Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. Impax Laboratories, Inc.

California Court of Appeals, First District, First Division

November 8, 2019

EMIELOU WILLIAMS, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
IMPAX LABORATORIES, INC., Defendant and Respondent.

          Superior Court of the County of Alameda No. RG17870167 Hon. Winifred Younge Smith Trial Judge

          Counsel for Plaintiff and Appellant: Edwin Aiwazian, Lawyers for Justice, PC Jill J. Parker, Lawyers for Justice, PC

          Counsel for Defendant and Respondent: Steven B. Katz, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP Barbara I. Antonucci, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP Philip J. Smith, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP Aaron M. Rutschman, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP

          Humes, P.J.

         Plaintiff Emielou Williams filed a class complaint against her former employer, Impax Laboratories, Inc., alleging violations of Labor Code provisions governing wages and hours. The trial court granted Impax's motion to strike the class allegations, ruling that Williams was not an adequate class representative. The court granted her leave to amend the complaint to add another named plaintiff, but instead of doing so she filed an amended complaint reiterating the stricken class allegations. Relying on its prior order, the court again struck those allegations.

         Williams now appeals from the second order, claiming the trial court erred by concluding she is not an adequate class representative. She also claims the order must be reversed because the court thwarted her from pursuing discovery of the class list, which she needed to name another class representative. We agree with Impax, however, that the order is not appealable under the death knell doctrine. This doctrine authorizes an interlocutory appeal of the first, but only the first, order in a case that extinguishes all of a plaintiff's class claims. As a result, we do not address the merits of Williams's contentions and instead dismiss the appeal.

         I.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Williams stopped working for Impax in December 2013. Almost four years later, in August 2017, she filed her original complaint, which alleged one cause of action under the unfair competition law (UCL; Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.). This cause of action identified nine types of unlawful business practices in which Impax allegedly engaged, including failing to pay overtime wages, provide meal and rest periods, and pay minimum wages. Williams brought the complaint on behalf of herself and a similarly situated class, proposed to consist of all individuals employed by Impax at any time during the previous four years.

         Impax filed a motion to strike portions of the complaint, including the class allegations. It argued that Williams was not an adequate class representative because the statute of limitations on her personal claims had already run and she therefore could not “assert the types of claims reasonably expected to be raised by other members of the class”-direct claims for penalties under the Labor Code, including under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA; Lab. Code, § 2699). Williams responded that the adequacy issue should not be resolved at the pleading stage and that her litigation would not waive other class members' claims for penalties.

         In a December 2017 order, the trial court struck the class allegations, agreeing with Impax that “[i]n light of her inability to pursue all remedies otherwise available to the putative class, [Williams] cannot be a suitable class representative.” After noting Williams's suggestion that she could “ ‘add[] an additional class representative with standing' ” to pursue the direct Labor Code claims, the court gave her “45 days leave to amend” and stated, “In the court's view, in order for this case to emerge from the pleading stage as a putative class action, such an addition must happen now, rather than later.” Separately, the court denied Williams's request for permission to conduct discovery to locate other class representatives, determining that the “request [was] not properly before the court in the context of these challenges to the pleadings.”

         Williams neither sought review of the December 2017 order nor amended her complaint to name a new plaintiff. Instead, she filed a first amended complaint.[1] As she acknowledges, the first amended complaint essentially re-alleged the class contentions from her original complaint, expanding the paragraph involving her adequacy as a class representative to respond to points raised by Impax and the December 2017 order.

         Impax filed another motion to strike, contending that by adding back in class allegations without a new plaintiff, Williams was “improperly attempt[ing] to dispute [the December 2017 order's] finding that she is not an adequate class representative.” Williams responded that the December 2017 order was “impossible” to comply with, as she had only 45 days to amend to add a PAGA claim even though that statute requires an employee to wait 65 days after giving notice to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency before bringing suit. (See Lab. Code, § 2699.3.) She also complained that she sought discovery from Impax to locate another plaintiff shortly after filing her original complaint, but Impax refused to comply. Although she had asked the trial court to schedule an informal discovery conference on the issue, it had not yet done so, preventing her from filing a motion to compel under the court's local discovery rules.

         On September 21, 2018, the trial court granted Impax's motion to strike the class allegations, stating that the December 2017 order “found that [Williams] cannot be a suitable class representative.” The court explained that the earlier order “reasoned that [Williams's] complaint would have her asserting a UCL claim on behalf of a putative class. [Her] UCL claim would be limited to obtaining the UCL remedies but the claim preclusion effect of that claim would likely be to preclude any of the absent class members who had claims within the Labor Code statute of limitations from pursuing Labor Code claims that were part of the ‘unlawful' part of the UCL claim. The court determined on the pleadings that this [preclusive effect] would not be in the interests of the absent class members and therefore that [Williams] could not be an adequate class ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.