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Larry Plancich v. United Parcel Service

August 11, 2011

LARRY PLANCICH, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super.Ct.No. CIVRS807326) APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County. Ben T. Kayashima, Judge. (Retired judge of the San Bernardino Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.) Reversed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miller J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Larry Plancich (Plancich) sued United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) for (1) failing to pay overtime compensation (Labor Code, §§ 510, 1194, 1198); (2) failing to provide meal and rest breaks (Labor Code, §§ 226.7, 512); (3) failing to keep, maintain, and furnish accurate wage statements and time records (Labor Code, §§ 226, 226.3, 1174, 1174.5); (4) conversion (Civ. Code, § 3336); (5) a preliminary and permanent injunction, as well as other equitable relief; and (6) unfair competition (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.). The trial court found in favor of UPS on the unfair competition cause of action. A jury found in favor of UPS on the remaining causes of action. The trial court awarded costs to UPS, but then granted Plancich's motion to strike costs. UPS contends that the trial court erred by granting the motion to strike costs. We reverse the order granting the motion to strike costs.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In his complaint, Plancich alleged he was employed by UPS as an on-road supervisor. Plancich asserted he worked more than eight hours per day, and more than 40 hours per week. Plancich further alleged UPS erroneously classified him as an exempt employee. Plancich asserted his position did not fall within the criteria for an executive, administrative, or professional exemption, because he was not allowed to regularly exercise discretion or independent judgment when performing his job.

As detailed ante, Plancich sued UPS based upon a variety of causes of action, including failing to pay overtime compensation and failing to provide breaks. The jury found Plancich was an exempt employee under one or more of the following exemptions: executive exemption, administrative exemption, or the Motor Carrier Act. As to the unfair competition cause of action, the trial court found in favor of UPS. The trial court entered judgment in favor of UPS, and ordered that Plancich take nothing from UPS. The trial court further ordered that UPS recover its costs from Plancich, in an amount to be determined.

On November 19, 2009, UPS filed a memorandum of costs with a total cost amount of $38,387.20. Plancich filed a motion to strike and tax costs. Plancich argued that in Earley v. Superior Court (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1420 (Earley), the appellate court held an employer may not recover costs in an employee's unsuccessful case for overtime compensation, per Labor Code section 1194 (hereinafter "section 1194"). Plancich asserted the trial court was bound by this precedent, and therefore could not order Plancich to pay UPS's costs. In other arguments, Plancich contended UPS's costs were unreasonable.

UPS opposed Plancich's motion. UPS argued that Code of Civil Procedure section 1032, subdivision (b) required that costs be awarded to the prevailing party. UPS asserted Earley was irrelevant because the decision did not address a prevailing party's right to costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032, subdivision (b). UPS further asserted its costs were "reasonably necessary."

On February 2, 2010, Plancich responded to UPS's opposition. Plancich argued section 1194 prevented UPS from recovering its costs, and UPS's costs could not be apportioned, because all of the claimed costs related to the section 1194 claim.

On February 10, 2010, the trial court held a hearing on the motion. The trial court noted UPS's motion for costs was unsupported by any invoices or receipts. The trial court stated it read and reread the Earley case, and concluded the case fully explored "the public policy behind the one-way fee shifting provisions of section 1194." The trial court explained that if costs were allowed to be recovered in this matter under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032, subdivision (b), then "the public policy benefits of section 1194 would be eviscerated."

In regard to apportionment, the trial court found Plancich's other claims--the non-overtime claims--were not contract claims. The trial court noted, "[t]he distinction between statutory and contract wage claims is critical in terms of the relationship between public policy and attorney fees and costs." Since all of Plancich's claims were statutorily based, the trial court concluded any apportionment of costs would "defeat the legislative intent and create a chilling effect on workers who have had their statutory rights violated." Accordingly, the trial court granted the motion to strike costs in its entirety.

DISCUSSION

A. CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE ...


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