Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mora v. Big Lots: Court Affirms Denial of Class Certification in Store Manager Class Action

In Mora v. Big Lots Stores, Inc. (4/18/11) --- Cal.App.4th ----, 2011 WL 1466322, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court (Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Ann I. Jones) did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to certify a class of Big Lots store managers who alleged wage and hour and UCL violations as a result of their being deemed "exempt" employees. The opinion covers a number of points, including the following:

The trial court did not use improper criteria in denying class certification based on its finding that the evidence presented “plainly and inescapably established” that Big Lots does not “operate its stores or supervise its managers in a uniform and standardized manner” Slip. op. at 8.

Plaintiffs' expert witness's declaration that a survey could be done to establish that class members were categorically misclassified as exempt employees "did nothing to refute the evidence presented by Big Lots that it did not operate its stores or supervise its managers in a uniform and standardized manner." Slip. op. at 8.

Substantial evidence supported the trial court's decision. The trial court did not err in discounting the class members' declarations, given "the lack of detail in the putative class members' declarations and the similarity in the wording of many declarations, as well as the discrepancies between the former managers' deposition testimony and their declarations." Slip op. at 9. It also did not err in considering the employer's observational study, conducted by Robert W. Crandall. Slip op. at 9-10.

The trial court did not commit prejudicial error in overruling the plaintiffs' objections to the declarations of Mr. Crandall and Lloyd Aubry, although Mr. Aubry "arguably exceeded the proper bounds of expert testimony when he opined the case is not amenable to class treatment..." Slip op. at 10-11. Nor did the court err in admitting defendant's "summary of evidence," a mix of evidence and argument that the plaintiffs apparently counteracted in the trial court. Slip op. at 11.

Although the trial court erred in sustaining objections to some of the plaintiffs' evidence, the errors did not prejudice the plaintiffs. Slip op. at 12.

The opinion is available here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.