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Thibodeau v. ADT LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 21, 2019



          Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for re-taxation of costs. ECF Nos. 143, 146. Plaintiff also requests that the Court review its final judgment on the basis that the Court failed to award Plaintiff the damages to which he was entitled. ECF No. 143. In considering these requests, the Court has reviewed all the filed, pertinent documents and considers these motions fully briefed pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(a). ECF Nos. 14, 69, 118, 1125, 129, 130-152.

         For the foregoing reasons, and pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 60(a), the Court sua sponte amends its prior judgment, ECF No. 130, to now award $5, 252.30 as interest on Plaintiff's reimbursement damages. The Court declines to award penalties, liquidated damages, or interest on the costs. In light of the total damages awarded, the Court also finds that FRCP 68 does not render Defendant the “prevailing party, ” and thus Plaintiff is entitled to costs. The Court awards $2, 841.94 in costs.

         Thus, after accounting for Plaintiff's original damages of $11, 254.93 for violations of California's Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) § 17200 and California Labor Code (“CLC”) § 2802, and $750.00 for violations of CLC § 1198.5(a) violation, the Court directs Defendant to pay Plaintiff, in total, $20, 099.17.


         On December 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against Defendant. ECF No. 14. Plaintiff alleged nine claims, including, (1) violations of the UCL; (2) whistleblower retaliation; (3) violations of Defendant's fiduciary duty to Plaintiff through the unauthorized distribution of information related to Plaintiff's customers; (4) failure to reimburse Plaintiff for expenses he incurred while using his personal vehicle for work (the CLC § 2802 claim); (5) failure to pay overtime; (6) failure to provide rest days; (7) failure to provide wage statements (the CLC § 226 claim); (8) denial of timely access to employee file (the CLC § 1198.5(a)); and (9) failure to display a list of employees' rights and responsibilities. Id. On January 31, 2018, the Court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the second, third, fifth, sixth, and ninth claims. ECF 69 at 29.

         On January 16, 2019, the Court held a one-day bench trial and took the matter under submission. ECF No. 126. On April 18, 2019, the Court issued its memorandum decision pursuant to FRCP 52 and found for the Plaintiff on his (1) UCL claim, (2) CLC § 2802 claim, and (3) CLC § 1198.5(a) claim. ECF No. 130 at 20. The Court found for Defendant on Plaintiff's CLC § 226 claim. Id. The Clerk entered judgment, awarding Plaintiff $11, 254.93 in damages for his UCL and § 2802 claims and an additional $750.00 for his § 1198.5(a) claim. ECF No. 131. The Court did not award interest. Id.

         On May 2, 2019, Defendant submitted a bill of costs with supplemental documentation. ECF Nos. 131, 132. On May 6, 2019, Plaintiff also submitted a “Motion for Costs and Fees.” ECF No. 134. On May 17, 2019, Defendant filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion.[1] ECF No. 136. On May 23, 2019, Plaintiff also filed an opposition to Defendant's bill of costs. ECF No. 139. Defendant objected to Plaintiff's opposition on the basis that it was untimely on June 3, 2019. ECF No. 140. After holding a telephonic hearing June 5, 2019, the Clerk of Court rendered decisions on each party's bill of costs on June 21, 2019. ECF Nos. 141, 142.

         On June 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for re-taxation of costs and for a “final judgment that includes all relief to which Plaintiff is entitled and that includes all appealable language.” ECF No. 143 at 8. Plaintiff argued that the Court's judgment was not final, and thus the Court could still issue an order pertaining to Plaintiff's requests for interest on the reimbursement, interest on the costs, penalties, and liquidated damages. Id. at 8-11. Defendant filed an opposition on July 11, 2019 arguing that the Court's decision was final and that, in any event, Plaintiff's requests for additional damages were unsupported by law and pled without sufficient notice to Defendant as they were not mentioned in the pre-trial order. ECF No. 149 at . On July 16, 2019, Plaintiff replied. ECF Nos. 149, 151. On June 28, 2019, Defendant filed a motion for re-taxation of costs as well. ECF No. 146. Plaintiff filed an opposition on July 11, 2019, and Defendant replied on July 22, 2019. ECF Nos. 150, 152.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The parties raise a number of questions for the Court to consider. First, the Court will assess if Plaintiff's non-cost arguments are valid and merit an additional damages award. Second, if valid, the Court will ascertain whether it has the authority to award such damages now in a post-judgment posture. Lastly, the Court will address the parties' arguments as to costs, including who is the prevailing party, and the amount to which they are entitled in costs.

         a. Plaintiff is Owed Interest on the Reimbursement.

         1. Plaintiff Validly Claims that He is Owed Interest on his Award.

         Plaintiff claims that the Court erred in failing to award him interest on his “reimbursement for necessary expenditures” pursuant to CLC § 2802(a)-(c). ECF No. 130 at 20. Plaintiff is correct. The CLC leaves no room for the Court's discretion on whether to award interest: “[a]ll awards made by a court . . . for reimbursement of necessary expenditures under this section shall carry interest at the same rate as judgments in civil actions.” CLC § 2802(b) (emphasis added). Where the statutory language is clear, the Court must apply the law as stated. See Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. P.I.E., Inc., 853 F.2d 721, 725 (9th Cir. 1988) (“We recognize that as a general rule a court should not look beyond a statute if its meaning is plain.”)

         The weight of precedent also compels this result. California courts recognize that interest may be awarded on reimbursement matters and on UCL claims. See, Estrada v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 154 Cal.App.4th 1, 4 (2007) (contemplating an award for reimbursement of work-related expenses which includes prejudgment interest under CLC § 2802); Espejo v. The Copley Press, Inc., 13 Cal.App. 5th 329');">13 Cal.App. 5th 329, 375 (Ct. App. 2017) (discussing the requirements of awarding interest in a UCL matter pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 3287(a)). Similarly, though federal court applications of § 2802 are less frequent, there is a consensus that supports awarding interest. See, e.g., Bowerman v. Field Asset Servs., Inc., No. 3:13-CV-00057-WHO, 2018 WL 2952664 (N.D. Cal. June 13, 2018) (granting prejudgment interest to Plaintiff's claims arising from § 2802); Stuart v. Radioshack Corp., No. C-07-4499 EMC, 2010 WL 3155645, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2010) (approving a class settlement in part on the basis that Plaintiff's damage calculations, which included interest under § 2802(b), were “sound”); Bender v. Lincoln Nat'l Life Ins. Co., No. CV-09-03959-DMG-PJWX, 2010 WL 11597297, at *14 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 12, 2010) (noting that a violation of § 2802 “may result in an award of interest, costs, and attorneys' fees” in an Order rejecting defendant's motion for summary judgment) (emphasis added); Achey v. Synthes (U.S.A.), No. 1:08-CV-477-LJO-GSA, 2008 WL 5233181, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2008) (noting Plaintiff's allegation for damages, inclusive of interest, under CLC § 2802).

         Defendant's argument, moreover, that Plaintiff failed to provide sufficient notice of his claim to interest is unpersuasive. Defendant mistakenly relies on United States v. First Nat. Bank of Circle, 652 F.2d 882, 886 (9th Cir. 1981), for the proposition that Plaintiff waived his claim to interest when he chose not to include it in the pre-trial order. ECF No. 149 at 8-9; ECF No. 125 at 3-5. This case, however, only stands for the proposition that the Court may not entertain a theory of liability absent from the pre-trial order and thus does not apply to the question of damages. First Nat. Bank, 652 F.2d at 886-87. As the Court informed both parties at the pre-trial hearing in response to Plaintiff's questions on the pre-trial order, the determination of damages necessarily follows from the evidence adduced at trial and thus the pretrial order was “not binding” as to damages. ECF No. 118 at 30-32.

         Also, a “general prayer in the complaint is adequate to support an award of prejudgment interest.” N. Oakland Med. Clinic v. Rogers, 65 Cal.App.4th 824, 829 (1998). Here, Plaintiff met that standard by stating, in his amended complaint, that he sought an “amount reasonably calculated as equal to Plaintiffs actual vehicle costs, plus interest accrued from September 9, 2014 through the date of settlement.” ECF No. 14 at 25. In addition, Plaintiff attempted to raise the issue of costs at the end of trial and, because pro se Plaintiff's motions evince his confusion on whether interest is a cost, it is reasonable for this Court to infer that he was referring at trial to interest damages. See ECF No. 139 at 208-12 (stating at trial, in reference to a cost summary not admitted as evidence, “I have a right to recover my reasonable legal costs, so I provided my reasonable legal costs”); ECF No. 150 at 8 (asserting in his reply motion, “I have clear recollection of attempting multiple times, near the end of trial proceedings, to argue in favor of receiving Labor Code 2802 costs and other relief.”).

         Thus, having determined that an interest award is required by California law, and that Plaintiff properly put the Court and the parties on notice of his intent to seek interest, the question becomes how to apportion that interest, namely, (1) determining the date from which interest is accrued, (2) the interest rate to be applied, and (3) whether such interest is to be compounded. As to the first issue, the CLC states that interest “shall accrue from the date on which the employee incurred the necessary expenditure or loss.” CLC § 2802(b). Because ADT's failure to reimburse Plaintiff for mileage occurred over the course of Plaintiff's employment, the Court elects to apply interest as of February 21, 2015 - a date in the middle of Plaintiff's employment period beginning on September 9, 2014 and ending on October 2, 2015 - as this is reasonable and consistent with California caselaw. ECF No. 130 at 2; see Espejo, 13 Cal.App. 5th at 376 (awarding interest on damages for reimbursement of work expenditures under the UCL as of January 1, 2006, a date “in the middle” of the Plaintiff class's injury period).

         As to the second issue, Plaintiff asserts that interest should be calculated at 7% per year. ECF No. 134 at 4-6. Defendant correctly observes that Plaintiff has no basis for that assertion. ECF No. 149 at 8. Consequently, the Court elects to follow California state law, as Plaintiff's claims arises under the CLC, and apply a rate of 10% per year until the judgment is satisfied.[2] See Faris v. Cingular Wireless LLC, No. G045602, 2013 WL 704327, at *11 (Cal.Ct.App. Feb. 27, 2013) (quoting Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 685.010(a)) (applying an interest rate of “10 percent per annum on the principal amount of a money judgment remaining unsatisfied”); cf. Roden v. AmerisourceBergen Corp., 186 Cal.App.4th 620, 626 (2010) (finding that federal law controls the application of prejudgment interest where the cause of action arises under a federal statute). State law, moreover, grants that a money judgment continues to accrue post-judgment interest until it is satisfied, and that a judge does not have equitable discretion to deny interest. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 685.010(a) (interest accrues . . . [on a] judgment remaining unsatisfied); see In re Marriage of McClellan, 130 Cal.App.4th 247, 251 (2005) (collecting post-judgment interest on child support payments).

         Finally, as to the third issue, the Court elects not to compound the interest. Certainly, there is a reasonable argument that compounding the interest would more fully account for Plaintiff's reimbursed expenditures. See, e.g., AMP Inc. v. Lantrans, Inc., No. CV 90-1525-DWW-JRX, 1991 WL 253796, at *8 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 7, 1991) (ordering compounding, in the context of a patent case, because interest is intended to compensate for “the foregone use of money” and thus “compounding is needed to account for the time value of money”). However, as the Court awards interest here pursuant to a specific provision of the Labor Code, the Court takes its lead from that provision: “10 percent per annum on the principal.” Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 685.010(a) (emphasis added). This statute specifically ties the interest to the principal and makes no mention of compounding interest (i.e. interest on the interest). Accordingly, as the parties point to no other authority for the appropriate interest rate, the Court adopts a non-compounding 10% interest rate here based on the plain language of Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 685.010(a).

         In sum, finding that the California Labor Law requires an interest award, and that Defendant gave proper notice, the Court applies an interest rate of 10% per annum on Plaintiff's reimbursement award of $11, 254.93 from the date of accrual to today. Thus, the Court awards Plaintiff $5, 252.30 as interest on his reimbursement.[3]

         2. Plaintiff's Other Claims for Damages are Not Supported by Law.

         Plaintiff also requests interest on the costs of the suit, penalties, and liquidated damages. ECF No. 134 at 4-6; ECF No. 143 at 10-13. Defendant opposes these costs as unreasonable and not supported by law. ECF No. 149 at 7-9. ...

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