Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law or in the alternative for a new trial on plaintiff’s claims for negligent and intentional misrepresentation, discrimination, retaliation, and Cal. Labor Code § 970 violations.

Overview

Defendant employer moved for a new trial or judgment as a matter of law against plaintiff’s judgment obtained in an action for fraud, discrimination, retaliation, and Cal. Labor Code § 970 violations in connection with false promises made to induce plaintiff into defendant’s employ and her later termination. The court rejected the argument that there was insufficient evidence to support each element of plaintiff’s fraud action. The court next determined defendant correctly argued plaintiff was only entitled to out of pocket damages for the tort of fraud. The court found plaintiff’s recovery had to be limited to actual losses suffered due to the fraud, and benefit of the bargain damages were not recoverable. The court noted although benefit of the bargain damages were recoverable for a termination claim, the jury found against plaintiff on this issue when it concluded there were retaliatory and non-retaliatory reasons for the discharge. The court explained the economic damages proved at trial resulted from the discharge and not the fraud and had to be set aside. The court found, although plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages, the award required reduction as excessive. Parties’ Los Angeles litigation attorney appeal.

Outcome

The court denied defendant’s motion for new trial and denied, in part, motion for judgment as a matter of law. The court granted defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of a law and vacated economic damages because plaintiff was entitled only to out of pocket damages on fraud; punitive damages because they were excessive; punitive damages on retaliation claim because jury found for defendant, and doubled statutory labor claim award.

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff employees sought to bring a wage and hour class action against defendant employer and filed a motion for class certification. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, granted the motion in part, certifying a class only with respect to the employees’ claim for failure to pay vacation pay upon termination of employment. In all other respects, the motion was denied. The employees filed a petition for writ of mandate.

Overview

The employees were current or former driver employees of the employer, a petroleum transportation company. The court held that the trial court erred in denying certification under Code Civ. Proc., § 382, with respect to the employees’ overtime pay and vacation pay claims. There was no evidence to support the conclusion that individual issues predominated, as there was no evidence that each driver could not reasonably have been assigned any of the employer’s routes that did not themselves cross state lines. Furthermore, the class was ascertainable. To the extent that the employees’ proposed definitions improperly incorporated the merits of the claim, the trial court should have redefined the class. The employees’ claim for vacation pay based on the employer’s policy itself was before the trial court, and should have been considered a basis for class certification. The trial court did not err in denying class certification with respect to the paperwork time portion of the employees’ off-the-clock work claim or with respect to their claim for meal and rest breaks. The trial court’s conclusion that a class action was not superior could not stand.

Outcome

The court granted the petition for writ of mandate and directed the trial court to vacate its order in part and to grant class certification with respect to the employees’ claims for unpaid overtime and vacation pay, as well as the previously certified claim for pro rata vacation pay on termination. In all other respects, the matter was remanded for further proceedings.