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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.

         [254 Cal.Rptr.3d 709] Trial Court: Superior Court of the County of Alameda, Trial Judge: Hon. Winifred Younge Smith (Alameda County Super. Ct. No. RG17870167)

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         COUNSEL

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

         Steven B. Katz, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP, Los Angeles, Barbara I. Antonucci, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP, San Francisco, Philip J. Smith, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP, San Francisco, Aaron M. Rutschman, Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP, Los Angeles, for Defendant and Respondent.

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         OPINION

         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 [254 Cal.Rptr.3d 710] 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 ...


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