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Quiles v. Parent

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division

March 27, 2017

AMANDA QUILES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
ARTHUR J. PARENT, JR., Defendant and Appellant.

         Petition for writ of supersedeas on an appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County No. 30-2010-00425532, William D. Claster, Judge. Petition granted.

          Law Office of Stephen A. Madoni and Stephen A. Madoni for Defendant and Appellant.

          Bryan Schwartz Law and Bryan Schwartz; Levene, Neale, Bender, Yoo & Brill and Daniel H. Reiss for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

         THE COURT:[*]

         A judgment debtor must bond a money judgment to stay its execution pending resolution of an appeal. (Code Civ. Proc., § 917.1, subd. (a)(1).)[1] “However, no undertaking shall be required... solely for costs awarded under” section 1021 et seq. (§ 917.1, subd. (d).)

         Judgment was entered in favor of plaintiff Amanda Quiles and against defendant Arthur Parent, Jr. Parent satisfied the damages portion of the judgment. Parent's appeal relates solely to the awards of attorney fees and costs that followed the initial entry of judgment. Parent did not satisfy or bond the awards of costs and attorney fees.

         Quiles is attempting to collect the remainder of her judgment pending this appeal. The trial court denied Parent's request to stay enforcement of the judgment. Parent asks this court to issue a writ of supersedeas clarifying that the remainder of the judgment is automatically stayed pending appeal.

         We conclude that the attorney fees and costs awarded to Quiles qualify as “costs” under section 1021 et seq. We therefore issue the requested writ of supersedeas, staying enforcement of the remainder of the judgment pending resolution of this appeal.

         FACTS

         Quiles (and other plaintiffs) initially filed this case in 2010 as a wage and hour class action against Parent (and additional defendants). The complaint featured causes of action under the Labor Code and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Quiles dismissed her individual wage and hour claims to allow her subsequently added wrongful termination claim to proceed to trial.

         Quiles pursued her wrongful termination cause of action under the FLSA. (29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) [unlawful “to discharge... any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this chapter”].) FLSA claims may be brought “in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction....” (29 U.S.C. § 216(b).) As to damages in a FLSA wrongful termination action, an employer “shall be liable for such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to effectuate the purposes of [the statute], including without limitation... the payment of wages lost and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” (29 U.S.C. § 216(b).) “The court in such action shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action.” (29 U.S.C. § 216(b).)

         A jury returned a special verdict in favor of Quiles. The jury found that: (1) Quiles' lawsuit was a substantial motivating reason for her discharge; (2) defendants' (including Parent's) conduct was a substantial factor in causing harm to Quiles; and (3) defendants failed to prove that they would have made the same decision based upon a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason.

         The jury found Quiles suffered damages as follows: (1) economic damages for loss of past earnings - $3, 000; (2) non-economic loss, including emotional distress - $27, 500; and (3) punitive damages - $350, 000. The trial court awarded an additional sum of $3, 000 for “liquidated damages.” (See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).) Blank lines were included in the initial judgment for reasonable attorney fees and costs of litigation. In sum, when judgment was entered on April 19, 2016, the total damages award stood at $383, 500.

         Defendants (including Parent) moved for a new trial. The court conditionally granted the new trial motion, subject to Quiles consenting to a reduction of the punitive damage award to $175, 000. (See § 662.5, subd. (a)(2).) Quiles accepted the proposed reduction, bringing the total damage award down to $208, 500.

         Also after the entry of the initial April 2016 judgment, Quiles sought attorney fees and costs in accordance with California procedure. On May 5, 2016, Quiles filed a memorandum of costs. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1700(a).) On June 20, 2016, Quiles filed a motion for attorney fees. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1702(b); § 1033.5, subd. (c)(5)(A).) Defendants filed a motion to tax costs (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1700(b)) and an opposition to the motion for attorney fees. The court conducted a hearing on these matters on August 26, 2016.

         The court awarded $689, 310.04 in attorney fees to Quiles by way of a lengthy statement of decision entered on September 27, 2016. In a separate September 30 order, the court awarded $50, 591.69 in costs to Quiles. An amended judgment was entered on October 18, 2016, which reflected the updated damage award (total of $208, 500), the attorney fee award ($689, 310.04), and the cost award ($50, 591.69).

         On December 2, 2016, Parent filed a notice of appeal. Parent had previously sent a $50, 000 check to Quiles, with an explanation that he intended to appeal solely the attorney fee and cost awards (not the underlying judgment). Parent made additional payments of $158, 500 (on Jan. 10, 2017) and $13, 916.17 (on Jan. 17, 2017), fully satisfying the damages component of the judgment and interest thereon. According to the petition, Parent intends to argue on appeal that the court abused its discretion by: (1) awarding generally excessive costs and attorney fees; (2) awarding costs and fees that pertained solely to the wage and hour case (not the wrongful termination cause of action); and (3) awarding costs prohibited by section 1033.5.

         Meanwhile, Quiles took steps to enforce the judgment against Parent. The clerk of court issued a writ of execution on November 4, 2016. (§ 699.510 et seq.) On December 8, 2016, Quiles filed a motion seeking appointment of a receiver (§ 708.610 et seq.) and a charging order (§ 708.310 et seq.). On December 15, 2016, Quiles served subpoenas to take judgment debtor examinations. (§ 708.110 et seq.) Parent received a notice of levy on his bank account on February 2, 2017. (§ 700.140.)

         The court denied Parent's ex parte application to stay enforcement of the judgment pending appeal. The court indicated that Parent would need to appear for a judgment debtor's examination, but that, so long as Parent did so, the court would not grant the motion for a receiver or charging order.

         On February 14, 2017, Parent filed a petition for writ of supersedeas and request for a temporary stay. Quiles filed an opposition to the petition and stay request on February 15, 2017. We issued a temporary stay of enforcement proceedings and invited additional briefing, which the parties have provided.

         DISCUSSION

         Appellate courts are empowered to issue a writ of supersedeas in appropriate circumstances. (§ 923; Cal. Rules of Court, rules 8.112, 8.116) A writ of supersedeas is an appellate court order suspending the enforcement of a trial court judgment or order while an appeal is pending. (See Smith v. Smith (1941) 18 Cal.2d 462, 464-465.)

         The primary question presented by this petition is whether Parent is statutorily entitled to a stay of enforcement proceedings. “‘Supersedeas is the appropriate remedy when it appears that a party is refusing to acknowledge the applicability of statutory provisions “automatically” staying a judgment while an appeal is being pursued.'” (Gallardo v. Specialty Restaurants Corp. (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 463, 467 (Gallardo).)

         Our review is de novo, as the answer turns on the interpretation of applicable statutes and cases. The pertinent facts are undisputed. Moreover, because the question here is whether Parent is entitled to an automatic stay, “it is unnecessary for us to balance or weigh the arguments with reference to the possible irreparable injury to [the parties] as would be necessary if the question of the issuance of the writ was solely a matter of our discretion.” (Feinberg v. One Doe Co. (1939) 14 Cal.2d 24, 29.)[2]

         Money Judgments Must Be Bonded

         Subject to numerous exceptions, “the perfecting of an appeal stays proceedings in the trial court upon the judgment or order appealed from... including enforcement of the judgment or order....” (§ 916, subd. (a).) Parent perfected an appeal from the postjudgment awards of attorney fees and costs, reflected in separate postjudgment orders and the amended judgment.

         The only exception at issue is the longstanding statutory rule that money judgments are not automatically stayed on appeal. “Unless an undertaking is given, the perfecting of an appeal shall not stay enforcement of the judgment or order in the trial court if the judgment or order is for any of the following: [¶] (1) Money or the payment of money.... [¶] (2) Costs awarded pursuant to Section 998 which otherwise would not have been awarded as costs pursuant to Section 1033.5. [¶] (3) Costs awarded pursuant to Section 1141.21 which otherwise would not have been awarded as costs pursuant to Section 1033.5.” (§ ...


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