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District Court Preliminarily Approves Settlement in Akaosugi v. Benihana National Corporation

On August 20, 2012, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California preliminarily approved the class action settlement reached by the parties in Akaosugi v. Benihana National Corp., Case No. 11-cv-01272 (WHA).

The Settlement Class, which consists of current and former employees of Benihana-branded teppanyaki-style restaurants in California, alleged that Benihana required employees to forfeit vacation pay in violation of California wage laws. Benihana denies any wrongdoing, and the Court has not made any finding on the merits of the claims. The parties’ settlement remains subject to final Court approval.

Lewis Feinberg is co-counsel for the class along with Minami Tamaki LLP. A court-approved notice of the proposed settlement will be mailed by October 3, 2012. A final approval hearing will be held on January 24, 2013.

La Verne Ramsay to Present at AILA NorCal CLE Event on May 29

Senior Associate La Verne Ramsay in the Minami Tamaki LLP Immigration Practice Group will be a featured speaker at a CLE event on “Advanced Issues in PERM Labor Certifications” presented by the American Immigration Lawyers Association Northern California Chapter.

Also featuring Lisa Spiegel, a partner at Duane Morris LLP, the CLE event will be on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, at Duane Morris LLP, One Market Plaza, Spear Tower, Suite 2200, San Francisco. Cost is $30 in advance and $40 at the door if space is available. This is an AILA NorCal members-only event. AILA NorCal is a State Bar of California approved provider. For more information, please contact Olivia Lee or Angela Mapa at programdirector@ailanorcal.com.

$2.9 Million Recovery for Fall

Brenda K. (fictitious name), a 76-year-old married artist, fell down a dark staircase at night at a retreat center in rural Marin County where she was attending a weekend conference. There were no witnesses to the fall and she was found by other guests who heard her cries for help after she landed close to the bottom of the staircase.

Although there were serious issues with proving negligence and causation, our discovery showed that lighting on the stairs was less than the minimum required by the building code and one of the handrails of the stairs did not extend to the bottom of the staircase, which was also a code violation and would have contributed to her falling while descending the stairs in the dark.

Brenda was airlifted by helicopter ambulance to John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek where she was hospitalized from February 21 to April 13, 2009. She was diagnosed as a C6 quadriplegic and underwent fixation of fractures at the C4/C5 level in her neck; laminectomy surgeries of the C3 through C7 levels; and implantation of surgical rods and hardware from C4 to C6. She was transferred to California Pacific Medical Center where she stayed from April 13 to June 5, 2009.

Brenda’s medical expenses, which were paid by Medicare, were approximately $490,000. The retreat center had an insurance policy of $3 million. Senior Counsel Mark Fong, Partner Dale Minami and co-counsel Steve Cavalli settled her claim for damages and her husband’s claim for loss of companionship and services for $2.9 million.

Minette Kwok Joins American Immigration Council Board of Trustees

Minette KwokMinami Tamaki LLP Partner Minette A. Kwok will join the national Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council, effective June 2012.

Based in Washington, D.C., the American Immigration Council has played a leading role in the national debate over immigration reform. With its focus on advocacy, public policy, litigation and education, the AIC is dedicated to changing the way Americans think and act towards immigrants, and committed towards advancing fundamental fairness and due process for immigrants.

“The AIC sits on the cutting edge of immigration law and policy, and I’m excited to be a part of it, “said Kwok. “Its leadership represents all that is outstanding, forward thinking, and compassionate within the immigration bar.”

“The Trustees voted unanimously to have Minette join the Board. She is a perfect fit for our organization given her expertise, demonstrated leadership, and contributions to the immigrant community,” said Board of Trustees Chair Kirsten Schlenger, managing partner of Weaver Schlenger Mazel LLP.

Ms. Kwok heads the immigration practice group at Minami Tamaki LLP, which focuses primarily on business immigration, representing startups and Fortune 500 companies in the IT, engineering, clean energy, and manufacturing industries, guiding employers through mergers/acquisitions, reduction in force, and phenomenal growth.

She has served as a Commissioner with the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization’s Immigration and Nationality Law Advisory Commission; as Chair of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Northern California; and as Liaison to the Department of Labor, Region IX.

Minette has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer by Law & Politics Magazine for eight consecutive years, was selected as one of the Top 50 Female Northern California Super Lawyers, and has been awarded an AV rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the highest rating for competence and ethics issued by that publication, reserved for attorneys designated as outstanding in their field.

Landmark Brinker Decision Clarifies Employer’s Burden to Provide Breaks, Continues Use of Class Actions

By Kevin R. Allen, CERG Practice

On April 12, 2011, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Brinker v. Superior Court (S166350). The opinion was highly anticipated because it could have potentially, on one extreme, eliminated wage and hour class actions based on break claims altogether or, on the other extreme, made employers strictly liable for missed breaks regardless of fault.

In finding a middle ground, the decision has a little something for everyone. With respect to meal periods, it held that an employer satisfies its obligation to “provide” a meal period “if it relieves an employee of all duty” for an uninterrupted 30-minute break and does “not impede or discourage” employees from taking this break. Once an employer meets this obligation, it is “not obligated to police meal periods and ensure no work is performed.” The court clarified that the employer must provide a first meal period after no more than five hours work and a second meal period after no more than ten hours of work, as opposed to every five hours as was argued by plaintiffs in the case.

The Supreme Court held that an employer satisfies its burden to “authorize and permit” a 10 minute rest break for each four hours of work “or major fraction thereof” through 10 minutes of rest break time for shifts of three and half hours to six hours, 20 minutes for shifts of more than six hours up to 10 hours, and 30 minutes for shifts or more than 10 hours and up to 14 hours, and so on. Rest breaks can occur at any time during the shift, either before or after the meal period.

Lastly, the Court indicated that there is no per se rule against using the class action device to address meal and rest breaks: “Claims alleging that a uniform policy consistently applied to a group of employees is in violation of the wage and hour laws are of the sort routinely, and properly, found suitable for class treatment.”

Dale Minami Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Alameda Democratic Group

Dale Minami photoPartner Dale Minami on March 29 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County at their 7th Annual Membership Dinner in Oakland Chinatown.

The Caucus also honored Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prizewinning reporter who revealed in mid-2011 that he was an undocumented immigrant, sparking a national discussion about immigration and the impact of immigration policies on Asian Americans.

The Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County was officially chartered in March 2005. It is the first ever chartered club focusing on Asian Pacific Americans in Alameda County, formed to ensure equal participation in and support from the Democratic Party of Alameda County.

Dale has been recognized as one of the top personal injury attorneys in the Bay Area and leads Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury practice. He also represents clients in the entertainment industry.

Kevin Allen on SCU Law Panel on Employment Law

Kevin Allen on SCU Law Panel on Employment Law

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Kevin R. Allen was one of three attorney panelists at the March 28 Employment Law Practice panel presented by the Labor and Employment Law Society at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

Kevin, an SCU alumni from 2005, was asked to participate in order to provide the plaintiffs’ perspective and to discuss issues related to litigating complex wage and hour class actions. The other panelists included defense attorneys, and fellow SCU alumni, Ernie M. Malaspina, a shareholder at Hopkins & Carley in San Jose and Alisha Louie, an associate at San Francisco’s Payne & Fears LLP.

Kevin graduated from SCU’s law school in the top 10 percent of his class. He was also a Technical Editor for the Santa Clara Law Review and received a Witkin award in both Antitrust and Criminal Procedure.

Seth Rosenberg Selected for National Trial Lawyers Honor

Seth Rosenberg Selected for National Trial Lawyers Honor

Seth RosenbergSeth I. Rosenberg, a Senior Associate in the firm’s Personal Injury practice, was recently selected as a member of National Trial Lawyers Association: Top 40 under 40, an invitation-only honor extended exclusively to those individuals who exemplify superior qualifications, trial results, and leadership as a young lawyer.

Selection to the National Trial Lawyers Association: Top 40 under 40 is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. The result is a credible, comprehensive and impressive list of young attorneys chosen to represent their state.

The Top 40 under 40 is restricted to only 40 attorneys per state per year. Attorneys must also specialize in the areas of civil plaintiff or criminal defense law.

Seth specializes in representing plaintiffs in state and federal courts, as well as in arbitration proceedings. He has obtained jury verdicts, arbitration awards, and settlements for his clients totaling millions of dollars. He successfully represents clients in all types of personal injury cases, including premises liability, vehicular negligence, products liability, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. His trial verdicts and settlements have been featured in many California legal periodicals, including The Recorder and The Daily Journal.

Senior Counsel B. Mark Fong, also in the firm’s Personal Injury practice, was selected in Oct. 2011 to be a member of the National Trial Lawyers, which is composed of the top 100 trial lawyers from each state.

National Trial Lawyers Selects Mark Fong as Among Top 100 Trial Lawyers in California

Mark FongSenior Counsel B. Mark Fong in our Personal Injury Practice was recently selected to be a member of the National Trial Lawyers, which is composed of the top 100 trial lawyers from each state.

Membership in National Trial Lawyers can only be obtained through special invitation and is extended to attorneys who exemplify superior qualifications, leadership, reputation, influence, stature, and profile as trial lawyers, both civil plaintiff and criminal defense.

Mark is a trial lawyer with 30 years experience who has obtained multi-million dollar settlements and large verdicts, specializing in the trial of catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, premises liability and medical malpractice cases throughout California in State and Federal Court.

One of the top personal injury lawyers in the Bay Area, Mark has also been named a Northern California Super Lawyer in the Personal Injury category and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.  He is rated “AV” by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, signifying the highest level of legal ability and professional standards of ethics. Mark is also listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers for high professional legal standards and ethics.

See Mark’s listing on the National Trial Lawyers site.