Superior County No. BC503806: Los Angeles William F.
Capstone Law, Glenn A. Danas, Ryan Wu, Robert Drexler, Stan
Karas and Liana Carter for Petitioner.
Cohelan Khoury & Singer and Michael D. Singer for
California Employment Lawyers Association as Amicus Curiae on
behalf of Petitioner.
Cynthia Rice for California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.,
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Legal Aid
Society-Employment Law Center and National Employment Law
Project as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.
Turley Law Firm, William Turley, David T. Mara and Jamie Serb
for Consumer Attorneys of California as Amicus Curiae on
behalf of Petitioner.
Littler Mendelson, Robert G. Hulteng, Amy Todd-Gher, Kyle W.
Nageotte, Joshua J. Cliffe, Emily E. O'Connor and Scott
D. Helsinger for Real Party in Interest.
Hardy & Bacon, Phil Goldberg, Christopher E. Appel and
Patrick Gregory for National Association of Manufacturers,
American Coatings Association and NFIB Small Business Legal
Center as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.
& Jensen, Julie R. Trotter, Jamin S. Soderstrom and
Delavan J. Dickson for Retail Litigation Center, Inc.,
California Retailers Association and California Grocers
Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Party in
Jackson Lewis, Lisa Barnett Sween, Natalja M. Fulton, Dylan
B. Carp and Douglas G.A. Johnston for Prometheus Real Estate
Group, Inc., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Party in
& McCay, Stephen D. Pahl, Karen Kubala McCay and Julie
Bonnel-Rogers for California Apartment Association as Amicus
Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.
O'Melveny & Myers, Apalla U. Chopra, Adam J. Karr,
Ryan W. Rutledge, Andrew Lichtenstein and Christina N.
Pacudan for The Employers Group as Amicus Curiae on behalf of
Real Party in Interest.
and Boone, Mary-Christine Sungaila and Martin M. Ellison for
International Association of Defense Counsel as Amici Curiae
on behalf of Real Party in Interest.
a representative action seeking civil penalties on behalf of
the State of California and aggrieved employees statewide for
alleged wage and hour violations. (See Lab. Code, § 2698
et seq., the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of
2004, hereafter PAGA.) In the course of discovery, plaintiff
Michael Williams sought contact information for fellow
California employees. When the defendant employer, Marshalls
of CA, LLC, resisted, Williams filed a motion to compel. The
trial court granted the motion as to the store where Williams
worked, but denied it as to every other California store,
conditioning any renewed motion for discovery on Williams
sitting for a deposition and showing some merit to the
underlying action. Williams petitioned the Court of Appeal to
compel the trial court to vacate its discovery order. The
Court of Appeal denied the writ, and we granted review to
consider the scope of discovery available in PAGA actions.
absence of privilege, the right to discovery in this state is
a broad one, to be construed liberally so that parties may
ascertain the strength of their case and at trial the truth
may be determined. Our prior decisions and those of the
Courts of Appeal firmly establish that in non-PAGA class
actions, the contact information of those a plaintiff
purports to represent is routinely discoverable as an
essential prerequisite to effectively seeking group relief,
without any requirement that the plaintiff first show good
cause. Nothing in the characteristics of a PAGA suit,
essentially a qui tam action filed on behalf of the state to
assist it with labor law enforcement, affords a basis for
restricting discovery more narrowly. Nor, on this record, do
other objections interposed in the trial court support the
trial court's order. We reverse.
and Procedural Background
of CA (Marshalls) is a retail chain with stores throughout
California. Williams worked for Marshalls at its Costa Mesa
store beginning in January 2012. In 2013, Williams sued
Marshalls under PAGA. The operative complaint alleges
Marshalls failed to provide Williams and other aggrieved
employees meal and rest periods or compensation in lieu of
the required breaks. (Lab. Code, §§ 226.7, 512,
subd. (a).) According to the complaint, on a companywide
basis, Marshalls understaffed stores, required employees to
work during meal periods without compensation, and directed
managers to erase meal period violations from its time
records. Marshalls also adopted a “systematic,
companywide policy” to pay no premiums for missed
breaks. Relatedly, Marshalls failed to provide Williams and
other aggrieved employees timely wage payment or complete and
accurate wage statements. (Lab. Code, §§ 204, 226,
subd. (a).) Finally, Marshalls adopted a policy and practice
of requiring Williams and other aggrieved employees to carry
out company business, such as bank runs and travel for
training sessions, without reimbursement. (Lab. Code,
§§ 2800, 2802.)
authorizes an employee who has been the subject of particular
Labor Code violations to file a representative action on
behalf of himself or herself and other aggrieved employees.
(Lab. Code, § 2699.) Pursuant to PAGA, Williams's
complaint seeks declaratory relief and civil penalties, to be
shared between Williams, other aggrieved employees, and the
State of California. (Lab. Code, § 2699, subd. (i).)
in discovery, Williams issued two special interrogatories
asking Marshalls to supply the name, address, telephone
number, and company employment history of each nonexempt
California employee in the period March 2012 through February
2014, as well as the total number of such employees.
Marshalls responded that there were approximately 16, 500
employees, but refused to provide their information. It
contended the request for contact and employment information
statewide was overbroad because it extended beyond
Williams's particular store and job classification;
unduly burdensome because Williams sought private information
without first demonstrating he was aggrieved or that others
were aggrieved; and an invasion of the privacy of third
parties under California Constitution, article I, section 1.
Williams moved to compel responses.
hearing, the trial court granted in part and denied in part
Williams's motion. The court ordered Marshalls to provide
employee contact information, but only for the Costa Mesa
store where Williams worked, subject to a
Belaire-West notice designed to ensure protection
of third party privacy rights and an equal sharing of costs
by the parties. For the company's other approximately 130
stores, Williams was willing to accept information from a
representative sample of 10 to 20 percent of employees, but
the court denied the motion to compel. The court left open
the door to a renewed motion for discovery but required as a
condition of any motion that Williams “appear for at
least six productive hours of deposition.” Finally, the
court specified that in opposing a renewed motion for
discovery, Marshalls could rely on any portion of the
deposition that it believed showed the complaint was
substantively meritless. Recognizing the discovery motion
forced it to render a decision in an uncharted area of law,
the trial court certified its order for immediate review and
requested appellate guidance. (See Code Civ. Proc., §
sought writ relief from the denial of access to employee
contact information for all but one store. The Court of
Appeal denied relief. It held that, as the party seeking to
compel discovery, Williams must “set forth specific
facts showing good cause justifying the discovery
sought” (Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.310, subd.
(b)(1)) but had failed to do so. In the alternative, the
Court of Appeal concluded that because third party privacy
interests were implicated, Williams “ ‘must
demonstrate a compelling need for discovery' ” by
showing “the discovery sought is directly relevant and
essential to the fair resolution of the underlying
granted review to resolve issues of first impression
concerning the appropriate scope of discovery in a PAGA
Standard of Review
review the trial court's grant or denial of a motion to
compel discovery for an abuse of discretion. (John B. v.
Superior Court (2006) 38 Cal.4th 1177, 1186.) The
statutory scheme vests trial courts with “ ‘wide
discretion' ” to allow or prohibit discovery.
(Emerson Electric Co. v. Superior Court (1997) 16
Cal.4th 1101, 1107, quoting Greyhound Corp. v. Superior
Court (1961) 56 Cal.2d 355, 378.) A circumspect approach
to appellate review of discovery orders ensures an
appropriate degree of trial court latitude in the exercise of
deference comes with two related caveats. First, “
‘[t]he scope of discretion always resides in the
particular law being applied, i.e., in the “legal
principles governing the subject of [the] action....”
Action that transgresses the confines of the applicable
principles of law is outside the scope of discretion and we
call such action an “abuse” of discretion.'
” (Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. University of
Southern California (2012) 55 Cal.4th 747, 773.) An
order that implicitly or explicitly rests on an erroneous
reading of the law necessarily is an abuse of discretion.
(See Haraguchi v. Superior Court (2008) 43 Cal.4th
706, 711-712 & fn. 4.)
trial courts issuing discovery orders and appellate courts
reviewing those orders should do so with the prodiscovery
policies of the statutory scheme firmly in mind. A trial
court must be mindful of the Legislature's preference for
discovery over trial by surprise, must construe the facts
before it liberally in favor of discovery, may not use its
discretion to extend the limits on discovery beyond those
authorized by the Legislature, and should prefer partial to
outright denials of discovery. (Greyhound Corp. v.
Superior Court, supra, 56 Cal.2d at p. 383.) A
reviewing court may not use the abuse of discretion standard
to shield discovery orders that fall short: “Any record
which indicates a failure to give adequate consideration to
these concepts is subject to the attack of abuse of
discretion, regardless of the fact that the order shows no
such abuse on its face.” (Id. at p. 384; see
Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Superior Court (1970)
61');">2 Cal.3d 161, 171.)
The Movant's Burden When Seeking to Compel Responses
absence of contrary court order, a civil litigant's right
to discovery is broad. “[A]ny party may obtain
discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is
relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending
action... if the matter either is itself admissible in
evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the
discovery of admissible evidence.” (Code Civ. Proc.,
§ 2017.010; see Davies v. Superior Court (1984)
36 Cal.3d 291, 301 [“discovery is not limited to
admissible evidence”].) This right includes an
entitlement to learn “the identity and location of
persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter.”
(§ 2017.010) Section 2017.010 and other statutes
governing discovery “must be construed liberally in
favor of disclosure unless the request is clearly improper by
virtue of well-established causes for denial.”
(Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court, supra,
56 Cal.2d at p. 377.) This means that “disclosure is a
matter of right unless statutory or public policy
considerations clearly prohibit it.” (Id. at
may use interrogatories to request the identity and location
of those with knowledge of discoverable matters. (Code Civ.
Proc., § 2030.010.) To show an interrogatory seeks
relevant, discoverable information “is not the burden
of [the party propounding interrogatories]. As a litigant, it
is entitled to demand answers to its interrogatories, as a
matter of right, and without a prior showing, unless the
party on whom those interrogatories are served objects and
shows cause why the questions are not within the purview of
the code section.” (West Pico Furniture Co. v.
Superior Court (1961) 56 Cal.2d 407, 422; see
Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court, supra,
56 Cal.2d at p. 388.) While the party propounding
interrogatories may have the burden of filing a motion to
compel if it finds the ...