United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
PATRICIA RAMIREZ, on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated employees Plaintiff,
MANPOWER, INC., MANPOWERGROUP PUBLIC SECTOR INC., MANPOWERGROUP U.S. INC., MANPOWER, INC./CALIFORNIA PENINSULA, and DOES 4 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING MOTION TO INTERVENE; AND DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AS MOOT [Re: ECF 33, 83, 91]
BETH LABSON FREEMAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Patricia Ramirez was employed by a temporary services employment agency, Manpower Inc./California Peninsula ("MI/CP"), for three days in January 2013. She brings this putative class action against MI/CP and against three other entities, Manpower, Inc. ("MPI"), Manpowergroup Public Sector Inc. ("MPSI"), and Manpowergroup U.S. Inc. ("MPUSI") (collectively, "Defendants"). Her operative second amended complaint ("SAC") asserts various state labor code violations pertaining to Defendants' alleged failure to pay wages for orientation, training, and assessment meetings. (SAC ¶¶ 25-28)
Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds of judicial estoppel and lack of standing. Separately, Defendants move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Additionally, two individual members of the putative class seek to intervene in the action as additional named plaintiffs.
The Court has considered the briefing and the oral argument that was presented at the hearing on July 3, 2014. For the reasons discussed below, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, the motion to intervene is DENIED, and the motion to dismiss is DENIED as moot.
Plaintiff worked as a temporary services employee for a three-day period from January 23, 2013 through January 25, 2013. (SAC ¶ 20, ECF 32) Her paycheck reflected that she was employed by MI/CP. ( Id. ¶ 26) On March 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed this putative class action in the Monterey County Superior Court against a different entity, MPI, asserting violations of state labor laws and unfair competition laws ("UCL"). (Not. of Removal Exh. A, ECF 1) Plaintiff later substituted MPSI and MPUSI for Does 1 and 2, respectively. (Not. of Removal Exh. E, ECF 1) Defendants removed the action to the Northern District of California on June 21, 2013. (Not. of Removal, ECF 1)
On April 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed a second putative class action in the Monterey County Superior Court, alleging state labor law and UCL claims against MI/CP. (Defs.' RJN Exh. B, ECF 83-2) That action was removed to the Northern District of California on July 12, 2013. (Not. of Removal, ECF 1 in Case No. 5:13-cv-03238-EJD)
In January 2014, the Court permitted Plaintiff to join MI/CP as a defendant in the present action and to dismiss the later-filed action against MI/CP. (Order Granting Defs.' Motion to Join Parties, ECF 31; Order Granting Stipulation of Dismissal, ECF 27 in Case No. 5:13-cv-03238-EJD). Plaintiff filed the operative SAC in the present action on January 31, 2014, asserting claims against MI/CP, MPI, MPSI, and MPUSI. (SAC, ECF 32) The SAC sets forth eight claims for violations of California Labor Code provisions and the Unfair Competition Law, supported by allegations that she and the putative class were not paid wages for required training, meetings, orientations, assessment testing and termination meetings. (SAC ¶¶ 21-25, 28-38)
Relevant to the motion for summary judgment, the undisputed facts show that on August 29, 2013, after removal of the two state court actions and before their consolidation, Plaintiff filed a Chapter 7 Petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. (Defs.' RJN Exh. E) She did not disclose either this lawsuit or the later-filed lawsuit in her Schedule of Assets. ( Id. at 8-12) Specifically, when asked to list "Other contingent and unliquidated claims of every nature, " Plaintiff identified only "Accrued unemployment benefits." ( Id. at 10) Plaintiff's debts were discharged by the Bankruptcy Court on December 10, 2013. (Defs.' RJN Exh. F) Throughout her bankruptcy proceedings, Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (Defs.' RJN Exhs. E, G)
On May 13, 2014, Defendants learned of Plaintiff's bankruptcy during her deposition. ( See Opp. to Mot. to Intervene at 4, ECF 102) On May 22, 2014, Defendants filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting that (1) Plaintiff is judicially estopped from pursuing this lawsuit because she failed to disclose it in her bankruptcy case and (2) Plaintiff lacks standing to pursue this lawsuit because the lawsuit was the property of the bankruptcy estate and was not abandoned to Plaintiff prior to discharge. It is not clear when Plaintiff's attorney in this case became aware of the potential effect of Plaintiff's bankruptcy. Within a week after the filing of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff, with the assistance of new bankruptcy counsel, moved to reopen her Chapter 7 bankruptcy case and submitted an amended Schedule of Assets disclosing this lawsuit. (Pl.'s RJN Exhs. A and B) Plaintiff's counsel in the present case also filed a motion to intervene on behalf of two putative class members who seek to intervene as additional plaintiffs. (Mot. to Intervene, ECF 91) Those motions, along with Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), now are before the Court.
II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A. Legal Standard
"A party is entitled to summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" City of Pomona v. SQM North America Corp., 750 F.3d 1036, 1049 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). The moving party has the burden of establishing that there is no dispute as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor." City of Pomona, 750 F.3d at 1049. "[T]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position'" is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). "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.'" Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).
Fatal to Plaintiff's case is her own conduct whereby she concealed her bankruptcy filing from the attorneys and the Court in this case and, likewise concealed this lawsuit from her creditors and the bankruptcy trustee in the bankruptcy action. As set forth below, case law reveals Plaintiff's conduct to be all too common and thus well-established precedent applying judicial estoppel against the offending party dictates entry of summary judgment against her. See Ah Quin v. County of Kauai Dep't of Trans., 733 F.3d 267, 271 (9th Cir. 2013). Because she has provided no admissible evidence regarding the reasons for her conduct, Plaintiff has failed to raise a triable issue of material fact as to whether the omissions from her bankruptcy schedules were inadvertent or mistaken. See Dzakula v. McHugh, 746 F.3d 399, 401-02 (9th Cir. 2013).
1. Evidentiary Objections to Harris Declaration
Before discussing the judicial estoppel doctrine in detail, the Court takes up Defendants' evidentiary objections with respect to the declaration of Plaintiff's current bankruptcy counsel, Justin D. Harris, submitted in opposition to the motion for summary ...