Search

Attributes

This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/22/2019 at 00:50:16 (UTC).

GOHAR GHORCHIAN, ET AL VS. WEST HILLS HOSPITAL, ET AL

Case Summary

On 06/02/2017 GOHAR GHORCHIAN filed a Labor - Other Labor lawsuit against WEST HILLS HOSPITAL. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Van Nuys Courthouse East located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is MICHAEL J. CONVEY. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****9737

  • Filing Date:

    06/02/2017

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Labor - Other Labor

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Van Nuys Courthouse East

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

MICHAEL J. CONVEY

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

GHORCHIAN GOHAR ON BEHALF OF HERSELF

Defendants

DOES 1-10

PARALLON ENTERPRISES LLC

WEST HILLS HOSPITAL

HEALTHTRUST WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS LLC AS

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

GAINES KENNETH STEVEN

Defendant Attorneys

SIMMONS RICHARD JAY

HAMILTON MELANIE MAUREEN

 

Court Documents

Notice

8/6/2018: Notice

Other -

8/17/2018: Other -

Minute Order

8/21/2018: Minute Order

Case Management Statement

8/27/2018: Case Management Statement

Stipulation and Order

9/11/2018: Stipulation and Order

Minute Order

9/11/2018: Minute Order

Notice of Entry of Judgment or Order

9/12/2018: Notice of Entry of Judgment or Order

Case Management Statement

11/1/2018: Case Management Statement

Case Management Statement

11/15/2018: Case Management Statement

Minute Order

11/16/2018: Minute Order

Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice

12/27/2018: Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice

Notice

1/4/2019: Notice

Stipulation and Order

5/23/2019: Stipulation and Order

1 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/23/2019
  • Stipulation and Order (STIPULATION TO CONTINUE THE TRIAL DATE AND RELATED DEADLINES; [PROPOSED] ORDER GRANTING THE STIPULATION); Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 01/04/2019
  • Notice (Notice of Case ReAssignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice); Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 12/27/2018
  • Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice; Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 11/16/2018
  • at 08:30 AM in Department U, Michael J. Convey, Presiding; Trial Setting Conference - Held

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 11/16/2018
  • Minute Order ((Trial Setting Conference)); Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 11/15/2018
  • Case Management Statement; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 11/01/2018
  • Case Management Statement; Filed by West Hills Hospital (Defendant); Parallon Enterprises, LLC (Defendant)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 09/12/2018
  • Notice of Entry of Judgment; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 09/12/2018
  • Notice of Entry of Judgment or Order

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 09/11/2018
  • at 08:30 AM in Department U; Trial Setting Conference - Held - Continued

    Read MoreRead Less
37 More Docket Entries
  • 10/20/2017
  • Case Management Statement; Filed by West Hills Hospital (Defendant); Parallon Enterprises, LLC (Defendant)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 10/12/2017
  • Case Management Statement; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 07/13/2017
  • Notice; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 07/10/2017
  • Answer; Filed by West Hills Hospital (Defendant); Parallon Enterprises, LLC (Defendant)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/23/2017
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/20/2017
  • Proof of Service of Summons and Complaint; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/20/2017
  • Proof of Service of Summons and Complaint; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/02/2017
  • Summons; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/02/2017
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 06/02/2017
  • Complaint; Filed by Ghorchian, Gohar, on behalf of Herself (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less

Tentative Rulings

Case Number: LS029737    Hearing Date: December 28, 2020    Dept: U

SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES - CENTRAL DISTRICT

GOHAR GHORCHIAN, on behalf of herself and all “aggrieved employees” pursuant to Labor Code section 2698 et seq.,

Plaintiff,

vs.

WEST HILLS HOSPITAL, a California corporation; PARALLON ENTERPRISES, LLC, a Tennessee limited liability company; HEALTHTRUST WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS, LLC, a Tennessee limited liability company; and DOES 2 through 10, inclusive,

Defendant(s).

)

)

)

)

)

)

)

)

)

)

)

)

) ) ) ) )

)

CASE NO: LS029737

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE: MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT

Dept. U

8:30 a.m.

December 28, 2020

I. BACKGROUND

The Court granted the motion of Gohar Ghorchian’s (Plaintiff), on behalf of herself and “all aggrieved employees” pursuant to Labor Code section 2698 et seq., for preliminary approval of class action settlement on September 3, 2020. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 30, 2020, alleging claims for: (1) knowing and intentional failure to comply with itemized employee wage statement provisions in violation of Labor Code section 226(a), (e); (2) failure to provide meal periods or premium wages in lieu thereof in violation of Labor Code section 226.7 and 512; (3) failure to provide rest periods or premium wages in lieu thereof in violation of Labor Code section 226.7; (4) failure to pay wages due at separation of employment in violation of Labor Code sections 201-203; (5) failure to pay all minimum and overtime wages in violation of Labor Code sections 510, 558, 1194, 1194.2, 1197, and 1197.1; (6) failure to pay minimum and overtime wages in violation of FLSA 29 U.S.C. sections 206 and 207; (7) violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200; and (8) penalties pursuant to Labor Code section 2699(f) for violations of Labor Code sections 201-203, 221-223, 226(a), 226.7, 510, 512, 1194, 1197, 1197.1, 1197.2, 1198 and 1199 and pursuant to Labor Code section 2699(a) for violations of Labor Code sections 226.3, 226.8, 558, 1174, 1174.5, and 1175.

Plaintiff filed this unopposed motion for final approval of class action settlement on December 3, 2020.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

California Rules of Court, rule 3.769(a) requires “a settlement or compromise of an entire class action, or of a cause of action in a class action, or as to a party, requires the approval of the court after hearing.” California Rule of Court, rule 3.769(c) establishes that “any party to a settlement agreement may serve and file a written notice of motion for preliminary approval of the settlement. The settlement agreement and proposed notice to class members must be filed with the motion, and the proposed order must be lodged with the motion.”

In determining whether to approve a class settlement, the trial court’s responsibility is to “prevent fraud, collusion or unfairness to the class” through settlement because the rights of the class members and even named plaintiffs “may not have been given due regard by the negotiating parties.” (Consumer Advocacy Group, Inc. v. Kintetsu Enterprises of America (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 46, 60.) The class settlement should be scrutinized by the trial court to assure that it is not the product of fraud, overreaching, or collusion and that “the settlement, taken as a whole, is fair, reasonable and adequate to all concerned.” (Wershba v. Apple Computer (2001) 91 Cal. App. 4th 224, 244-245.)

The burden is on the proponent of the settlement to establish that the settlement is fair and reasonable. (Wershba, supra, 91 Cal. App. 4th at 245; 7-Eleven Owners for Fair Franchising v. The Southland Corp. (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 1135, 1165-1166.) However, a presumption of fairness exists where: (1) the settlement is reached through arm’s-length bargaining; (2) investigation and discovery are sufficient to allow counsel and the court to act intelligently; (3) counsel is experienced in similar litigation; and (4) the percentage of objectors is small. (Wershba, supra, 91 Cal.App.4th at 245, citing Dunk v. Ford Motor Co. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1794, 1802.)

Importantly, though, in Clark v. American Residential Services LLC (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 785, the Second District held that the trial court erred in granting approval of a settlement where “the trial court lacked sufficient information to make an informed evaluation of the fairness of the settlement.” (Id. at 790.) The Clark court reiterated at length the principles applicable to a court’s final approval of a class settlement as follows:

The trial court must determine whether a class action settlement is fair and reasonable, and has broad discretion to do so. That discretion is to be exercised through the application of several well-recognized factors. The list, which “‘is not exhaustive and should be tailored to each case,’” includes “‘the strength of plaintiffs’ case, the risk, expense, complexity and likely duration of further litigation, the risk of maintaining class action status through trial, the amount offered in settlement, the extent of discovery completed and the stage of the proceedings, the experience and views of counsel, the presence of a governmental participant, and the reaction of the class members to the proposed settlement.’” “‘The most important factor is the strength of the case for plaintiffs on the merits, balanced against the amount offered in settlement.’” “While the court “‘must stop short of the detailed and thorough investigation that it would undertake if it were actually trying the case,’” it “‘must eschew any rubber stamp approval in favor of an independent evaluation.’” (Ibid.)

Kullar v. Foot Locker Retail, Inc. (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 116 makes clear that the presumption established in Dunk is only an initial presumption. The point is cogently made in Kullar, where the trial court's approval of a class action settlement was vacated because the court “[was] not provided with basic information about the nature and magnitude of the claims in question and the basis for concluding that the consideration being paid for the release of those claims represents a reasonable compromise.”

The Kullar court pointed out that “neither Dunk … nor any other case suggests that the court may determine the adequacy of a class action settlement without independently satisfying itself that the consideration being received for the release of the class members' claims is reasonable in light of the strengths and weaknesses of the claims and the risks of the particular litigation.” Kullar continues: “The court undoubtedly should give considerable weight to the competency and integrity of counsel and the involvement of a neutral mediator in assuring itself that a settlement agreement represents an arm's-length transaction entered without self-dealing or other potential misconduct. While an agreement reached under these circumstances presumably will be fair to all concerned, particularly when few of the affected class members express objections, in the final analysis it is the court that bears the responsibility to ensure that the recovery represents a reasonable compromise, given the magnitude and apparent merit of the claims being released, discounted by the risks and expenses of attempting to establish and collect on those claims by pursuing the litigation. ‘The court has a fiduciary responsibility as guardians of the rights of the absentee class members when deciding whether to approve a settlement agreement.’”

Kullar further explains that, while there is usually an initial presumption of fairness when a proposed class action settlement was negotiated at arm's length by counsel for the class, “‘to protect the interests of absent class members, the court must independently and objectively analyze the evidence and circumstances before it in order to determine whether the settlement is in the best interests of those whose claims will be extinguished.’” To make that determination, “‘the factual record before the … court must be sufficiently developed,’” and the initial presumption to which Dunk refers “‘must then withstand the test of the plaintiffs’ likelihood of success.’” (Ibid.) Again, “‘“The most important factor is the strength of the case for plaintiffs on the merits, balanced against the amount offered in settlement.”’” (Ibid.) In Kullar, because the trial court was not presented with data permitting it to review class counsel's evaluation of the sufficiency of the settlement, the order approving the settlement was vacated. As we shall see, the same result is required here.

(Clark, 175 Cal.App.4th at 799-800.) In finding that the trial court abused its discretion in approving the settlement before it, the Clark court emphasized that “an informed evaluation of a proposed settlement cannot be made without an understanding of the amount that is in controversy and the realistic range of outcomes of the litigation.” (Id. at 801.) The appellate court also emphasized that “it is the trial court’s duty, whether or not there are objectors, to employ th[e Dunk] factors to evaluate independently the fairness of a proposed settlement.” (Id.) The trial court must have before it sufficient data to make such an independent assessment. (Id.)

That said, a fair settlement amount need not make the class members completely whole. As the Wershba Court stated “compromise is inherent and necessary in¿the settlement process. Thus, even if the relief afforded by the proposed settlement is substantially narrower than it would be if the suit were to be successfully litigated, this is no bar to a class settlement because the public interest may indeed be served by a voluntary settlement in which each side gives ground in the interest of avoiding litigation.” (Wershba, supra, 91 Cal. App. 4th at 250.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Moving Papers – Motion & Declarations

The introduction of the motion successfully summarizes the litigation, provides a brief procedural history, and identifies Gohar Ghorchian (Ghorchian), Laura Buford (Buford), and Benjamin Bush (Bush) as the Plaintiffs and West Hills Hospital, Parallon Enterprises, LLC, and HealthTrust Workforce Solutions, LLC as the Defendants. The settlement class is defined as “All persons employed in California by Defendants West Hills Hospital, Parallon Enterprises, LLC, and HealthTrust Workforce Solutions, LLC as hourly-paid/non-exempt employees from June 2, 2013 through September 3, 2020.” The settlement class is comprised of 164 categories of non-exempt employees. The introduction also details Plaintiffs’ claims as set out above.

Plaintiffs filed a declaration of service showing that all documents in support of settlement approval were filed with the Court and served on all parties to this action, as well as the Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). The motion is supported by declarations from Buford, Marcus Bradley, Alex P. Katofsky, Gaines, Gohar, Zachary M. Crosner, Bush, and Lisa Pavlik.

B. Terms of the Settlement Agreement

i. Basics

The settlement class is defined as “[a]ll persons employed in California by Defendants West Hills Hospital, Parallon Enterprises, LLC, and HealthTrust Workforce Solutions, LLC as hourly-paid/non-exempt employees from June 2, 2013 through September 3, 2020.”

ii. Release of Claims

The effective release date is the date on which the final award becomes final. The claims released by the class members are adequately defined in provisions “V” and “Y” of the settlement agreement.

iii. Monetary Terms of Settlement

The gross settlement amount is $2,200,000 with attorneys’ fee not to exceed 35 percent, totaling $770,000. Costs will not exceed $25,000. Plaintiffs request enhancements of $20,000 to Ghorchian, $20,000 to Buford, and $5,000 to Bush. The parties have agreed that $50,000 of the settlement amount will be allocated to claims arising under PAGA. Seventy-five percent of the PAGA settlement amount will be paid to the LWDA, or $37,500, and 25 percent, or $12,500, of the PAGA settlement amount will be included in the net settlement amount. Claims administration costs are estimated to be $35,000.

Individual settlement payments will be calculated from the net settlement amount based on the number of work weeks a class member worked for Defendants in California during the class period. One-third of the individual settlement payments will be allocated as wages and 2/3 allocated as non-wages. All standard employee payroll deductions will be made for state and federal withholding taxes. A separate IRS form and check will be issued for the remaining penalty component.

The settlement contemplates “direct distribution” to the class members, and there is no claims process. All class members who have not opted out will automatically be mailed a settlement check once the agreement received final approval. The settlement administrator has calculated pro rata settlement payments from the net settlement amount based on the total number of work weeks worked by each class member during the applicable class period. The highest gross individual settlement payment is approximately $1,338.06, the average gross individual settlement payment is approximately $245.10, and the lowest gross individual settlement payment is approximately $3.55.

iv. Notice Administration/Response to Notice

Rust mailed notice packets containing the settlement terms to 5,261 class members on October1, 2020. This notice included attorneys’ fees and costs. Members were given 45 days from the mailing of the notice to opt-out or object to the settlement. Notice was mailed to class members at their last known address and more than 99 percent of the notices were successfully mailed to class members. No class members have objected to the settlement and only eight class members opted-out.

On March 31, 2020, Plaintiffs’ counsel submitted a copy of the settlement agreement to the LWDA, and it has not objected to the proposed settlement.

C. The Court’s Evaluation of the Settlement

i. Dunk/Kullar Analysis

The motion provides that class counsel conducted a thorough investigation, exchanged extensive discovery, and reviewed and verified statistical data and other information provided by Defendants. The parties exchanged extensive information and documents and apprised each other of respective factual contentions, legal theories, and defenses via telephone conferences and frequent correspondence.

Plaintiffs retained Judy Yip, an expert experienced in examining employment data to determine Defendants’ liability. This data was gathered from Defendants then extrapolated to calculate Defendants’ damage liability. Plaintiffs negotiated the settlement amount based on these calculations.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants compensated their employees with various forms of non-discretionary remuneration including productivity bonuses, housing allowances, flat-rate housing, and travel-based incentive payments. Plaintiffs argue Defendant failed to incorporate these bonuses into the regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime and double time in pay periods when employees worked more than eight and 12 hours, respectively. Defendants also rounded to the nearest quarter of an hour resulting in underpayment to class members in excess of $50,000. Plaintiffs also pleads that Defendants failed to provide meal and rest breaks or, alternatively, provide compensate in lieu of these benefits.

Plaintiffs identify maintaining class certification as an inherent risk in continuing litigation. Moreover, employment cases are expensive and time-consuming and, here, there are two related actions. Continued litigation of all three cases would prove expensive and could endure for more than three years. If the Court were to deny class certification, many class members would be left without a remedy.

The parties participated in a full day of mediation with Jeffrey Krivis on November 15, 2019. It was during this mediation that the basic terms of the settlement agreement were reached.

Defendants have agreed to a settlement package totaling $2,200,000, including attorneys’ fees and costs, that will be paid to class members. This settlement amount is commensurate with the value of the claims adjusted for risk. Each of the 5,253 class members will receive an average of $245.10 each as compensation for unpaid wages, unpaid meal and rest periods, and penalties and interest for Defendants’ alleged failure to provide these employment benefits. The average payment per work week will be approximately $6.06. While these numbers are small, the gross settlement of $2.2 million represents approximately 44 percent of the projected class damages. This is not an unreasonable compromise given the risks inherent in trial of the wage and hour claims asserted in this action. Further, the payments for each class member are small in large part because of the large number of identified class members. The Court finds, therefore, that Plaintiffs have demonstrated that the negotiated settlement falls within a realistic range of recovery for the class members’ claims.

ii. Request for Attorneys’ Fees

Plaintiffs seek an award of $770,000 in attorneys’ fees, or 35 percent of the gross settlement amount to compensate their counsel for their time in litigating and settling this class action and PAGA action. Plaintiffs have submitted the declarations of their attorneys who have described the work done on the case, their impressive expertise in litigating wage and hour class actions and their hourly rates. The evidence demonstrates that the hours worked by plaintiffs’ counsel on this case has amassed a total lodestar amount of approximately $425,562. (See Crosner Decl., ¶14; Gaines Decl., ¶75; Katorsky Decl., ¶¶ 6-7; Bradley Decl., ¶19.) This means that a 35 percent award will provide counsel with a 1.8 multiplier on the value of the fees actually expended. In light of the substantial risks undertaken in this case and the positive result obtained, the Court finds that an award of $770,000 is reasonable and approves the request of Plaintiffs’ counsel for this amount to be paid out of the total settlement amount. (Laffitte v. Robert Half International, Inc. (2016) 1 Cal.5th 480, 503.)

//

//

iii. Class Representative Enhancements

“[I]t is established that named plaintiffs are eligible for reasonable incentive payments to compensate them for the expense or risk they have incurred in conferring a benefit on other members of the class.” (Munoz v. BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles (2010) 186 Cal. App. 4th 399, 412.) Plaintiffs seek enhanced payments of $20,000 each for Class Representatives Ghorchian and Buford and $5,000 for Class Representative Bush. Plaintiffs have supported their enhancement requests with declarations from each class representative who provides information about the amount of time devoted to prosecuting the case and their assessments of the value they brought to the case and the risks they assumed in stepping forward to represent other similarly situated employees.

While it agrees that the representative actions taken by the class representatives are admirable and that any effort to sue one’s employer comes with some risk, the Court concludes that the $20,000 enhancements sought by Ghorchian and Buford are excessive in light of the small recoveries received by class members and the fact that neither plaintiff has demonstrated that an extraordinary amount of personal time and effort was required from either representative. The Court finds that it would be unseemly to award $20,000 each to Ghorchian and Buford when the average class member award is only $245.10, as the enhancement would be more than 81 times the amount received by most class members. (Clark v. Am. Residential Servs. LLC (2009) 175 Cal. App. 4th 785, 805-806 [rejecting as an abuse of discretion enhancements of $25,000 each that gave named plaintiffs at least 44 times the average payout to a class member].)

Accordingly, the Court awards class representative enhancements of $10,000 each to Class Representatives Gorchian and Buford and approves Class Representative Bush’s request for a $5,000 enhancement.

D. Class Certification

The Court finds that that class certification is proper in this case. Class members were easily ascertainable from Defendants’ records based on whether each class member was a non-exempt California employee of Defendants during the specified time period. Defendants’ records show that the final class is comprised of 5,253 individuals.

All class members allege that Defendants use the same policies and procedures in the payment of wages and provision of meal and rest breaks. All class members also allege that Defendants violated the Labor Code provisions detailed above and seek the same remedy under state law. The Class Representatives are former non-exempt employees of Defendants who allege that Defendants did not pay them all wages due, did not provide them with uninterrupted meal periods, did not provide rest breaks, were not issued itemized employee wage statements, and were not paid all wages upon termination and, thus, that they are adequate representatives of the proposed class. There is no evidence of any conflicts between the class representatives and members of the class. Further, it has been demonstrated that the class action mechanism is a proper vehicle for litigating the class wage claims asserted in this action. Based on the showing made, the Court certifies the class proposed by Plaintiffs.

IV. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion for final approval of the settlement agreement is GRANTED. The Court certifies a class consisting of “[a]ll persons employed in California by Defendants West Hills Hospital, Parallon Enterprises, LLC, and HealthTrust Workforce Solutions, LLC as hourly-paid/non-exempt employees from June 2, 2013 through September 3, 2020.” The Court approves a fee award of $770,000, cost reimbursements to counsel of up to $25,000, class representative enhancements of $10,000 to Class Representatives Gorchian and Buford and $5,000 to Class Representative Bush, and up to $35,000 for claims administration by Rust Consulting, Inc.

Plaintiffs are ordered to give notice of the Court’s ruling.

DATED: December 28, 2020

_____________________

Hon. Theresa M. Traber

Judge of the Superior Court

related-case-search

Dig Deeper

Get Deeper Insights on Court Cases


Latest cases where PARRALLON ENTERPRISES LLC is a litigant

Latest cases where HEALTHTRUST WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS is a litigant

Latest cases where WEST HILLS HOSPITAL INC. A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION is a litigant

Latest cases represented by Lawyer GAINES KENNETH STEVEN