Lewis Brisbois Defeats Class Cert. In Trucking Case
Los Angeles Partner Paul Mata and Associate Jennifer M. Yang recently defeated a truck driver’s attempt to certify a federal class action regarding wage and hour claims asserted against a national trucking company.
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant, an over-the-road trucking company based on the East Coast, did not properly follow California wage and hour laws when its drivers entered the state of California. The plaintiff argued that class certification was proper because any employee who entered California’s borders was automatically subject to California’s wage and hour laws, regardless of whether the employee was a resident of the state and regardless of how much time they spent in California.
The trucking company argued that class certification was improper because the plaintiff had failed to show that an employer could be subject to California’s wage and hour laws when the vast majority of its employees were non-California residents and the trucking company itself was not a California company. Furthermore, the trucking company argued that the differences in driver shifts, routes, and routines would render class treatment of the putative class claims unmanageable. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California agreed in its order denying class certification.
In particular, the court placed significant emphasis on the fact that the plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting individual members.” The court found that the plaintiff failed to show significant contacts with the state of California by either the non-resident employer or its non-resident drivers. In addressing the plaintiff’s consistent misreading of California Supreme Court precedent, the district court determined that “[w]ithout producing any evidence as to California’s contacts with each class member’s claims, the Court cannot be assured that it would be ‘arbitrary nor fundamentally unfair’ to apply California law to plaintiff’s claims.” The court concluded that the plaintiff’s certification motion failed for this reason alone.
The court also determined that the plaintiff failed to establish that a class action is the superior method for adjudicating the plaintiff’s claims. Specifically, the court stated that the issues raised will require individualized inquiry into each class member’s claims and the employer’s respective defenses thereto.
The decision eliminated all class claims from the lawsuit, requiring the plaintiff to proceed with his claims on an individual basis. The decision also provides trucking companies operating with drivers in California further authority to challenge whether California’s wage and hour laws apply to non-resident drivers who enter this state.