Monday, March 23, 2009

Steamy biscuits, certifications of class actions, regulation of lobbyists, civil procedure developments and OSHA whistleblower actions

In General Motors Corp. v. Bryant,(Ark.) predominance requirement for class certification was met in vehicle owners' suit against vehicle manufacturer. As an issue of first impression, the Supreme Court of Arkansas held that a circuit court was not required to engage in a choice-of-law analysis before certifying a multistate class action. That Court held that a vehicle owners' claims that certain vehicles made by a vehicle manufacturer were equipped with defectively designed parking brakes met class certification’s predominance requirement. Whether the class vehicles contained a defectively designed parking brake system and whether the manufacturer concealed that defect were questions that predominated and that had to be resolved for all class members; any potential individualized issues that the vehicle manufacturer raised could be addressed after deciding the common, predominating issues. As such, the Court stated that the potential choice-of- law determination and application were similar to a determination of individual issues and those could not defeat class certification.

Legislation -- Regulation and discipline of lobbyists -- Chapter 2005-359, Laws of Florida, codified at sections 11.045 and 112.3215, Florida Statutes (2008), which provides for the regulation and discipline of lobbyists, is constitutional -- Act does not violate separation of powers doctrine -- Since the regulation, discipline, and licensing of lobbyists is not subject to the control of any branch or office, the Legislature is not prohibited from using its own discretion and judgment to accomplish the task -- Act was validly enacted in special session by Florida Legislature -- Act does not infringe on Florida Supreme Court's jurisdiction to regulate lawyers or the practice of law -- Lobbying as defined by Act does not constitute the practice of law. Reported at 34 Fla. L. Weekly S271a

Administrative law -- Declaratory statements -- Authority of property owners association under chapter 718 to engage in lobbying activities -- No error in denying unit owner's petition for declaratory statement on issue of whether the property owners association could engage in lobbying the Florida Legislature to amend Florida Condominium Act, directly or indirectly through an organization of condominium associations, for a fee or at no cost -- Questions raised by unit owner implicate issue of whether POA has right, under First Amendment, to engage in lobbying, and agency is not authorized to resolve this issue -- If agency were to ignore constitutional issue, agency would not be able to provide unit owner and POA with proper interpretation of chapter 718 which, in turn, would undermine the purpose of a declaratory statement, which is to aid petitioner in selecting a course of action in accordance with the proper interpretation and application of the statute. Reported at 34 Fla. L. Weekly D591c

Offer of judgment -- Proposal for settlement made to joint parties was not valid where proposal failed to specify amount attributable to each party, even though the claims of the two plaintiffs were indistinguishable -- Rule requiring apportionment between multiple parties applies “without exception” in “all proposals for settlement authorized by Florida law”. Reported at 34 Fla. L. Weekly D592a
Intervention -- Error to enter post-judgment order permitting investors in judgment debtor LLC to intervene -- Investors in entity that failed to repay its admittedly-defaulted promissory note had no standing to intervene -- Trial court erred in granting motion to stay execution of judgment on promissory note -- Even if stay had been justified, bond would have been necessary to protect judgment creditor from losses, costs, and legal expenses that might ensue as result of delay. Reported at 34 Fla. L. Weekly D603b

Employer-employee relations -- Whistle-blowers -- Action alleging that forklift that employee was operating was unsafe and improperly maintained in violation of OSHA regulations, and that employee was unlawfully terminated when he complained about the safety of the forklift -- Error to enter directed verdict for defendant employer on ground that employer did not have the required number of employees to make it liable as an employer under Whistle Blower Act -- Court erred in failing to allow jury to determine whether employer was liable under “joint employer” or “single employer” doctrine -- Employee leasing company which furnished employee to employer was not an indispensable party under Whistle Blower Act -- Whistle blower action can be based on a violation of an OSHA regulation -- Evidence -- Trial court did not err in allowing employee to introduce depositions and answers to interrogatories as substantive evidence. Reported at 34 Fla. L. Weekly D601a

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