July 9, 2012 Update

On July 9, 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court entered an order granting review of one issue for which Wal-Mart sought appellate review in this case. The issue, as rephrased by the Court, is:

“Whether, in a purported class action tried to verdict, it violates Pennsylvania law (including the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure) to subject Wal-Mart to a “Trial by Formula” that relieves Plaintiffs of their burden to produce class-wide “common” evidence on key elements of their claims.”

As a result, a briefing schedule and argument date will be set by the Court. Class Counsel do not expect the appeal to be argued before February 2013. It is unlikely that a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be issued before 2014.

July 2, 2012 Order

Phila. judge adds $49.2M in attorney fees to Wal-Mart tally

By Jane M. Von Bergen
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

A Philadelphia judge ruled that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. must pay $49.2 million in attorneys fees and expenses bringing the total to $187.6 million owed to Pennsylvania employees who were not paid during rest breaks.
The total – $187,648,589.11 – awarded by Common Pleas Court Judge Mark I. Bernstein, represents the entire tally in the class action case that went on trial a year ago in Philadelphia and resulted in a $78.8 million jury verdict against the Arkansas discounter.

Last month, the judge awarded an additional $62.3 million in damages, for a total of $141.1 million.

The case involved 187,000 former and current Wal-Mart employees in Pennsylvania.

Today’s ruling gives the workers an additional $10.2 million in interest and sets attorneys fees and expenses in the case.

In total, the lawyers will earn $49.2 million in fees and expenses with Wal-Mart having to pay $36.5 million of those fees on top of the $151.3 million in damages and interest. The balance, or $12.7 million, will be split among the plaintiffs.

“Obviously we will appeal the case,” Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said. “It was a flawed decision. We respect the court and the jury, but we strongly disagree with the decision.”

Simley said it is Wal-Mart’s policy to pay workers for every hour they work.

The jury agreed with plaintiffs who complained that they were forced to skip rest breaks and also had to work some time off the clock. However, the jury found in Wal-Mart’s favor on the issue of lunch breaks.

Michael Donovan of Donovan Searles L.L.C., of Philadelphia was the lead plaintiffs’ attorney in the case.

Donovan’s firm will not get the entire $49.2 million. He and his firm were assisted by other attorneys across the nation who share discovery strategies and expertise in these large and data-intensive cases.

A class-action case on similar issues is now being heard by a judge in Minnesota.

Initially, there were two Philadelphia cases – one filed in March 2002 and the other filed in August 2004. In December 2005, Bernstein granted class-action status, combining the cases.

J. Bernstein’s Finding of Fact on Braun v. Wal-Mart 11-14-07

Opinion of J. Bernstein on Braun v. Wal-Mart 11-14-07

J. Bernstein’s Order on Braun v. Wal-Mart 11-14-07

Court Awards Class Members an additional $62.3 million in statutory damages.

The award by Common Pleas Court Judge Mark I. Bernstein, which amounts to about $500 per worker, came on top of the $78.5 million awarded by a Philadelphia jury nearly a year ago after a five-week trial in the class-action case. The Court ordered Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to pay $62.3 million in statutory damages to 124,506 current and former Pennsylvania employees of the company from 2002 through May 2006 who were not paid when they worked during rest breaks.

In October 2006, the jury found that Wal-Mart did not compensate workers for time they had worked without pay and for missed breaks, and that the company had no good reason for this. The jury found that Wal-Mart had saved more than $49 million by not paying workers properly. “The jury found the defendant Wal-Mart abused their workers” in a way that can be remedied by the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, the judge wrote in his opinion.

The class in the case numbers 187,000 workers and covers pay missed between March 1998 and May 2006. The $62.3 million extra applies to 124,506 workers employed between January 2002 and May 2006, while the statute of limitations was still in effect.

In his 12-page opinion, Judge Bernstein stressed the importance of compensating workers for their time.

“The law in its majesty applies equally to highly paid executives and minimum-wage clerks,” he wrote. “Just as highly paid executives’ promised equity interests . . . are protected fringe benefits and wage supplements . . ., so too [are] the monetary equivalents of ‘paid break’ time cashiers and other employees were prohibited from taking.”

Opinion of J. Bernstein on Braun v. Wal-Mart 10-3-07

Notice to Class Members

If you are a current or former employee of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (including Wal-Mart Discount Stores, Supercenters and SAM’s Clubs), in Pennsylvania during the period March 19, 1998 through the present, you may be part of the class action lawsuit described below.

Plaintiffs Michelle Braun and Dolores Hummel commenced this class action lawsuit (Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., et al., March 2002 Term, No. 3127 and Hummel v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. et al., August 2004 Term, No. 3757) in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County. Plaintiffs commenced this class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated to seek redress for missed rest and meal breaks and off-the-clock work from their former employer, Wal-Mart. Plaintiffs allege causes of action for breach of contract, violation of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Lage, violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act, restitution, and unjust enrichment.

In a Memorandum Opinion dated December 27, 2005, the court certified the action as a class action and found that the suit satisfied the five criteria required by Rule 1702 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure: numerosity, commonality, typicality, adequacy and fair and efficient method for adjudication of the controversy.   To view the Notice of Pendency of Class Action sent to class members, click here.

On October 13, 2006 a Philadelphia jury returned a $78.5 million verdict in favor of a class of current or former employees of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (including Wal-Mart Discount Stores, Supercenters and SAM’s Clubs) who were forced to miss rest breaks and work off-the-clock in Wal-Mart’s Pennsylvania stores during the period March 19, 1998 through May 1, 2006.  After a five-week trial, the jury found that Wal-Mart violated state laws and breached their agreement to provide paid rest breaks and to pay for all time that employees worked off-the-clock.  The parties will likely be filing numerous post-trial motions, and Wal-Mart has publicly stated that it plans to appeal the jury verdict.