On 03/05/2018 MENOOA AKBARI filed a Labor - Other Labor lawsuit against JMS AIR CONDITIONING APPLIANCE SERVICE. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Van Nuys Courthouse East located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are RUPERT A. BYRDSONG, MICHAEL J. CONVEY, THERESA M. TRABER, VALERIE SALKIN and MICHAEL B. HARWIN. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Van Nuys Courthouse East
Los Angeles, California
RUPERT A. BYRDSONG
MICHAEL J. CONVEY
THERESA M. TRABER
MICHAEL B. HARWIN
JMS AIR CONDITIONING & APPLIANCE SERVICE
JAURIGUE MICHAEL JOE
LEE MAXIMILIAN KAI-YIN
12/9/2020: Order - ORDER RE: PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY RESPONSES AND MOTION TO BIFURCATE TRIAL
12/7/2020: Reply - REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY RESPONSES AND TO BIFURCATE TRIAL
11/20/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE (MSC))
11/16/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE (MSC))
8/24/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (NON-APPEARANCE CASE REVIEW)
4/23/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (NON-APPEARANCE CASE REVIEW)
2/7/2020: Notice - NOTICE NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE OF TRIAL AND FSC; NOTICE OF MSC
8/29/2019: Order - ORDER PROPOSED ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL INTERROGATORY RESPONSES
7/9/2019: Informal Discovery Conference
4/30/2019: Notice - NOTICE NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE OF HEARING AND ORDER
4/19/2018: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order
9/13/2018: Legacy Document - LEGACY DOCUMENT TYPE: FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
10/4/2018: Minute Order - Minute order entered: 2018-10-04 00:00:00
11/2/2018: Declaration - Declaration of Michael Jaurigue
12/27/2018: Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice
9/13/2018: Case Management Statement -
8/1/2018: Opposition -
8/24/2018: Case Management Statement -
Hearing02/22/2021 at 10:00 AM in Department U at 6230 Sylmar Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91401; Non-Jury TrialRead MoreRead Less
Hearing02/09/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department U at 6230 Sylmar Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91401; Final Status ConferenceRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department U, Theresa M. Traber, Presiding; Non-Jury Trial ((3-5 day est.)) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 1:30 PM in Department U, Theresa M. Traber, Presiding; Non-Jury Trial ((3-5 day est.)) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
DocketOrder (re: Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Further Discovery Responses and Motion to Bifurcate Trial); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 10:00 AM in Department U, Theresa M. Traber, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel (ReDocuments/Bifurcation) - Not Held - Rescheduled by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 10:00 AM in Department U, Theresa M. Traber, Presiding; Non-Jury Trial ((3-5 day est.)) - Not Held - Continued - Court's MotionRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 1:30 PM in Department U, Theresa M. Traber, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel (ReDocuments/Bifurcation) - HeldRead MoreRead Less
DocketCertificate of Mailing for ((Hearing on Motion to Compel Re: Documents/Bifurcation) of 12/08/2020); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Compel Re: Documents/Bifurcation)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketDefault Entered; Filed by Menooa Akbari (Plaintiff); Romik Aslanian (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketMiscellaneous; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice-Hearing; Filed by Menooa Akbari (Plaintiff); Romik Aslanian (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Service of Summons and Complaint; Filed by Menooa Akbari (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Service; Filed by Menooa Akbari (Plaintiff); Romik Aslanian (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by nullRead MoreRead Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by Menooa Akbari (Plaintiff); Romik Aslanian (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by Menooa Akbari (Plaintiff); Romik Aslanian (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketSummons-IssuedRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: LC106957 Hearing Date: December 08, 2020 Dept: U
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES - NORTHWEST DISTRICT
MENOOA AKBARI and ROMIK ASLANIAN, individually,
JMS AIR CONDITIONING AND APPLIANCE SERVICE, INC., and DOES 1 through 25, inclusive,
CASE NO: LC106957
[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE: PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY RESPONSES AND MOTION TO BIFURCATE TRIAL
December 8, 2020
Menooa Akbari (Akbari) and Romik Aslanian (Aslanian) (collectively, Plaintiffs) initiated this action against JMS Air Conditioning and Appliance Service, Inc. (Defendant) and Does 1 through 25 on March 5, 2018. Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint (FAC) on September 13, 2018, alleging claims for: (1) failure to pay overtime in violation of Labor Code sections 510 and 1194; (2) failure to provide meal periods in violation of Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512; (3) failure to provide rest breaks in violation of Labor Code section 226.7; (4) continuing wages under Labor Code section 203; (5) failure to provide adequate pay stubs in violation of Labor Code section 226; (6) failure to pay vested vacation wages in violation of Labor Code section 227.3; (7) unfair competition under Business & Professions Code section 17200, et seq.; and (8) civil penalties under Labor Code section 2698, et seq.
On November 30, 2020, Plaintiffs filed these motions to compel further discovery responses and to bifurcate trial. This case is scheduled for a 3-5 day non-jury trial on the same date as the hearing on these motions.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS & DISCUSSION
A. Motion to Compel Further Discovery
i. Meet & Confer Requirement
In accordance with Code of Civil Procedure section 2016.040, a motion to compel further responses must be accompanied by a meet and confer statement in showing a reasonable and good faith attempt at an informal resolution of each issue presented by the motion. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 2030.300(b), 2030.300(b)(1), 2031.310(b)(2), & 2033.290(b).) Plaintiffs’ counsel met and conferred with defense counsel via telephone and email for several weeks following Defendant serving its discovery responses on September 26, 2020. (Lee declaration, ¶ 7.) Defense counsel agreed to provide information and documents regarding field workers for the period of September 13, 2017 through present day. (Id., ¶ 8.) As of filing this motion, Plaintiffs have not received Defendant’s responses to their Special Interrogatory. While Defendant has produced redacted payroll reports, it has not provided other documents requested by Plaintiffs. (Id., ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs have satisfied their meet and confer obligations.
ii. Motion to Compel Further Discovery Responses
In relevant part, Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.300 provides:
(a) On receipt of a response to interrogatories, the propounding party may move for an order compelling a further response if the propounding party deems that any of the following apply:
(1) An answer to a particular interrogatory is evasive or incomplete.
(2) An exercise of the option to produce documents under Section 2030.230 is unwarranted or the required specification of those documents is inadequate.
(3) An objection to an interrogatory is without merit or too general.
(b)(1) A motion under subdivision (a) shall be accompanied by a meet and confer declaration under Section 2016.040.
(2) In lieu of a separate statement required under the California Rules of Court, the court may allow the moving party to submit a concise outline of the discovery request and each response in dispute.
A motion to compel further production must set forth specific facts showing good cause justifying the discovery sought by the inspection demand. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.310(b)(1).) It is not necessary for the motion to show that the material sought will be admissible in evidence. “Good cause” may be found to justify discovery where specific facts show that the discovery is necessary for effective trial preparation or to prevent surprise at trial. (Associated Brewers Dist. Co. v. Superior Court (1967) 65 Cal.2d 583, 586-588; Code Civ. Proc., §§ 2017.010, 2019.030(a)(1) (Information is discoverable if it is itself admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and it is not unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive.); Lipton v. Superior Court (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1599, 1611-1612 (noting a party may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, if the matter either is itself admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence).)
Here, Plaintiffs argue its single special interrogatory seeking identification and contact information of all aggrieved employees is relevant to determine the number of aggrieved employees and the amount of potential civil penalties under PAGA. Plaintiffs contend their Requests for Production seek similarly relevant documents necessary to calculate potential civil penalties under PAGA. Plaintiffs maintain Defendant’s privacy concerns are outweighed by the need for this information because Defendant’s employees would rather have their rights vindicated rather than their privacy protected. (Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531, 554.)
Plaintiffs’ Special Interrogatory requesting identifying information about all non-exempt employees of Defendant from March 5, 2017 through present day is relevant to the PAGA claims.
Defendant argues Plaintiffs’ PAGA notice only applies to current and former onsite employees and all hourly employees. Defendant contends it has provided responsive discovery responses as to these categories of employees.
Plaintiffs’ notice letter provides “Akbari and Aslanian wish to bring a representative action under PAGA on behalf of themselves and the State of California, as well as on behalf of all other aggrieved employees.” In Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. (2018) 23 Cal.App.5 745, 754, the Court upheld the trial court’s ruling that so long as the representative plaintiff was affected by at least one Labor Code violation, he can sue under PAGA to recover penalties for any alleged violation by the defendant employer, even those that did not affect him. Huff, supra, 23 Cal.App.5th at 753. Thus, PAGA enables a representative plaintiff acting on behalf of the State of California to recover all civil penalties for Labor Code violations suffered by other employees as long as the employer subjected those employees to at least one Labor Code violation. PAGA thus does not restrict representative plaintiff from seeking civil penalties only on behalf of certain employees who had substantially similar job titles or duties as the representative plaintiffs.
Therefore, the Court finds that the notice letter applies to all employees of Defendant from March 5, 2017 through the present and Defendant needs to provide responsive discovery for all such employees. Plaintiffs’ motion to compel further discovery responses is well-taken.
B. Motion to Bifurcate Trial
Bifurcation is the procedure whereby the court may order separate trials of issues or parties joined in a single action. Code of Civil Procedure section 1048(b) provides “[t]he court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition and economy, may order a separate trial of any cause of action … or of any separate issue or of any number of causes of action or issues . . . .” Granting or denying of a motion for separate trials lies within the trial court's sound discretion and is subject to reversal on appeal only for clear abuse. (Grappo v. Coventry Fin’l Corp. (1991) 235 Cal.App.3d 496, 504.)
The parties must raise the issue of separate trials, if applicable, at the case management conference and the court may take appropriate action. (California Rules of Court, Rule 3.727(10).) Alternatively, the issue may be raised on noticed motion by any party or on the court's own motion. A party seeking separate trials should request such relief as soon as the need becomes apparent. Delay may be a factor affecting the court's exercise of discretion.
Here, Plaintiffs request that the Court bifurcate Plaintiffs’ individual wage and hour claims (the individual claims) from the PAGA claims. Plaintiffs argue the trial on their individual claims should commence on December 8, 2020 and the PAGA claims should be tried later after Defendant has produced the remainder of its discovery responses. Plaintiffs argue that bifurcation would promote judicial economy because the damages sought by Plaintiffs’ individual claims are completely separate from the damages sought under the PAGA claims. Defendant has refused to produce discovery responses necessary to prove Plaintiffs’ PAGA claims. Thus, Plaintiffs reason that it would preserve judicial economy by trying the individual claims now and trying the PAGA claims later after Defendant has produced the requested information. Plaintiffs also contend that, if Plaintiffs are unable to prove they suffered individual injuries, the PAGA claims will be precluded as well.
Lastly, Plaintiffs argue there is little to no factual overlap between Plaintiffs’ individual claims and the PAGA claims. Plaintiffs contend their individual claims focus on their individual injuries while the PAGA claims will focus on Defendant’s aggrieved employees other than Plaintiffs.
Defendant requests the Court continue the trial in this action pending the resolution of the discovery dispute.
The Court concludes that bifurcation is appropriate in this case. As the Court has explained above, a plaintiff affected by at least one Labor Code violation may bring claims under PAGA for Labor Code violations experienced by other aggrieved workers employed by the same employer. (Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., supra, at pp. 753-761.) In order to advance PAGA claims on behalf of aggrieved parties, therefore, Plaintiffs must demonstrate that they themselves have suffered at least one relevant infringement of their rights under the Labor Code. Given the posture of this case, where the individual claims are ready for trial, but the PAGA claims are not, it makes sense to try Plaintiffs’ claim now and defer any trial on the PAGA claims until after the first stage of the trial and a subsequent production of documents and interrogatory answers by Defendant. If Plaintiffs are unsuccessful during the first phase of trial, there will be no need for Defendant’s production of further discovery or the second phase of trial.
Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiffs’ motion to bifurcate and orders that their individual claims should be tried forthwith, while the PAGA claims of aggrieved parties should be deferred to a subsequent trial to be set after Defendant’s production of the Court-ordered discovery.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion to bifurcate trial is GRANTED.
Plaintiffs’ motion to compel further discovery responses is GRANTED. Defendant is ordered to provide responsive discovery for all employees since March 5, 2017, within 30 days of the Court’s ruling on the first stage of trial.
Plaintiffs are ordered to give notice of the Court’s rulings.
DATED: December 8, 2020
Hon. Theresa M. Traber
Judge of the Superior Court