Paint in a victory for management-side attorneys in the wage-and-hour litigation piling up in courthouses statewide.


Earl Scheib Inc. last week settled a class action case involving 450 employees over a seven-year period for $750,000 only a fraction of what the plaintiffs were seeking.


Insurance will pay the lion's share for the auto-painting firm, up to $500,000, with the company responsible for $250,000, which has already been accounted for on the company's balance sheets. It's the most high-profile victory for an employer since recent losses in similar cases by Wal-Mart Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co.


"The plaintiffs' damage calculations were in the multimillions," said David I. Sunkin, partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP in the corporate practice.


Sunkin has handled the case since it was filed in 2000. He was general counsel of the pink sheet-traded Scheib until he joined Sheppard in 2005. He brought the case with him and was able to enlist the expertise of employment lawyers Douglas R. Hart and Jason R. Gasper.


Sunkin said Scheib has already beaten down several wage-related suits, but decided to settle this one rather than letting it languish in the courts for several more years.


Christian K. Bement, chief executive of Earl Scheib, said in a press release, "While the company denies all liability or wrongdoing in this case and had, in fact, prevailed on a similar case, we chose to settle this lawsuit in order to avoid the distraction and expense, together with the risks, of protracted litigation that we would otherwise incur." Attorneys for the plaintiffs could not be reached for
comment.


Rebate Blues
In another class action case, Sherman Oaks firm Parisi & Havens LLP filed a complaint against Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and Best Buy Co. Inc. in Los Angeles Superior Court last week accusing the defendants of deceptive rebate practices.


According to David Parisi, his client purchased a satellite radio and was promised a $50 rebate. The instructions told her to send in a photocopy of the serial number or an original bar code. She was denied for not sending both, he said.


Parisi doesn't know how big this class might be if approved by the court in the next few months.


"Rebates are hard enough to follow as it is, but when the company changes the rules after the fact, they're nearly impossible to obtain," said Parisi, whose firm specializes in class actions. "We like to go after the big guys."


Best Buy and Sirius did not return calls for comment.


Giving Back
As law firms industrywide say they are looking for ways to increase diversity, some are putting their money where their mouths are. Latham & Watkins LLP recently announced the winners in the first year of the Latham Diversity Scholars Program.


The firm gave four $10,000 scholarships after selecting from 315 applications. The non-renewable awards were given to second-year students at American Bar Association-accredited law schools for use in their third year. The funds are not contingent on accepting employment at Latham in the future.


"The numbers were bleak back in 1982 when I arrived on Wall Street," said Sharon Bowen, an African-American who has made diversity initiatives an integral part of her career and is chair of Latham's diversity-hiring subcommittee.


"With the rising cost of tuition at law schools we thought this would also be a good way to reach out to outstanding students and citizens as well as encourage others to consider law school and the legal profession," she said.


The first four honorees are Eddie A. Jauregui, John A. Mathews II, Lisa M. P & #233;rez and Marla E. Stewart.


Jauregui is a Columbia Law School student who also holds a master's in public policy from Harvard University and a B.A. from Occidental College. Jauregui is an openly gay L.A. native of Mexican descent.


Mathews, a Seal Beach native and UCLA graduate, holds a B.A. in political science. He is African-American and speaks fluent Spanish. Mathews is working on his J.D. at Harvard.


P & #233;rez is a daughter of Cuban revolution survivors who immigrated to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when she was of high school age. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in international relations and political science. She is a law student at the University of Virginia, working with refugees to assist in securing permanent residence status.


Stewart holds a B.S. in accounting from Penn State University, where she worked as a crisis hotline specialist with a Community Help Center. She is African-American, currently at the top of her class at Cornell Law School and a member of the law review.


Fresh Face
Oakland-based Meyers Nave Riback Silver & Wilson has opened a Los Angeles office. The 80-attorney firm, which specializes in the representation of municipalities and other government entities, has hired four attorneys in L.A. John J. Harris, formerly of Richards Watson & Gershon P.C., will serve as principal. James M. Casso and Ruben Duran, both from Alvarez-Glasman & Colvin, are of counsel. Catrina M. Archuleta was hired as an associate.

Staff reporter Emily Bryson York can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 235, or at eyork@labusinessjournal.com .

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