Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Judge Approves $135 Million Class Action Settlement Of State Farm Adjusters’ Overtime Claims
By a MetNews Staff Writer
State Farm Insurance Company claims adjusters stand to gain about $135 million under a class action settlement approved Monday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr, an attorney for the plaintiffs said yesterday.
The statewide class of adjusters sued for unpaid overtime, Lancaster lawyer R. Rex Parris told the MetNews.
“We changed the world a little bit,” Parris said. “We’ve never felt this good about being lawyers.”
Stanley Saltzman of Anaheim’s Marlin & Saltzman, another attorney representing the plaintiffs, said many adjusters will be receiving back payments in excess of $50,000.
State Farm’s attorney, Douglas Hart of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The plaintiffs, including class representatives Tom Phillips, Lydia Jowyk, and John Guttierez, all of Lancaster, contended that State Farm violated California wage and hour laws by requiring claims adjusters to work overtime without compensation, Parris said.
He added that State Farm defended its practice of classifying claims adjusters as salaried managers that were exempt from the wage rules.
Phillips said he routinely worked 10 to 12 hours a day and that adjusters often worked 15 hours a day for weeks at a time when major disasters such as earthquakes or wild fires occurred. “You did whatever it took to get the work done,” Phillips said, claiming a corporate attitude that employees were disloyal if they did not complete all the work before going home each day.
Parris and Saltzman represented the plaintiffs along with Saltzman’s partner, Lou Marlin of Marlin & Saltzman, and Arnold W. Schwartz of Mazursky, Schwartz, Daniels & Bradley of Los Angeles.
The attorneys filed several lawsuits against different insurance companies on behalf of California claims adjusters about five years ago, Parris said. The case against Allstate Insurance is still pending before the Superior Court, he added.
In the interim, a separate case entitled Bell v Farmers Ins. Exchange (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 715 held that claims adjusters were not exempt administrative employees, but were production employees subject to wage and hour laws regarding overtime, Parris said. That case provided the legal support for this action, allowing plaintiffs to win a summary adjudication motion and the impetus for the settlement with State Farm, Parris said.
Marlin said he is “extremely gratified that we were able to reach such a satisfying conclusion for a large number of individuals.” Marlin added that the good feelings go beyond the monetary settlement because, as a result of this case, the attorneys were able to change the lives of claims adjusters nationwide.
He noted that State Farm Insurance Company began paying overtime to claims adjusters nationwide on May 1 of last year.
“It’s amazing when someone calls and starts crying because this made their life better,” Parris commented. At a recent hearing a man approached Parris and said that for the last two years he was finally able to coach his son’s softball team and that the attorneys’ work on the case had improved his life, the attorney said.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company