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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/03/2019 at 01:36:09 (UTC).

TERESA GUZMAN ET AL VS LEYVAS MEXICAN FOODS INC ET AL

Case Summary

On 10/19/2016 TERESA GUZMAN filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against LEYVAS MEXICAN FOODS INC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are ROBERT L. HESS and DALILA CORRAL LYONS. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****7544

  • Filing Date:

    10/19/2016

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Labor - Wrongful Termination

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

ROBERT L. HESS

DALILA CORRAL LYONS

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

GUZMAN TERESA

AVILA LOURDES

Defendants and Respondents

DOES 1 THROUGH 20

LEYVA'S MEXICAN FOODS INC.

LEYVA OCTAVIANO

LEYVA ANA MARIA

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorney

ELIHU KAVEH S. ESQ.

Defendant Attorney

BIGGINS DOUGLAS CHADWICK

 

Court Documents

Minute Order

5/17/2018: Minute Order

SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY?CIVIL (WITHOUT COURT ORDER)

8/27/2018: SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY?CIVIL (WITHOUT COURT ORDER)

CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

9/14/2018: CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

9/26/2018: AMENDMENT TO COMPLAINT

Proof of Service by Substituted Service

11/15/2018: Proof of Service by Substituted Service

Minute Order

12/19/2018: Minute Order

Exhibit List

3/5/2019: Exhibit List

Motion in Limine

3/6/2019: Motion in Limine

Order

3/7/2019: Order

Notice of Ruling

3/8/2019: Notice of Ruling

Exhibit List

3/15/2019: Exhibit List

Witness List

3/15/2019: Witness List

Witness List

3/15/2019: Witness List

Minute Order

3/19/2019: Minute Order

Minute Order

5/1/2019: Minute Order

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES FOR: 1. WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY; ETC

10/19/2016: COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES FOR: 1. WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY; ETC

Unknown

2/24/2017: Unknown

DEFENDANTS' ANSWER TO PLAINTIFF LOURDES AVILA'S COMPLAINT

3/27/2017: DEFENDANTS' ANSWER TO PLAINTIFF LOURDES AVILA'S COMPLAINT

56 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/31/2019
  • at 10:00 AM in Department 20, Dalila Corral Lyons, Presiding; Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 05/16/2019
  • Notice (Regarding Continuance of Mandatory Settlement Conference); Filed by Teresa Guzman (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/13/2019
  • at 08:30 AM in Department 24; Hearing on Motion - Other (Relief from Inadvertent Error Pursuant to CCP 473)

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  • 05/01/2019
  • at 3:33 PM in Department 20, Dalila Corral Lyons, Presiding; Court Order

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  • 05/01/2019
  • Minute Order ( (COURT ORDER - REGARDING CONTINUANCE OF MANDATORY SETTLEMENT C...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/03/2019
  • at 4:14 PM in Department 20, Dalila Corral Lyons, Presiding; Court Order

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  • 04/03/2019
  • Certificate of Mailing for (Minute Order (COURT ORDER - REGARDING MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE:) of 04/03/2019); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/03/2019
  • Minute Order ( (COURT ORDER - REGARDING MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE:)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/19/2019
  • at 10:00 AM in Department 24; Final Status Conference - Held - Continued

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  • 03/19/2019
  • at 10:00 AM in Department 24; Jury Trial - Held - Continued

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95 More Docket Entries
  • 01/04/2017
  • Case Management Statement; Filed by Teresa Guzman (Plaintiff)

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  • 12/22/2016
  • CIVIL DEPOSIT

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  • 12/12/2016
  • Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 12/12/2016
  • NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 11/30/2016
  • DEFENDANTS' ANSWER TO PLAINTIFFS' COMPLAINT

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  • 11/30/2016
  • Answer; Filed by Leyva's Mexican Foods Inc. (Defendant); Octaviano Leyva (Defendant)

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  • 11/04/2016
  • PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT

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  • 10/19/2016
  • COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES FOR: 1. WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY; ETC

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  • 10/19/2016
  • Complaint; Filed by Lourdes Avila (Plaintiff); Teresa Guzman (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/19/2016
  • SUMMONS

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC637544    Hearing Date: October 20, 2020    Dept: 24

Defendants Leyva’s Mexican Foods Inc. and Octaviano Leyva’s motion for a protective order is GRANTED. Sanctions are imposed against Plaintiff’s counsel of record in the reduced total amount of $3,375.00.

On October 19, 2016, Plaintiff Teresa Guzman (“Plaintiff”) commenced this Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”)/employment action against Defendants Leyva’s Mexican Foods Inc. and Octaviano Leyva (“Defendants”). The operative Complaint alleges 10 causes of action for: 1) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; 2) retaliation; 3) failure to pay wages; 4) failure to pay minimum wages; 5) failure to pay overtime compensation; 6) failure to provide itemized wage statements; 7) waiting time penalties; 8) unfair competition; 9) PAGA; and 10) failure to permit inspection of personnel and payroll records.

On August 31, 2020, Defendants filed a motion for protective order barring Plaintiff’s deposition of Chad Biggins (“Biggins”), Defendants’ trial counsel. On October 7, 2020, Plaintiff filed an opposition. On October 8, 2020, Defendants filed a reply.

Legal Standard 

CCP section 1987.1 provides in part: 

If a subpoena requires the attendance of a witness or the production of books, documents,¿electronically stored information, or other things before a court, or at the trial of an issue therein, or at the taking of a deposition, the court, upon motion reasonably made by any person described in subdivision (b), or upon the court's own motion after giving counsel notice and an opportunity to be heard, may make an order quashing the subpoena entirely, modifying it, or directing compliance with it upon those terms or conditions as the court shall declare, including protective orders. In addition, the court may make any other order as may be appropriate to protect the person from unreasonable or oppressive demands, including unreasonable violations of the right of privacy of the person. 

Discussion

Defendants move for a protective order, challenging Plaintiff’s attempt to depose Biggins on alleged improper contacts with aggrieved employees in violation of this Court’s order.

The deposition of opposing counsel is presumptively improper, generally restricted, and requires “extremely” good cause. (Carehouse Convalescent Hospitals v. Superior Court (2006) 143 Cal.App.4th 1558, 1560.) There are strong policy considerations against deposing an opposing counsel. (Spectra Physics, Inc. v. Superior Court (1988) 198 Cal.App.3d 1487, 1493.) Such depositions runs counter to the adversarial process, risk endless collateral disputes, risk delays to the case stemming from work-product and privilege, and may have a chilling effect on the attorney-client relationship. (Carehouse, supra, 143 Cal.App.4th at 1562–1563.) In recognition of these issues, California has applied a 3-prong test in determining the propriety of opposing attorney depositions. (Id. at 1563-1564.) One, there must be no other means in existence to obtain the information than to depose opposing counsel; two, the information sought must be relevant and not privileged; and, three, the information sought must be crucial to the preparation of the case. (Ibid.; see Spectra, supra, 198 Cal.App.3d at 1497.)

Plaintiff therefore has the burden to demonstrate good cause for this deposition considering these policies. According to Plaintiff, after the close of the Belaire-West notice process, Defendant objected to the disclosure of information pertaining to three of the six employees who had failed to timely opt out: Josefina Pineda, Miriam Medina, and Teresa Cardenas. (See Moorhead Decl., at ¶ 14, Ex. J.) Defendant’s counsel claimed that these employees had been contacted and claimed that they had timely mailed opt-outs to CPT Group, Inc. (“CPT”), the third party administrator, even though no opt-out form has ever been received by CPT for any of these three employees. (Id.) On March 30, 2020, Defendant served discovery responses that withheld information pertaining to Pineda, Medina, and Cardena, on the basis of their purported attempts to opt out. (Id., ¶ 15, Ex. K.)

On May 15, 2020, plaintiff filed a motion to compel regarding the issue. (Id., at ¶ 17, Ex. M.) At an unrelated hearing on June 24, 2020, Biggins dropped all objections to the production of this information. (Id. ¶ 18.) This was after Plaintiff and the Court expressed concern about the potential that Defendant may have improperly contacted those employees. (Id.) Biggins denied contacting the aggrieved employees himself but admitted that Leyva had had contacts with the three relevant employees. (Id.) Defendants later produced the declarations of Pineda, Medina, and Cardena, obtained in March, which aver, in an identical fashion, that these individuals mailed their opt-out forms to CPT and do not know why CPT did not receive them. (Id., ¶ 19, Ex. N.)

Plaintiff argues that this demonstrates that there is good cause to depose Biggins on improper contacts he may have had with the employees. The Court disagrees. As to prong one, there are adequate, less intrusive avenues to obtain this information. This may be from one or more of the other employees that may have been improperly contacted. While the specific information regarding these contacts may be not be privileged or work product, there is still a substantial risk of related questions arising from the alleged coordination between Defendants and counsel. Further, the deposition would not appear to have any practical consequences. Biggins unambiguously denies such contacts in his sworn declaration. (See Biggins Decl., ¶ 3.) To the extent that Plaintiff believes that this is a lie or perjury, what would prevent Biggins from simply repeating this lie at deposition? He would necessarily have to repeat this position. Thus, Biggins’s deposition would not render any useful information on this point. The better source—

indeed, the more reliable source—would be to go to the employees themselves or Leyva. If further information demonstrates improper contacts with Biggins, then Plaintiff may make a motion. Until then, Plaintiff’s claims remain speculative, and thus do not constitute good cause to take counsel’s deposition.

Accordingly, Defendant’s motion is GRANTED. The deposition is not to be taken at all. (CCP § 2025.420(b)(1).)

Sanctions are mandatory, unless the party subject to the sanction acted with substantial justification or that other circumstances make the imposition of the sanction unjust. (CCP § 2025.420(h).) The Court will address sanctions at the hearing.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Case Number: BC637544    Hearing Date: June 24, 2020    Dept: 24

Plaintiff Teresa Guzman’s motion for monetary sanctions is GRANTED in part. Plaintiff’s motions for issue, evidentiary, and terminating sanctions is DENIED.

On October 19, 2016, Plaintiff Teresa Guzman (“Plaintiff”) commenced this Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”)/employment action against Defendants Leyva’s Mexican Foods Inc. and Octaviano Leyva (“Defendants”). The operative Complaint alleges 10 causes of action for: 1) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; 2) retaliation; 3) failure to pay wages; 4) failure to pay minimum wages; 5) failure to pay overtime compensation; 6) failure to provide itemized wage statements; 7) waiting time penalties; 8) unfair competition; 9) PAGA; and 10) failure to permit inspection of personnel and payroll records.

On February 11, 2020, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for Terminating, Evidentiary, Issue, or Monetary Sanctions for failure to comply with the Court’s discovery orders. On March 20, 2020, Defendants filed an opposition. On April 13, 2020, Plaintiff filed a reply.

Legal Standard

If a party fails to obey a court order compelling it to provide a discovery response, “the court may make those orders that are just, including the imposition of an issue sanction, an evidence sanction, or a terminating sanction . . . In lieu of or in addition to this sanction, the court may impose a monetary sanction . . . .” (CCP §§ 2030.290(c), 2030.300(e), 2031.300(c), 2031.320(c).) Misuse of the discovery process, which includes disobeying a court order to provide discovery, is conduct subject to sanctions. (CCP § 2023.010(g).) Possible sanctions are:

(a) [A] monetary sanction ordering that one engaging in the misuse of the discovery process, or any attorney advising that conduct, or both pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, incurred by anyone as a result of that conduct….

(b) [A]n issue sanction ordering that designated facts shall be taken as established in the action in accordance with the claim of the party adversely affected by the misuse of the discovery process. The court may also impose an issue sanction by an order prohibiting any party engaging in the misuse of the discovery process from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses.

(c) [A]n evidence sanction by an order prohibiting any party engaging in the misuse of the discovery process from introducing designated matters in evidence.

(d) [A] terminating sanction by one of the following orders:

(1) An order striking out the pleadings or parts of the pleadings of any party engaging in the misuse of the discovery process.

(2) An order staying further proceedings by that party until an order for discovery is obeyed.

(3) An order dismissing the action, or any part of the action, of that party.

(4) An order rendering a judgment by default against that party.

(e) [A] contempt sanction by an order treating the misuse of the discovery process as a contempt of court.

(CCP § 2023.030 [emphasis added].)

The party seeking to impose sanctions need only show the failure to obey earlier discovery orders. (Puritan Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (1985) 171 Cal.App.3d 877, 884 [interpreting former statute dealing with “refusal” to comply].) However, numerous cases hold that severe sanctions (i.e., terminating or evidentiary sanctions) for failure to comply with a court order are allowed only where the failure was willful. (See R.S. Creative, Inc. v. Creative Cotton, Ltd. (1999) 75 Cal.App.4th 486, 495; Vallbona v. Springer (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 1525, 1545; Biles v. Exxon Mobil Corp. (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1327.) The burden of proof then shifts to the party seeking to avoid sanctions to establish a satisfactory excuse for his or her conduct. (Corns v. Miller (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 195, 201; Williams v. Russ (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1215, 1227.)

Violation of a Court Order

Plaintiff seeks sanctions based on this Courts’ January 2, 2020 order (the “Order”) regarding four of Plaintiff’s motions to compel further responses. The Order granted the motions, and required full and complete response to the following within 10 days: 1) Form Interrogatories 1.1, 12.5, and 16.1; 2) Special Interrogatories 3- 4, 9-10, 12-17 and 22-28; and 3) Requests for Production of Documents 9-14, 20-22, and 25-34. The Order specifically conditioned the following responses on the completion of the Belaire-West notice process: 1) Special Interrogatories 1-2 and 5-8; and 2) Requests for Production of Documents 23-24.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendants and Biggins have been resisting complying with Plaintiff’s PAGA discovery for months, since at least the July 11, 2019 FSC. (See Moorhead Decl., ¶ 8.) Plaintiff contends that Defendants have flouted several Court orders to provide the requested discovery. (See Moorhead Decl., ¶¶ 9-13 & Exs. A-B.) Plaintiff states that they were required to file motions to compel to even receive responses. (See Moorhead Decl., ¶ 12 & Ex. B.) The responses that Plaintiff finally received were grossly inadequate, forcing Plaintiff to engage in a lengthy meet and confer process that only resulted what they contend are evasive and defective responses. (See Moorhead Decl., ¶¶ 14-16 & Exs. D-F.) For these tasks, Plaintiff’s counsel incurred about $8,600 in attorney time. (See Moorhead Decl., ¶ 19-22.)

Essentially, Plaintiff argues that Defendants violated the Order by failing to provide full and complete response to the following SRGs and RPDs. Each will be discussed in turn.

SRG 12 asks: “DESCRIBE... or list all job titles or job positions that were compensated as ‘non-exempt’...” Defendants’ response was: “No job titles. Further response: The employees are food preparers.” To illustrate for Defendants, a clear and compliant response would be either: 1) “None” or 2) “The following job titles/positions were non-exempt:…” and a following list of titles or positions. Admittedly, “no job titles” is slightly ambiguous, given that it does not explicitly state whether there were any job titles or positions that were non-exempt. However, the response does essentially state “none,” i.e. “no job titles” are exempt. The Court otherwise agrees that the supplemental response is essentially a non-sequitur. In any event, sanctions will not be imposed for this response given the adequate initial response.

SRG 15 asks for documents that set forth and reflect Defendants’ policies and practices of paying overtime. It requests: “IDENTIFY... all DOCUMENTS that evidence LEYVA’S policies and procedures regarding payment of overtime compensation to AGGRIEVED EMPLOYEES during the [relevant period].” The further response was that “Posters which are attached and incorporated herein... The posters were included with the production. They are the standard posters in use in every business and by reference to posters, that includes the other postings such as the wage order, which was part of the photos of the posters and the full document is attached hereto.” Plaintiff argues that the posters are illegible and this response fails to identify Aggrieved employees wage statements that must evidence overtime compensation and the other documents that Defendants contend they maintain. Indeed, the posters, except for the copy of the wage order, are illegible. Of course, this interrogatory only asks to identify such documents. This response does provide an identification of documents, to wit, the posters and wage order.

Plaintiff asserts that there are additional wage statements and other documents that they have not produced. Plaintiff provides no evidentiary basis for this assertion. (See Moorhead Decl., generally.) In the memorandum, Plaintiff occasionally references deposition transcripts. For example, Plaintiff argue that Ms. Leyva’s deposition transcripts demonstrate the existence of an employee handbook that Defendants failed to include in their responses, or produce. However, there is no deposition transcript provided. Thus, the Court cannot examine whether Defendants disobeyed the Order by failing to provide a full and complete response to this interrogatory or the RFPs based on omitted evidence.

SRG 16 and 17 regard Defendants’ timekeeping systems. SRG 16 states: DESCRIBE YOUR Methods, policies, or procedures regarding recording the number of hours worked... by AGGRIEVED EMPLOYEES during the [relevant time period].” SRG 17 states: IDENTIFY all DOCUMENTS that evidence LEYVA’S methods, policies, or procedures regarding recording the number of hours worked by AGGREIVED EMPLOYEES during the [relevant time period].” Defendants response is identical to both, and only references that employees use time cards to clock in and out, and a general description of how the time card process works as to all employees.

Plaintiff complains that not only have all of Plaintiff’s time cards not been produced, none of the other employees’ time cards have been produced, no employee manuals or personnel records have been produced nor were they referred to in the response. First, the Court would not find that this interrogatory requires production of the posters themselves (that will be discussed further below). The interrogatory only requires a description, and a description was provided.

The Court finds that the response adequately responds to no. 16. SRG 17 requires that they identify documents. While the response is obtuse, Defendants refer to one set of documents when answering: the time cards. If that is their response, so be it.

RFP 10 requests all documents related to policies, procedures, employment handbooks, personnel files, etc., related to employment conditions for the Aggrieved Employees. RFP 21 and 25 ask for pay records and wage statements. RFP 26 asks for all documents sent to Aggrieved Employees related to this action. Defendants’ responses to each of these RFPs reference posters and a wage order.

Each of Plaintiff’s arguments on the RFPs relate to the same issues presented in SRG 15. Plaintiff argues that Defendants failed to provide various documents they assert are in Defendants’ possession. However, there is no factual basis for these contentions. Therefore, the Court must similarly conclude that sanctions are not warranted for this purported failure. Moreover, the RFPs are technically compliant, as they assert that they will comply, and that only the posters and wage order are responsive.

However, the Court agrees that the documents provided are completely illegible. The Court finds this an abuse of discovery and a violation of the Order. The Court will require Defendants to provide legible copies of the posters. The Court finds that a reasonable sanction for this conduct would be $500.00.

Notably, RFP 24 was not due at the time this motion was made per the Order. Thus, the Court does not find it sanctionable conduct.

Additionally, Plaintiff contends that the responses are not adequately verified and were never mailed to Plaintiff’s counsel. (Moorhead Decl., ¶ 17.) Indeed, Defendants should have properly served verified responses. To the extent that this is sanctionable conduct, the Court would not find the imposition of sanctions just. These issues could have been informally resolved with minimal effort. Notably, the meet and confer effort does not reflect that these issues were discussed.

Issue and Evidentiary Sanctions

Plaintiff failed to provide for specific sanctions in the notice or motion and failed to provide a separate statement. (See CRC Rule 3.1345(a)(7).) Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for these sanctions is DENIED.

Terminating Sanctions

The Court is not inclined to grant terminating sanctions even if the Court were to adopt Plaintiff’s position wholesale. The complained of conduct simply does not arise to the level of discovery abuse required for terminating sanctions. Additionally, lesser sanctions could have obtained compliance, if those sanctions were justified.

Conclusion

Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED in part. Defendants are to produce legible copies of the posters. Further, Defendants’ counsel of record is sanctioned in the reduced total amount of $500.00, which represents the reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred regarding Defendants’ failure to produce legible copies of the posters.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

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