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Narouz v. Charter Communs., LLC

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

November 17, 2008, Argued; December 1, 2009, Submitted, Pasadena, California; January 15, 2010, Filed

No. 07-56005

Opinion

 [*1263]  MILAN D. SMITH, JR., Circuit Judge:

This case presents the question of whether the settlement and voluntary dismissal by a class representative of his personal claims in a putative class action lawsuit renders moot his appeal of the denial of class certification. We hold that under the circumstances of this case, the appeal is not rendered moot.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Hani Narouz filed a complaint on April 7,  [**2] 2005 in the Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging causes of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy; statutory violations of the California Labor Code based on failure to pay wages, failure to furnish meal periods, and failure to maintain accurate itemized wage statements; unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business acts and practices under California Business and Professions Code Section 17200; and seeking declaratory relief. All of these claims were asserted on behalf of a putative class of Charter Communications, LLC's (Charter) non-exempt employees, except the wrongful termination claim, which was asserted by Narouz alone. Charter removed the case to the United States District Court for the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b).

After over a year and a half of litigation, including the processing of two separate Motions to Strike, and extensive discovery, the parties commenced a mediation proceeding on December 7, 2006, which resulted in agreement on general settlement terms approximately ten days later.

The actual settlement agreement, which was negotiated over several additional months, included a "Class  [**3] Action Joint Stipulation of Settlement," providing for the gross payment by Charter of $ 267,500 (including attorney's fees). A separate agreement was entered into between Charter and Narouz, which called for $ 60,000 to be paid by Charter to Narouz for the release of Narouz's wrongful termination claim, claims for any unpaid wages "aside from those related to Narouz's class allegation," claims for any emotional distress, pain and suffering, and penalties "aside from those related to Narouz's class allegation." Narouz was also eligible to receive an additional amount ($ 20,000) conditioned on the district court's final approval of the class settlement. The agreement specified, however, that if the Court did not approve the settlement, the $ 60,000 payment already made would be considered to be consideration for any and all remaining "individual claims." On December 20, 2006, the parties filed a stipulation and order relating to Narouz's motion for approval of settlement. On February 23, 2007, Narouz signed the "Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release," providing for full settlement and release of his individual claims.

On April 23, 2007, Narouz filed a motion in the district court  [**4] seeking certification of the class for settlement purposes only and  [*1264]  preliminary approval of the class action settlement. Charter filed papers supporting the motion. A hearing was held on May 21, 2007, wherein the district court refused to certify the case as a class action for settlement purposes, or to approve the settlement. The only comment the court made in its written order was that it could not "ascertain a class." The court offered no other analysis as to why the motion was denied.

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591 F.3d 1261 *; 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 917 **; 159 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P60,928; 15 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 1222

HANI NAROUZ, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, LLC; FALCON TELECABLE, a California Limited Partnership; INTERLINK COMMUNICATIONS PARTNERS, LLC, Defendants-Appellees.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CV-06-02914-R. Manuel L. Real, District Judge, Presiding.

Disposition: VACATED and REMANDED to a DIFFERENT DISTRICT JUDGE.

CORE TERMS

settlement, individual claim, class certification, district court, settlement agreement, attorney's fees, class action, parties, moot, denial of class certification, personal stake, class representative, certification, settling, costs, class settlement, right to appeal, class claim, retains, approve, terms, settlement purposes, putative class, circumstances, shifting, certify, member of the class

Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Appellate Review, Certification of Classes, Class Members, Named Members, Compromise & Settlement, Justiciability, Mootness, General Overview, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Ripeness, Rationale for Ripeness, Tests for Ripeness, The Judiciary, Ripeness, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Prerequisites for Class Action, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Final Judgment Rule