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Ridgway v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 1, 2017

CHARLES RIDGWAY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WAL-MART STORES INC., Defendant.

          ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S (1) MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW AND (2) MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL AND DECERTIFICATION RE: DKT. NOS. 560, 561

          SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge.

         Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., has filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and a motion for a new trial and decertification. Dkt. Nos. 560, 561. These motions came on for hearing on April 7, 2017. Having considered the arguments presented in the papers and at the hearing, the Court DENIES both motions, as to all the litigated claims. The Court GRANTS the motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to the claims that were not tried (First, Second, Third, and Sixth Claims).

         BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are recited in numerous prior orders, including the Court's May 28, 2015 order granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 211. Plaintiffs are truck drivers in California previously employed by Wal-Mart for some period of time between 1993 and the present. Dkt. No. 73, Fourth Amended Complaint (“FAC”) ¶¶ 3-6. Plaintiffs initially filed this case in Alameda County Superior Court on October 10, 2008. Dkt. No. 1. Wal-Mart removed the case to this Court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), in November 2008. Id.

         Following a three-year stay pending a final decision by the California Supreme Court in Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court, Case No. S166350, class certification in September 2014, and motions for partial summary judgment brought by both parties, this case went to trial on October 27, 2016. Upon a stipulation by the parties to modify the class period, the class definition at the time of trial was: “All persons employed in California by Defendant in the position of Private Fleet Driver at any time from October 10, 2004 to October 15, 2015.” Dkt. Nos. 406, 535 at 13.

         Plaintiffs went to trial on their minimum wage claims, alleging that Wal-Mart violated California minimum wage law by failing to pay class members the minimum wage for eleven tasks. Trial lasted for sixteen days. Before the close of trial, Wal-Mart filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, which the Court denied without prejudice. See Dkt. No. 502.

         On November 23, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in plaintiffs' favor on four of the eleven tasks at issue, finding that class members were paid less than the minimum wage by Wal-Mart for some or all hours worked for: performing pre-trip inspections; performing post-trip inspections; taking 10-minute rest breaks; and taking 10-hour layovers. The same jury rejected plaintiffs' claims for time spent fueling the tractor; washing the tractor/trailer; weighing the tractor/trailer at an independent weigh station; performing adjustments after weighing the tractor/trailer at an independent weigh station; undergoing Department of Transportation (“DOT”) roadside inspections; meeting with a driver coordinator; or waiting at a vendor or store location. Dkt. No. 529.

         The jury accepted the damages calculations set forth by plaintiffs' expert witness Dr. G. Michael Phillips and awarded damages to the class as follows:

Performing Pre-Trip Inspections: $2, 971, 220
Performing Post-Trip Inspections: $2, 971, 220
Taking 10-minute Rest Breaks: $3, 961, 975
Taking 10-hour Layovers: $44, 699, 766

Dkt. No. 529 at 3. These figures reflect the testimony that Dr. Phillips provided at trial regarding the class members' damages for each respective task for the October 10, 2005, to October 15, 2015 time period. See Dkt. No. 497, Tr. at 1524:1-13, 1528:24-1529:15, 1532:25-1533:6, 1582:3-10.

         As discussed at trial, the Court also submitted to the jury questions relevant to the calculation of civil penalties. For this purpose, the jury found that Wal-Mart intentionally failed to pay minimum wage to class members during pay periods from October 10, 2007, to October 15, 2015. Dkt. No. 529 at 4. The jury accepted the calculations of plaintiffs' expert Edward Garcia and found that Wal-Mart failed to pay minimum wage to class members for 103, 221 pay periods from October 10, 2007, to October 15, 2015. See id.; Dkt. No. 492, Tr. at 1859:11-20, 1860:10-19.

         The Court delayed entering judgment until the parties had the opportunity to brief the issues reserved for the Court. On January 25, 2017, the Court issued an Order granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' post-trial motion. Dkt. No. 554. The Court granted plaintiffs' motion for restitution under the California Unfair Competition Law in the amount of $5, 861, 147. Id. at 8. The Court denied plaintiffs' motion for liquidated damages and for civil penalties under California Labor Code sections 1194.2 and 1197.1 respectively. Id. at 12, 17. The Court entered judgment that same day. Dkt. No. 555.

         Defendants filed the instant motions on February 22, 2017. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (“Mot. for JMOL”) (Dkt. No. 560); Motion for New Trial and Decertification (“Mot. for New Trial”) (Dkt. No. 561).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) provides:

If the court does not grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law made under Rule 50(a), the court is considered to have submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's later deciding the legal questions raised by the motion. No later than 28 days after the entry of judgment . . . the movant may file a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and may include an alternative or joint request for a new trial under Rule 59. In ruling on the renewed motion, the court may: (1) allow judgment ...

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