On 10/17/2017 MARIA LUISA REYES filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against 795 ENTERPRISES INC. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is ROBERT B. BROADBELT. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
ROBERT B. BROADBELT
REYES MARIA LUISA
DOES 1 TO 50
795 ENTERPRISES INC
MOGHADDAMI ALI R. ESQ.
MOGHADDAMI ALI R ESQ.
EMILIO DANIEL G. ESQ.
EMILIO DANIEL G ESQ.
CORTEZ LAURIE MELISSA
2/5/2018: CIVIL DEPOSIT
2/14/2018: Minute Order
7/27/2018: NOTICE OF INFORMAL DISCOVERY CONFERENCE
8/1/2018: DECLARATION OF ANDY TORRES IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT
8/30/2018: STIPULATION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT OF DEFENDANT ANDY TORRES
9/4/2018: NOTICE OF CASE REASSIGNMENT AND OF ORDER FOR PLAINTIFF TO GIVE NOTICE
11/21/2018: Notice of Ruling
1/30/2019: Motion to Compel
10/30/2017: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
10/31/2017: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS
10/17/2017: NOTICE OF INTENT TO SEEK PUNITIVE DAMAGES (C.C.P. 425.115)
Association of Attorney; Filed by MARIA LUISA REYES (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 53, Robert B. Broadbelt, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel (Attendance and Testimony of witness at deposition, Request for Bench Warrant) - Not Held - Taken Off Calendar by PartyRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 53, Robert B. Broadbelt, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery")Read MoreRead Less
at 09:30 AM in Department 53, Robert B. Broadbelt, Presiding; Jury Trial - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 53, Robert B. Broadbelt, Presiding; Final Status Conference - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Declaration (OF ALI R. MOGHADDAMI; AND MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITION TO EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR ORDER SHORTENING TIME ETC.); Filed by MARIA LUISA REYES (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Declaration (In Support of Motion To Compel Witness At Deposition); Filed by MARIA LUISA REYES (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Motion to Compel (Motion To Compel Witness At Deposition); Filed by MARIA LUISA REYES (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 53, Robert B. Broadbelt, Presiding; Hearing on Ex Parte Application (and Motion t Continue Trial and Related Cut Off Dates or in the alternative, for Shortened Notice of the Hearing of Motion) - Held - Motion GrantedRead MoreRead Less
Notice (Notice of Ruling on Ex Parte Application); Filed by 795 ENTERPRISES INC (Defendant); MOHAMMED ASHRAF (Defendant); NAZRIN ASHRAF (Defendant) et al.Read MoreRead Less
NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCERead MoreRead Less
Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
OSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARINGRead MoreRead Less
Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by MARIA LUISA REYES (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by MARIA LUISA REYES (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
NOTICE OF INTENT TO SEEK PUNITIVE DAMAGES (C.C.P. 425.115)Read MoreRead Less
SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES FOR: 1. HARASSMENT IN VIOLATION OF GOV T CODE 12925(D), 12926(D) 12940(J); ETCRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC679972 Hearing Date: March 25, 2021 Dept: 61
Plaintiff Maria Luisa Reyes’s Motion to Permit Financial Condition Discovery under Civil Code § 3295 is DENIED. No sanctions are awarded.
Defendants to provide notice.
I. MOTION FOR LEAVE TO CONDUCT FINANCIAL CONDITION DISCOERY
Discovery as to the financial condition of a defendant for the purposes of establishing the suitability of a punitive damages award under Civil Code § 3294 cannot proceed “unless the court enters an order permitting such discovery,” and then only after “the court finds, on the basis of the supporting and opposing affidavits presented, that the plaintiff has established that there is a substantial probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim pursuant to Section 3294.” (Civ. Code § 3295, subd. (c).) ““In this context, a substantial probability of prevailing on a claim for punitive damages means that it is very likely that the plaintiff will prevail on such a claim or there is a strong likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on such a claim.” (I-CA Enterprises, Inc. v. Palram Americas, Inc. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 257, 283, quotation marks omitted.) This is different from a finding that the evidence is sufficient to maintain a plaintiff’s case against summary judgment, and the court must weigh the evidence presented by both sides to reach its decision. (See Jabro v. Superior Court (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 754, 758.)
The basis for Plaintiff’s motion is as follows. She has served eight document requests upon Defendant 795 Enterprises, her employer, and eight more document requests upon Defendants Mohammed Ashraf and Nazrin Ashraf, who own 795 Enterprises, and whom Plaintiff alleges are liable by the doctrine of alter ego. (FAC ¶ 8.) From 795 Enterprises, the requests seek income and profit statements, documents identifying indebtedness, business plans, asset itemizations, bank statements, and state and federal tax documents. (Motion Exh. H.) From the Ashraf Defendants, Plaintiff sought documents evidencing net worth and financial condition, documents showing indebtedness, documents showing payments from 795 Enterprises, and others. (Motion Exh. G.)
Defendants responded to these requests with objections contending the requests sought financial condition discovery without leave of court under section 3295. (Motion Exh. I.)
Plaintiff contends that financial condition discovery is permissible under section 3295 because it is very likely that she will prevail on her claim for punitive damages against the named defendants. Plaintiff presents her deposition testimony concerning the many instances of unwanted sexual advances and touching inflicted upon her by defendant Andy Torres. (Motion Exh. C.) She also presents the testimony of another co-worker to whom Torres also directed unwanted and explicit sexual advances. (Motion Exh. D.) Plaintiff also presents evidence that Torres was a “managing agent” of 795 Enterprises such that his conduct is sufficient to attribute liability to that corporate defendant. (Motion at pp. 1–3.) This is because Torres was the sole manager of the Tujunga IHOP location that was the sole business of 795 Enterprises, and it was he who was entrusted with the day-to-day power of enacting the policies of the corporation. (Motion Exh. A at pp. 43–44; Exh. B at pp. 68–69.)
In response, Defendants highlight the following evidence. They point out that Plaintiff testified that she worked with Torres at another location without incident before coming to the Tujunga IHOP. (Opposition at p. 2.) They note that 795 Enterprises has a zero-tolerance harassment policy. (Opposition at pp. 2–3.) Defendant Mohammad Ashraf contends that Plaintiff never reported any harassment to him, that he did not know of any workplace injury until Plaintiff’s attorney sent a letter. (Mohammad Decl. ¶¶ 21, 24–25.) Mohammad also denies that Torres possessed check-signing authority or the authority to make or change company policy. (Mohammad Decl. ¶¶ 33–34.) They point to testimony by Torres denying any unwelcome sexual contact and claiming that Plaintiff voluntarily resigned after he discussed with her the availability of accommodations for her claimed injury. (Mohammad Decl. Exh. 5.) Defendants also present the testimony of Martha Guardarrama, who says that Plaintiff spoke to her about another lawsuit brought by an acquaintance against IHOP, and that Plaintiff thought such a suit might be a good way of making money. (Opposition at pp. 4–5.)
Defendants also cite procedural difficulties with this motion. Specifically, they note that similar discovery requests to the one at issue were served in October 2018, and the time has run in which to seek further responses on that discovery. (Motion at pp. 14–15.) Furthermore, Defendants note that they served their objections to the discovery presently at issue in November 2020, and that the deadline for a motion to compel further responses to those requests was January 27, 2021. (Opposition at p. 15.) Thus, the present motion, filed on March 1, 2021, was one month late.
Defendants are correct in part on their procedural argument. To the extent Plaintiff seeks to compel further responses from Defendants to the particular discovery requests at issue, the motion is governed by the deadlines set forth in the Discovery Act. As such, since the motion is untimely under Code of Civil Procedure § 2031.310, the court is without authority to rule upon Plaintiffs’ requests for further responses “other than to deny them.” (Sexton v. Superior Court (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1410.)
This does not mean, however, that the court lacks authority to grant Plaintiff leave to conduct financial condition discovery under Civil Code § 3295, based on potential discovery other than that already propounded upon Defendants. Such an order is not based on particular discovery requests, which would remain otherwise subject to the Discovery Act, but on a showing of likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the claims. (Civ. Code § 3295, subd. (b).) Since such a showing is not necessarily connected to the service of any particular discovery, the passage of the deadline for the particular requests identified in the motion is not fatal to Plaintiff’s argument.
However, the evidence presented is not sufficient to allow the discovery that Plaintiff seeks here. First, there has been no showing of a likelihood of prevailing against the Ashraf Defendants by virtue of their conduct or their ownership of 795 Enterprises. Plaintiff presents no evidence that they directed or ratified Torres’s conduct, or that they were otherwise aware of it while it occurred. Although Plaintiff alleges alter ego liability against them via 795 Enterprises, Plaintiff presents no evidence for this court to conclude that it is substantially likely to prove their liability for punitive damages in that fashion. Thus, the motion is DENIED as to the Ashraf Defendants.
The motion is a closer case with respect to 795 Enterprises. Plaintiff has presented compelling evidence that Torres is a “managing agent” of 795 Enterprises under Civil Code § 3294. A managing agent is someone with “substantial discretionary authority over decisions that ultimately determine corporate policy” (Davis v. Kiewit Pacific Co. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 358, 369.) And while Torres did not directly draft any corporate policy, he was the only day-to-day manager of 795 Enterprises’ sole business: the Tujunga IHOP franchise. In this respect, he had the power to hire, train, discipline, and fire employees, direct their schedules, their duties, and other matters. (Motion Exh. B at pp. 67–68.) Although 795 Enterprises’ written policies may have been drafted by the Ashraf Defendants, it was Torres, in practice, who had the ultimate day-to-day discretion to interpret and enforce them. This practical power over company policy is akin to the activity of a managing agent. (See Davis v. Kiewit Pacific Co. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 358, 372 [holding that supervisor with authority to enforce anti-discrimination policies could be managing agent].)
This notwithstanding, the evidence is insufficient to conclude that Plaintiff is “very likely” to prevail upon her claim for punitive damages. Plaintiff’s claims for harassment and wrongful termination are supported by her own testimony. Her claim for harassment is corroborated by the “me too” testimony of Denise Coronado. (Motion Exh. D.) At the same time, Torres denies that he harassed Plaintiff, and testifies that instead of firing her, she walked off the job. Plaintiff’s credibility may be called into question by the testimony of Martha Guadarrama, who says that Plaintiff discussed suing IHOP as a means of making money. (Opposition Exh. 10.) Weighing the evidence together, there is not a “strong likelihood” that Plaintiff will be able to obtain punitive damages.
Accordingly, the motion is DENIED.
The Ashraf Defendants ask for $6,375.00 in sanctions against Plaintiff under Code of Civil Procedure § 2031.310, representing 15 hours of attorney work at $425.00 per hour. (Hacohen Decl. ¶ 19.) The court finds that no sanctions are warranted, since this motion is properly characterized as one under Civil Code § 3295, rather than the Discovery Act.
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