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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. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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