California Supreme Court to Address Split on Alleged Paga manageability
On June 22, 2022, the California Supreme Court granted review in Estrada v. Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc. (2022) 76 Cal.App.5th 685, to resolve a split of authority in separate Court of Appeal regarding whether trial courts can strike allegedly unmanageable Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) claims. The Court will hopefully hear arguments in 2023, but with new COVID, Monkeypox or other pandemic concerns – may not. As a quick note, all claims and cases are hard to try. PAGA claims involved workers, pay, and working conditions, nothing fancy other than the software used to track time and other means of proving off-the-clock work and Labor Code violations. It can and will be tried. Just imagine if the medical malpractice or construction defect industry threw up its hands and said “Judge it is just too hard to manage this CD case [some have over 10 experts per side], so 200 homeowners can go pound sand!” Yeah right. Nice try defense bar.
In Wesson v. Staples the Office Superstore LLC (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 746, the 2nd District held that “courts have inherent authority to ensure that PAGA claims can be fairly and efficiently tried and, if necessary, may strike claims that cannot be rendered manageable.” Id. at 756. Drawing on principles from class actions and other representative actions, the court explained that “[i]n general . . . a need for individualized proof pertaining to a very large number of employees will raise manageability concerns.” Id. at 771. (Click here to learn about the Wesson decision.)
We believe Wesson is limited to its own unusual set of facts. In Wesson the trial court felt sorry for the poor defendant (Staples) and claimed  the case could not be fairly [Fair to who?] and efficiently tried and the Court had the authority to strike an unmanageable claim, because at the time case law provided for courts to consider the manageability of representative claims in other contexts and PAGA claims involved “comparable or greater” manageability concerns [read between the lines “I do not want to try this case”]; -The employer was entitled to a fair opportunity to litigate available affirmative defenses [we have heard this before – which means they want to put every single class member, claimant or aggrieved employee on the stand for hours] which a manageability assessment had to take into account, because “due process” required a fair opportunity to present a defense; and -[probably the most important] the employee’s lack of cooperation with the trial court’s manageability inquiry stymied efforts to proceed, striking the PAGA claim, which alleged misclassification, as unmanageable was not error. Misclassification cases are their own “breed” and trying them is inherently difficult. Read the opinion, the plaintiffs did no favors for themselves or the employees to advance the case, and appealed a bad set of facts, which we have been taught over and over again, “Bad facts make bad law.”
Conversely, in Estrada, the 4th District [far more superior Court in intelligence, wit, and good-looking justices] held that “a court cannot strike a PAGA claim based on manageability.” Estrada, 76 Cal. App. 5th at 697. While Estrada also expressed concern about unmanageable claims, it explained that where claims involve “hundreds or thousands of alleged aggrieved employees, each with unique factual circumstances,” the court may render a trial manageable by limiting the presentation of evidence and witnesses, but not by striking or limiting the claims. Id. at 713. Richard Quintilone II Esq. already posted about Estrada here. We have had only one less experienced lawyer argue Wesson defeats manageability [and our case is not hard to manage] and no other quality defense firm has advanced such a motion on facts that diverge from misclassification.
The California Supreme Court is supposed to resolve this split, but the order granting review gives little indication of which way the Court may rule other than pro-employee since it has done so consistently in the past 3 years. While inexperienced defense-only firms and lawyers wax poetic about that the Court denied review of Wesson in December 2021, get real, the justices were simply busy with the holidays. The Court denied a request to depublish Estrada, so as the fans of Game of Thrones know it- Winter is coming.
Again, the Supreme Court will have to take up the split and until then Trial courts are free to rely upon Estrada. California Rules of Court Rule 8.1115. Citation of opinions (2022) Wesson is clearly a poorly reasoned decision and limited to its misclassification facts. Click our prior Quintilone & Associates Post to read our analysis of Estrada.
If you have any questions about this article, Employee handbooks (we write them too), or have issues with unpaid wages, commissions, company charges to your wages, business expenses, off-the-clock work, or any issues with your pay at your current or former employer, please feel free to contact:
Richard E. Quintilone II, Esq. Kyle Gallego Esq. or Jeffrey T. Green, Esq.
Quintilone & Associates
22974 El Toro Road, Suite 100
Lake Forest CA 92630
Email email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com web www.quintlaw.com