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Guadalupe Gonzalez, Norma Lopez Juan v. Millard Mall Services

August 21, 2012

GUADALUPE GONZALEZ, NORMA LOPEZ JUAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MILLARD MALL SERVICES, INC., THE MILLARD GROUP, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Doc. No. 95.]

Before the Court is Defendants Millard Mall Services, Inc. ("Millard Mall") and The Millard Group, Inc.'s ("TMGI") motion for partial summary judgment alleging that the seventh cause of action under the Private Attorney General's Act ("PAGA") is barred by the statute of limitations. (Dkt. No. 95.) The motion is submitted on the papers without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). After a review of the briefs, supporting documentation, and applicable law, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.

Procedural Background

This action was originally filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of San Diego on April 1, 2009 alleging four causes of action. (Dkt. No. 1.) In May 2009, Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint adding a fifth cause of action for penalties under PAGA alleging Defendants improperly issued out-of-state paychecks to employees in violation of California Labor Code ("Labor Code") section 212. (Id.) On September 22, 2009, the case was removed to this Court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act. (Dkt. No. 1.) On February 11, 2010, Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings arguing that Plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies under California Labor Code sections 2699 and 212 and judgment should be entered for Millard on the PAGA claim. (Dkt. No. 16.) On April 7, 2010, the Court issued an order denying motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted Plaintiffs' request to file a second amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 28.) A second amended complaint ("SAC") was filed on April 12, 2010 alleging seven causes of action. (Dkt. No. 31.) On May 5, 2010, Defendants filed an answer. (Dkt. No. 36.)

On October 29, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a motion to certify class action. (Dkt. No. 48.) On February 4, 2011, Defendant TMGI filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 70.) On March 14, 2011, the case was transferred to the undersigned judge. (Dkt. No. 82.) On March 2, 2012, the Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs' motion to certify class action. (Dkt. No. 89.) On March 6, 2012, the Court denied Defendant TMGI's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 90.) On May 25, 2012, both Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the PAGA claim. (Dkt. No. 95.) Plaintiffs filed an opposition on July 5, 2012. (Dkt. No. 97.) Defendants filed a reply on July 30, 2012. (Dkt. No. 99.)

Discussion

A. Legal Standard for Motion for Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 empowers the Court to enter summary judgment on factually unsupported claims or defenses, and thereby "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 327 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is material when it affects the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can satisfy this burden by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element of his or her claim on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322-23. If the moving party fails to bear the initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

Once the moving party has satisfied this burden, the nonmoving party cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. If the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing of an element of its case, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 325. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In making this determination, the court must "view[] the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 876 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court does not engage in credibility determinations, weighing of evidence, or drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts; these functions are for the trier of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

C. Seventh Cause of Action - PAGA

Defendants moves for summary judgment arguing the PAGA cause of action is barred by the statute of limitations. Specifically, they argue that Plaintiffs' notice of claim, which is a prerequisite to filing a civil action, is deficient. Plaintiffs oppose arguing that the notice is timely and sufficient to satisfy the PAGA requirement.

The purpose of the PAGA is to create a "means of 'deputizing' citizens as private attorneys general to enforce the Labor Code." Brown v. Ralphs Grocery Co., 197 Cal. App. 4th 489, 501 (2011). The relief is mainly "for the benefit of the general public rather than the party bringing the action." Id. (citation omitted). Under the PAGA, an employee may bring a private civil action for Labor Code violations committed against the employee by his or her employer. Cal. Labor Code § 2699(c). Individuals who bring a claim under PAGA must comply with the administrative procedures set forth in Labor Code section 2699.3.

California Labor Code section 2699.3(a)(1) provides that an "aggrieved employee . . . shall give written notice by certified mail to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the employer of the specific provisions of this code alleged to have been violated, including the facts and theories to support the alleged violation." Cal. Labor Code § 2699.3(a)(1) (emphasis added). "The agency shall notify the employer and the aggrieved employee or representative by certified mail that it does not intend to investigate the alleged violation within 30 calendar days of the postmark date of the notice received pursuant to paragraph (1). Upon receipt of that notice or if no notice is provided within 33 calendar days of the postmark date of the notice given pursuant to paragraph (1), the aggrieved employee may commence a civil action pursuant to Section 2699." Id. § 2699.3(a)(2)(A). The ...


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