dismissed those claims with prejudice. (ECF No. 105.) Other plaintiffs‘ FLSA claims have not yet come before the court for disposition.

         The plaintiffs then moved the court to certify its summary-judgment order for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292 or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). (ECF No. 106.) The court denied that motion. (ECF No. 120.) The court‘s driving reason was that the dismissed FLSA claim overlapped completely with the plaintiffs‘ effectively identical overtime-pay claims under California law - claims that were then still pending. (See id., passim.)

         The plaintiffs have since filed a Fourth Amended Complaint that omits the California-law overtime claims but that otherwise continues to advance numerous federal- and state-law theories based upon their employment at Wells Fargo. (ECF No. 128.) The plaintiffs now move the court to reconsider and vacate its previous Rule 54(b) order, and under that rule to certify its FLSA summary judgment for immediate appeal. (ECF Nos. 125, 126.) The court held a hearing on this motion on June 23, 2016. For the reasons given below, the court denies the plaintiffs‘ motion.


         1. Reconsideration

         The court accepts that, in these circumstances, the plaintiffs‘ dismissing their overlapping California overtime claims constitutes the "emergence of new material facts" for purposes of Civil Local Rule 7-9(b)(2). Even if it did not, however, the court could still entertain the reconsideration motion. Local Rule 7-9 sets demands that litigants must meet to seek reconsideration of interlocutory decisions. See Civil L.R. 7-9(a)-(c). That rule does not restrict the court's ability to revisit its previous orders. It is rudimentary that, for as long as it has jurisdiction of a case, a trial court has the "inherent . . . power" to "reconsider, rescind, or modify" its interlocutory decisions. City of Los Angeles, Harbor Div. v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir. 2001) (emphasis removed); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) ("[A]ny order . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties‘ rights and liabilities."). Moreover, "[a] district court may reconsider and reverse a previous interlocutory decision for any reason it deems sufficient, even in the absence of new evidence or an intervening change in or clarification of controlling law." Abada v. Charles Schwab & Co., 127 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1102 (S.D. Cal. 2000). The district court may sua sponte reconsider a Rule 54(b) ruling. See Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d at 886.

         2. Rule 54(b)

         Rule 54(b) provides a device for parties to seek interlocutory review of orders that are not truly "final" because they "do[] not dispose of all of the claims" in a suit. See generally, e.g., Jewel v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 810 F.3d 622, 627-28 (9th Cir. 2015). A two-step process guides the Rule 54(b) analysis. "A district court must first determine that it has rendered a ‗final judgment, ‘ that is, a judgment that is ‗an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.‘" Wood v. GCC Bend, LLC, 422 F.3d 873, 878 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Curtiss- Wright Corp. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7 (1980)) (further quotation omitted). "Then it must determine whether there is any just reason for delay." Wood, 422 F.3d at 878. The latter determination should consider: (1) the interrelationship of the certified claims and the remaining claims in light of the policy against piecemeal review; and (2) equitable factors such as prejudice and delay. See Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8-10; Gregorian v. Izvestia, 871 F.2d 1515, 1518-20 (9th Cir. 1989).

         Rule 54(b) "was adopted specifically to avoid the possible injustice of delay[ing] judgment o[n] a distinctly separate claim [pending] adjudication of the entire case. . . . The Rule thus aimed to augment, not diminish, appeal opportunity." Jewel, 810 F.3d at 628 (quoting Gelboim v. Bank of Am. Corp., 135 S.Ct. 897, 902-03 (2015)). The Ninth Circuit has indicated in this vein that the modern trend is toward permitting Rule 54(b) certification, or, more exactly, "toward greater deference to a district court‘s decision to certify under Rule 54(b)." Texaco, Inc. v. Ponsoldt, 939 F.2d 794, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). That court has also called the "unusual case" and "pressing needs" limitations of Morrison-Knudsen Co. v. Archer, 655 F.2d 962 (1981) "outdated and overly restrictive." Ponsoldt, 939 F.2d at 798.[2] This assessment is consistent with the Supreme Court‘s disavowal of early guidance (from a 1946 Advisory Committee note) that confined Rule 54(b) certification to the "infrequent harsh case." See Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 10.[3] Under this more lenient view, certified claims "do not have to be separate from and independent of the remaining claims" if a Rule 54(b) appeal will aid the "expeditious decision" of the case. Ponsoldt, 939 F.2d at 797 (quoting Sheehan v. Atlanta Int'l Ins. Co., 812 F.2d 465, 468 (9th Cir. 1987) ("expeditious")).

         The rule is nevertheless applied "to prevent piecemeal appeals in cases which should be reviewed only as single units." Jewel, 810 F.3d at 628 (quoting Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 10). The main concern will normally be to adopt the approach that most efficiently disposes of a lawsuit. "It is left to the sound judicial discretion of the district court to determine the appropriate time‘ when each final decision in a multiple claims action is ready for appeal. This discretion is to be exercised in the interest of sound judicial administration.‘" Id. (quoting Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 7) (quoting in turn Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 437 (1956)); see also Jewel, 810 F.3d at 628 ("juridical concerns" regarding piecemeal appeals are reviewed de novo; otherwise, "discretionary judgment of the district court should be given substantial deference").


         The dismissal of the FLSA claim is "final" for purposes of Rule 54(b). It is not the "partial adjudication of a single claim." Ariz. Carpenters Pension Trust Fund v. Miller,938 F.2d 1038, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1991) (quoting Sussex Drug Prods. v. Kanasco, Ltd, 920 F.2d 1150, 1154 (3d Cir. 1990)). It is instead "a judgment‘ in the sense that it is a decision upon a cognizable claim for relief, and . . . final‘ in the sense that it is an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.‘" Curti ...

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