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In re Landmark Fence Co., Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 11, 2015

IN RE LANDMARK FENCE COMPANY, INC., Debtor, JAMES SAHAGUN and GERARDO GARCIA, Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
v.
LANDMARK FENCE COMPANY, INC., a California corporation, Appellee/Cross-Appellant

Submitted, Pasadena, California April 7, 2015.[*]

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 5:12-cv-01582-AHM. Alvin Howard Matz, District Judge, Presiding. Submission Deferred April 7, 2015. Resubmitted September 4, 2015.

SUMMARY [**]

Bankruptcy

The panel dismissed for lack of jurisdiction an appeal and a cross-appeal from the district court's order in a bankruptcy case.

The bankruptcy court ruled, after a trial, that the bankruptcy debtor had committed violations of California wage and hour laws, and it awarded damages to a plaintiff class. The district court affirmed in part but held that the bankruptcy court had applied an incorrect legal standard for assessing whether the debtor was required to pay prevailing wages for the time class members spent traveling to and from public worksites. The district court remanded for additional fact finding on the terms of the debtor's public works contracts and the practical conditions of the jobsite to determine what damages might be justified.

The panel held that it lacked jurisdiction because the district court's order vacating the bankruptcy court's judgment and remanding for further factfinding was not a final order. The panel concluded that the risk of piecemeal litigation was significant; judicial efficiency would not be enhanced by exercising jurisdiction; preserving the bankruptcy court's role as the finder of fact tipped in favor of declining jurisdiction; and neither party would suffer irreparable harm if the panel declined jurisdiction.

Rudy Ginez, Jr., Ginez, Steinmetz & Associates, Santa Ana, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

Marc J. Winthrop and Peter W. Liandes, Winthrop Couchot P.C., Newport Beach, California; John E. Lattin and Spencer W. Waldron, Fisher & Phillips LLP, Irvine, California, for Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Before: Stephen Reinhardt, M. Margaret McKeown, and Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges.

OPINION

M. Margaret McKeown, Circuit Judge:

As Chief Justice Roberts recently observed in the context of determining whether a bankruptcy court order is final, parties considering the filing of an appeal would do well to remember the maxim: " It ain't over till it's over." Bullard v. Blue Hills Bank (In re Bullard), 135 S.Ct. 1686, 1693, 191 L.Ed.2d 621 (2015). While we have well-established and quite rigid standards of finality in civil and criminal actions governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1291--our most frequently invoked jurisdictional statute--we have taken a more nuanced and " flexible" approach to assessing the finality of appeals in bankruptcy cases. However, even this flexible approach is stretched beyond its breaking point by this appeal from a district court order that includes a remand to the bankruptcy court with explicit instructions to engage in " further fact-finding." We dismiss the appeal because this order is not final for purposes of appeal.

Background

In 2003, James Sahagun and Gerardo Garcia (collectively " Sahagun" ) filed a class action in state court against their former employer, Landmark Fence Company (" Landmark" ). The suit was a typical wage-and-hour class action, alleging that Landmark had failed to pay a variety of wages required by California law. Four years later, in 2007, the state court certified a class of current and former Landmark employees. Before the class claims could ...


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