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Dan Bridgeford et al v. Pacific Health Corporation et al

January 18, 2012

DAN BRIDGEFORD ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
PACIFIC HEALTH CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Zaven V. Sinanian, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC437024)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Croskey, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Reversed with directions.

Dan Bridgeford and Lucianna Tarin appeal the dismissal of their complaint after the sustaining of a demurrer without leave to amend. They contend the trial court misapplied the doctrine of collateral estoppel in holding that their class claims are precluded, and there is no basis to dismiss their individual claims or their representative claims under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) (Lab. Code, § 2698 et seq.).*fn1 With respect to their class claims, we agree with plaintiffs' argument; defendants concede that there is no basis to dismiss the individual and PAGA claims. We follow Smith v. Bayer Corporation (2011) __ U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 2368, in holding that the unnamed putative members of a class that was never certified cannot be bound by collateral estoppel. We therefore will reverse the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. Present Complaint

Bridgeford and Tarin filed a class action complaint in May 2010 against Pacific Health Corporation; Anaheim General Hospital; Jupiter Bellflower Doctors Hospital; Los Angeles Doctors Hospital Associates, LP; Los Angeles Doctors Partnership, LP; Los Angeles Doctors Corporation; Los Angeles Doctors Hospital; and Tustin Hospital and Medical Center. Plaintiffs allege that Pacific Health Corporation owns and operates hospitals and exercises control over the daily operations and working conditions of health care facilities operated by the other defendants. They allege that defendants jointly or as an integrated enterprise employed plaintiffs at a worksite known as Anaheim General Hospital. They allege that Los Angeles Doctors Hospital Associates, LP, and Los Angeles Doctors Corporation both operate under the fictitious business name Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center and that Pacific Health Corporation also holds itself out as the owner and operator of the same medical center.

Plaintiffs allege that defendants committed numerous wage and hour violations. They allege counts for (1) failure to pay wages due upon discharge or resignation (§§ 201, 202); (2) failure to pay regular and overtime wages due semimonthly (§ 204); (3) failure to provide meal breaks (§§ 226.7, 512); (4) failure to provide rest breaks (§ 226.7); (5) failure to provide itemized wage statements (§ 226); (6) failure to pay minimum wages for time worked off-the-clock (§ 1194, 1197); (7) failure to pay overtime wages (§§ 510, 1194, 1198); and (8) unfair competition (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.).

Plaintiffs seek certification as a class action for each count. They also seek statutory penalties under the first through seventh counts and allege those counts as a representative enforcement action under PAGA.

2. Prior Actions

Josephine Larner filed a class action complaint against Pacific Health Corporation in September 2004 (Larner v. Pacific Health Foundation (Super. Ct. L.A. County, No. BC322049) (Larner)). The trial court dismissed Pacific Health Corporation as a defendant in March 2005 and substituted Los Angeles Doctors Hospital Associates, LP, in its place, pursuant to the parties' stipulation.*fn2 Larner filed a second amended class action complaint in May 2006 alleging counts for (1) failure to pay overtime wages (§§ 510, 1194, 1198); (2) failure to maintain accurate records of hours worked (§ 226); (3) failure to pay wages due upon discharge or resignation (§§ 201, 202); and (4) unfair competition (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.).

Larner moved for certification of a class of all nonexempt employees of Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center from September 24, 2000, to the present and a subclass of all nonexempt employees of the same defendant from September 24, 2003, to the present.*fn3 The trial court denied the motion on the grounds that the motion was untimely, Larner's claims were atypical of those of other putative class members, and the class definition was overbroad and the class unascertainable. Larner and Los Angeles Doctors Hospital Associates, LP, then settled her individual claims and stipulated to the entry of a defense judgment. The court entered judgment accordingly in July 2007. Larner appealed the judgment, challenging the denial of class certification. The Court of Appeal concluded that the settlement of Larner's individual claims deprived her of any personal interest in the litigation and rendered the appeal moot, and therefore dismissed the appeal. (Larner v. Los Angeles Doctors Hospital Associates, LP (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 1291, 1304-1305.)

Michael C. Ellis and Angela McCrary filed a class action complaint against Pacific Health Corporation in November 2007 (Ellis v. Pacific Health Corporation (Super. Ct. L.A. County, No. BC380230) (Ellis)) alleging counts for (1) failure to pay overtime wages (§§ 510, 1194, 1198); (2) failure to pay wages due upon discharge or resignation (§§ 201, 202); (3) failure to pay regular and overtime wages due semimonthly (§ 204); (4) failure to provide meal breaks (§§ 226.7, 512); (5) failure to provide rest breaks (§ 226.7); (6) failure to provide itemized wage statements (§ 226); and (7) unfair competition (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.). The trial court dismissed Pacific Health Corporation as a defendant in January 2008 and substituted Los Angeles Doctors Hospital Associates, LP, in its place, pursuant to the parties' stipulation.*fn4 The court concluded that each count was barred by collateral estoppel and sustained a demurrer without leave to amend.

Susie Brock filed a class action complaint against Anaheim General Hospital and Pacific Health Corporation in November 2007 (Brock v. Anaheim General Hospital (Super. Ct. Orange County, No. 07CC11994) (Brock)) alleging counts for (1) failure to pay wages due upon discharge or resignation (§§ 201, 202); (2) failure to pay regular and overtime wages due semimonthly (§ 204); (3) failure to provide meal breaks (§§ 226.7, 512); (4) failure to provide rest breaks (§ 226.7); (5) failure to provide itemized wage statements ...


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