Miami judge certifies class-action against David J. Stern, DJSP
A lawsuit by former employees of the Law Office of David J. Stern and the firm's processing arm, DJSP Enterprises, received class-action certification Monday in a Miami federal court. An attorney for the fired workers said the range of potential damages in the case "is in the millions." The lawsuit, originally filed in November, names four plaintiffs who alleged they lost their jobs in a mass layoff that began on Sept. 23. They claim they were terminated without the 60 days notice required by federal law under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, commonly called the WARN Act. The lawsuit seeks 60 days of back pay for each day of violation, statutory damages and benefit reimbursement for affected employees, according to the lawsuit, filed by lead attorney firm Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman. Steven Jaffe told HousingWire the class size is expected to range from 700 to 850 full-time employees. The firm opted to exclude attorneys from the class as many had individual employment contracts. Part-time workers are not included. "Some of these employees were 15 years with the company," he said, "including two of David J. Stern's top people who were there about 17 years and received e-mail notification of their being fired that day and to turn in their paperwork." Jeffrey Tew of Miami-based Tew Cardenas, who represents David J. Stern, said the class ruling wasn't a surprise as the WARN Act is structured to be a class-action vehicle. "All that means is that it's appropriate to handle the people in the class on a uniform basis. It doesn't say anything about who, if anybody, is liable under the WARN Act." In an answer to the lawsuit, Tew argues that an employer may order a mass layoff before conclusion of a 60-day period if the layoff is caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time the notice would have been required. "Here, the defendants lost the benefits of nearly 90% of new referral business over a short period and this dramatic occurrence was not foreseeable, thereby making this statutory and regulatory exception to the 60-day notice requirement applicable," according to a court document filed by Tew. Stern's firm imploded in late 2010 after a national scandal involving improper documentation and filing of foreclosure documents — what became known as robo-signing — enveloped several large foreclosure law firms. By October and November, some of the nation's largest servicers, along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, began began pulling their foreclosure cases from Stern's law firm. The Plantation, Fla.-based Stern firm at one time employed more than 1,000 employees. It ceased all foreclosure work in March and now operates with a handful of employees who are mainly providing documentation services to handle this lawsuit and more than 20 lawsuits that Stern filed this spring against servicers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac alleging they owe him money related to the removal of foreclosure cases from his firm. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.