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COA upholds denial of motion for class action

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a motion for a class-action suit because a claimant seeking redress pursuant the Wage Claims Act has to first submit the claim to the Department of Labor before filing a lawsuit and can't bypass the statute if another member of the putative class has already submitted a claim.

Sherri Lemon was fired from her job at Wishard Health Services. She received her last regular wages on the following payday, but didn't receive her accumulated sick pay and paid time off until two paydays after she was let go. She sought a referral letter from the DOL granting permission to file a suit under the Wage Claims Act; the letter never mentioned widespread wage claim violations at Wishard.

Lemon filed a putative class-action suit in April 2007, claiming Wishard failed to pay her and at least 100 others in a timely fashioned as required by the Wage Claims Statute. The trial court denied her request for class action certification.

In her appeal in Sherri Lemon v. Wishard Health Services, No. 49A02-0804-CV-344, the Court of Appeals examined the Wage Claims Act, Indiana Code Section 22-2-9-2(a) and ruled a claimant under the statute has to first approach the DOL before he or she can file a lawsuit seeking unpaid wages or penalties, wrote Chief Judge John Baker. Lemon complied with the statute; other putative class members have not.

But the act of seeking class certification doesn't enable putative class members to avoid compliance with the statute, he continued. The act contemplates an individualized review of each claim and the DOL may then choose to pursue the claim, or refer it to the Attorney General who may refer it to a private attorney. The statute makes it clear a claim must work its way through these channels before it could be brought into court. The putative class also can't obtain a referral letter after a lawsuit was filed because the act requires a letter be obtained before the lawsuit is filed. In addition, there is a two-year statute of limitations that has passed for many of the putative class members, and despite Lemon's argument, there is no tolling of the statute of limitations, wrote the chief judge.

In a footnote in the opinion, the appellate court granted Wishard's motion to strike Lemon's reply brief. Even though she was not supposed to refer to a futility argument, Lemon's attorney did so and cited an unrelated deposition in support. The Court of Appeals found her attorney's accusation that Wishard was dishonest to "reflect a lack of professionalism."

"Even more indefensible are counsel's decisions to assert an argument not made to the trial court and to rely on information not in the record - in direct violation of our previous order," he wrote. Her attorney had been warned in the past about making incendiary statements. Because remanding for the trial court to calculate appellate attorney fees for Wishard would probably cost Wishard more preparing for the case than they would recoup, the Court of Appeals decided against it, but warned if Lemon's attorney's behavior reoccurred, it would award appellate attorney fees.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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