RE: CHARLES BALDWIN, ET AL,
VERSUS
THE WORLEY COMPANIES,
WORLEY CATASTROPHE SERVICES, L.L.C.,
WORLEY CATASTROPHE RESPONSE, L.L.C.,
AND
CLAIMS LIQUIDATING, L.L.C.,
FORMERLY KNOWN AS
WORLEY CLAIMS SERVICES OF LOUISIANA, INC.
19th Judicial District Court
East Baton Rouge Parish

 

If you worked for Worley Catastrophe Response or its affiliated entities (“Worley”) adjusting or "evaluating" claims as a result of the BP Oil Spill in 2010, you may not have received your full wages from Worley for the services you provided. On February 10, 2011, the above-entitled law suit was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. This suit seeks class certification of all affected persons that served in this capacity for Worley. As with any such proceeding, there is no guarantee that the court will certify a class in this or any matter. Rather, as we have pled, we are seeking such a certification and hope to attain that status soon.

As you can see in the Petition that we have filed, we believe that you were not paid 65% of the amount paid to Worley by ESIS and/or other similar entities that compensated Worley for your services, in violation of the your employment contract with Worley. Specifically, we have alleged that those of you who worked on this project were paid $450 or $550 per day, a figure considerably less than an amount equal to 65% of what Worley received for your services. As a result, we believe that you were underpaid for each day that you worked by that difference; and Louisiana law, specifically Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:631 and 23:632, may allow you to recover not only the additional wages due you, but also penalties and attorneys’ fees. We further believe that your contract definitively provides for the application of the laws of the State of Louisiana, as well as names the venue for this suit as the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, which is the reason this suit was filed in that jurisdiction.

As of February 18, 2011, service of this suit has been issued by the clerk of court and will be made upon the defendants in very short order. An answer is due 15 days after service of suit. Written interrogatories and requests for production of documents will also be served upon the defendants, along with the Petition, which seek formal, written responses to the many questions that are being posed to us in our discussions with your colleagues, inquiries such as how much was Worley actually receiving for your services per day, are there actual invoices that reflect those charges, where are the actual contracts that you signed, and how was your compensation determined, just to name a few. Written responses to these questions are due 30 days after formal service.

We have filed this as a class action suit; and if the class is ultimately certified, you may be a member of the class. However, if the class is not certified, or if it is determined that you fall outside class parameters, some action on your part may be required to protect your legal rights. If you have any questions about whether you wish to or need to join the class action, or whether to pursue some other form or cause of action, or explore what other options you may have, you should consult with an attorney of your choosing, if not us. However, we remain more than happy to answer any questions that you may have. You may contact us by e-mail, telephone, or simply write. Our contact information is set forth below.

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UPDATE [February 24, 2012]

Recently, Worley filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the contract that it required each adjuster to sign before they could work on the BP Spill applied only to adjusting work for insurance companies; that the BP Spill was an “environmental” incident, not an insurance event; and that BP was not an insurance company.  As a result, Worley argued that the contract did not apply to work performed on the BP Oil Spill, which means that the obligation to pay 65% to the adjusters was never created. 

We firmly believe that the evidence clearly shows that Worley intended the contract to govern the employment relationship, as it was, essentially, a condition precedent to working on the BP Spill.  We also feel strongly that the law is that the existence of a contractual obligation is a question for the jury to decide. 

Unfortunately, the lower court sided with Worley on this point, and dismissed our case on that basis.  The court did concede that some of the provisions of the contract were not completely consistent with Worley’s arguments, but the lower court did not get to those provisions because it felt the contract could only apply to insurance adjusting.
 
The trial court has not yet signed the judgment, but as soon as it is signed, we will immediately appeal this ruling to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.  While we cannot guarantee what the First Circuit will ultimately do, we firmly believe that it will find that the trial court erred in its ruling and misapplied the law.  In fact, in a recent decision in another case, the First Circuit ruled that a contract was ambiguous because of the conduct of the party who drafted it; and as a result, its applicability was a question of fact for the jury to determine.  Naturally, we feel that the First Circuit should reach a similar result in our case.

We always knew that this issue would end up in the hands of the First Circuit Court of Appeal, either with Worley filing an appeal or us having to do so.  As it turned out, it was us.  We do feel that it is best to get this issue resolved now versus later.  Should the First Circuit agree with us, as we believe they should, the matter will have been decided; and, except for trying to perhaps interest the Louisiana Supreme Court to intervene, which would be highly unlikely, Worley will not be able to further delay the case with an appeal.  Be assured that we will press on, keeping you apprised of developments. 

We expect to have a judgment signed in the next few days, from which we will take an immediate appeal.  Assuming normal delays, we hope to argue our case before the appellate court sometime in late spring, early summer.

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UPDATE [July 25, 2012]
           

As an update to this case, the current posture stands as follows: 
           
Recall that the trial judge granted class certification, and that ruling was appealed by Worley.  The briefing schedule required that Worley file an original brief, that we file a brief in response, and that Worley file a reply brief.  All three of those briefs were timely filed with the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We have appealed the lower court’s grant of Worley’s Motion for Summary Judgment, which held that the employment agreements at issue applied only to the “insurance” clients of Worley, as opposed to other types of companies.  Obviously, we have appealed the court’s grant of that Motion for Summary Judgment to the First Circuit.  Our original brief is due August 7, 2012.  Worley will then have until the end of August to file its original brief in reply to ours, and we will then have an additional fourteen days to file a reply brief. 

After all the briefs are filed, it is our suspicion, although this has not been confirmed by the court, that the First Circuit may consolidate both appeals and convene one oral argument for both the class certification appeal and our the ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment.  We can only offer an educated guess to as when this hearing will be, but it will likely be sometime in late October or November.  We expect the ruling from the appellate court around ninety (90) days after the oral argument takes place. 

We will provide further updates once we know when the hearing date has been scheduled.

 

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UPDATE [December 21, 2012]
           

The First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s class certification ruling in this case, and we are very pleased with this result, as we firmly believed that the lower court was correct in this ruling.  Further, we are pleased to report that the lower court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing this case was reversed by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, and the case has been remanded for trial on the merits.  Obviously, we are extremely pleased with this ruling as well.  After the New Year, we will begin the process of sending out class certification notices to potential class members.  The rulings are available for your review…

2012 CA 0095 Decision Appeal

2012 CA 1140 Decision Appeal

Have a great holiday season!

 

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UPDATE [May 7, 2013]
           

The court has set Plaintiffs’ Motion to Approve and Disseminate Class Notice for hearing on July 15, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. Worley has also filed a Motion to Decertify the class action, and this motion has also been set for hearing on July 15, 2013 at 9:30. The primary basis for Worley’s Motion to Decertify is that individualized inquiries as to what each adjuster was informed about his/her compensation predominate and render class certification inappropriate. We will file a written opposition memorandum to this motion in the coming days.

Additionally, the same counsel that filed the Altier litigation has filed a second collective action, entitled John Akins, et al. v. Worley Catastrophe Response, LLC, et al., No. 2:12-2401, in the United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana (“Akins” suit). Identical to the Altier case, the Akins suit involves a claim for overtime pay based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). We have attempted to intervene in the Akins suit; however, the judge denied our motion/petition to intervene. We have appealed this ruling to the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. A copy of our appeal brief is below for your review. We expect a ruling from the appellate court within the next 60-90 days.

INTERVENORS APPELLATE BRIEF3 WP 05 03

 

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UPDATE [August 26, 2014]
           

As you know, by Order dated July 18, 2013, despite the absence of any new evidence from the time he originally certified the class as a class action, Judge Caldwell granted Worley’s Motion to Decertify the class action. On July 24, 2013, plaintiffs filed a Motion and Order for Devolutive Appeal of Judge Caldwell’s decision to decertify the class. Judge Caldwell signed the Order granting plaintiffs’ devolutive appeal on July 29, 2013. After the appeal was lodged and the appellate court issued a briefing schedule, plaintiffs filed their original appeal brief on February 6, 2014. On February 26, 2014, Worley responded and filed its appeal brief . On March 10, 2014, plaintiffs filed a Reply Brief to respond to Worley’s appeal brief. On August 19, 2014, the parties participated in oral argument in front of a panel of three judges on the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal. The same panel of judges that had previously upheld Judge Caldwell’s initial ruling certifying the case as a class action presided over the pending appeal argued August 19, 2014. Essentially, we argued in our briefs, and to the panel during oral argument, that nothing had changed since the same panel upheld the original class certification; and if it was proper then, it remains proper now. Again, no new evidence was introduced to prove or show that this matter should not continue as a class action. Worley argued that the panel’s previous opinion, which reversed Judge Caldwell’s ruling granting Worley’s Motion for Summary Judgment, was a basis for decertifying the class. We expect a decision from the First Circuit within thirty to sixty days of oral argument, which means late September or October of 2014 and will update this website then.

 

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UPDATE [December 4, 2014]
           

As you know, we have been waiting for the First Circuit Court of Appeal to render its ruling regarding the lower court’s class decertification order. The matter was argued before the appellate court in early August, 2014, and the opinion was handed down yesterday. In a 3-0 decision, the First Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s ruling and reinstated the class, as we hoped would be the case. The case has been remanded for further proceedings in the lower court, although Worley can and will likely seek relief from the Louisiana Supreme Court, like it did last time to no avail. Yesterday’s opinion may be accessed by clicking on the word “opinion” in this sentence.

Obviously, we are very pleased with this ruling and its sound reasoning and look forward to getting out class notice just as soon as we can get that issue before the trial court. We will continue to keep you all informed as developments warrant.

 

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UPDATE [May 22, 2015]
           

By order dated April 24, 2015, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Worley’s writ application, which sought to have the First Circuit Court of Appeal’s order reinstating class certification reversed. We are pleased with this development, as it means that the class certification order is now resolved. We have filed our motion and order to approve and disseminate class notice with the trial court, and our motion is set for hearing on July 20, 2015.

 

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UPDATE [March 11, 2016]

The deadline to “opt out” of this class action was November 30, 2015. Of the 390 plus potential class members, 353 former Worley adjusters remained in the class after the opt out period expired. We timely filed the necessary notices with the court and are completing discovery so that we may request a firm jury trial date for the liability phase of this case. The primary issue for consideration in the first trial on liability will be the applicability of the written agreement to the work performed in relation the BP Oil Spill, specifically whether the written agreement specifies the compensation Worley was to pay its adjusters or whether an oral agreement applied. 

At present, we are organizing and collating several thousands of pages of Worley invoices to determine precisely how much Worley billed for each class member’s services. Worley also recently produced several thousand pages of W-2 and 1099’s for the 353 class members. We have expended hundreds of hours organizing and summarizing these voluminous materials and are within a few weeks of completing this task. When completed, we hopefully will be in a position to certify to the court that discovery is complete for the liability phase of this case, as required by the local rules of court, and request a conference to obtain a trial date. Of course, we will continue to update this website with developments.