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Simona Agnolucci Named One of California's Top 40 Under 40 Lawyers

The Daily Journal

Agnolucci works at the forefront of two hot and emerging litigation trends. She defends class actions for clients such as on-demand car service Lyft Inc. and restaurant delivery service Try Caviar of Square Inc., cases that will determine whether those companies’ drivers are employees or contractors. In the white collar defense realm, she is dealing with the fallout from new guidance by Attorney General Loretta Lynch to prioritize the prosecution of individual employees when companies break the law. Away from the office, Agnolucci was appointed in December by Gov. Jerry Brown to a 12-year term as the youngest member of UC Hastings College of the Law’s board of directors.

In a potential federal class action against Lyft, drivers protested that they are treated as contractors and are not reimbursed for work-related costs like gas and insurance and are ineligible for workers’ compensation and unemployment. Agnolucci worked to defeat class certification by demonstrating that the drivers were too varied to comprise a class and would have to litigate separately.

But, before a class certification motion was heard, the drivers agreed to settle for $12 million, only to have the deal rejected by US District Judge Vince Chhabria of San Francisco, possibly leaving it to a jury to decide the issue. Cotter v. Lyft Inc., CV1304065 (N.D. Cal., filed Sept. 3, 2013)

Similar misclassification claims in a potential class action by drivers against Try Caviar led Agnolucci and her team to use a different maneuver to steer the case away from the courtroom and into individual arbitration. “These cases will have a huge impact on shaping the future of the sharing economy,” Agnolucci said. Levin v. Try Caviar Inc., CV151285 (N.D. Cal., filed March 19, 2015)

The US Department of Justice memo, drafted by deputy attorney General Sally Q. Yates and issued to federal prosecutors nationwide in September, was a response to criticism that few executives have faced punishment in corporate scandal cases. Agnolucci is defending a senior employee of a multinational corporation in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation.

The memo appears to have encouraged the government’s pursuit of individuals, but Agnolucci is pushing back as she devises the defense strategy, handles negotiations with federal agencies and preps her client for the investigation. She knows her client faces severe financial penalties and incarceration.

“The Yates memo should not be an excuse for a company to put a head on a platter unnecessarily,” she said. “Our job is to work even harder to stand up for our clients when life and liberty are at stake.”