Pablo v. ServiceMaster Global Holdings, Inc. et al

Filing 344


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1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 RUBEN PABLO, BONNIE COURSEY, and JOHN BAHR, United States District Court For the Northern District of California 11 12 13 ORDER RE: AVAILABILITY OF PUNITIVE DAMAGES FOR CLAIMS BROUGHT BY PLAINTIFF BAHR Plaintiffs, 10 No. C 08-03894 SI v. SERVICEMASTER GLOBAL HOLDINGS, INC., et al., Defendants. / 14 15 On October 11, 2011, the Court held a final pretrial conference in the above captioned matter, 16 which is set for jury trial beginning October 24, 2011. The Court issued its final pretrial scheduling 17 order on October 12, 2011, wherein, inter alia, the Court denied plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend 18 plaintiffs Pablo and Coursey’s complaint to add claims for punitive damages. (Doc. 339). Defendants 19 thereafter sent a letter to the Court requesting advisement as to how it should proceed to preclude a 20 punitive damages claim regarding the remaining plaintiff Bahr, whose separate amended complaint 21 contained a claim for punitive damages. (Doc. 340). Defendants asked the Court whether additional 22 briefing was required. Id. Plaintiffs responded with a letter stating that “no further briefing is 23 necessary,” and arguing that punitive damages are appropriate for their claims regarding failure to pay 24 Bahr overtime. (Doc. 341) The Court will resolve this matter without additional briefing. 25 Under California law, when a new right not existing at common law is created by statute, 26 punitive damages are unavailable. (Doc. 341) (citing Turnbull & Turnbull v. ARA Transp., Inc., 219 27 Cal. App. 3d 811, 826-27 (Ct. App. 1990)). California Labor Code Section 1194, allowing for claims 28 for failure to pay to pay overtime, is one such right. Cal. Labor Code § 1194 (providing recovery for the unpaid balance of the overtime compensation, including interest, reasonable attorney’s fees, and 2 costs of suit); see, e.g., Gentry v. Superior Court, 42 Cal. 4th 443, 471 (2007) (“[E]xemplary damages 3 are not available in overtime suits.”); Green v. Party City Corp., 2002 WL 553219 (C.D. Cal., 2002). 4 However, plaintiffs seek to circumvent this rule by arguing that claims for overtime are equivalent to 5 conversion, a common law tort. (Doc. 341). Every court that has examined this argument, including 6 this one, has rejected it. Santiago v. Amdocs, Inc., 2011 WL 1303395 (N.D.Cal. Apr. 2, 2011) 7 (dismissing a conversion claim because “cases consistently hold that a plaintiff cannot bring a 8 conversion claim based solely on statutory wage and hour violations.”); see also Madrigal v. Thommy 9 Baham Gropup, Inc., 2010 WL 4384235 (C.D.Cal. Oct. 18, 2010) (noting that “several courts have 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 1 expressly concluded that employees cannot bring a claim for conversion based on the failure to pay 11 overtime wages under the Labor Code because the Labor Code’s remedies are exclusive.”) 12 Defendants’ request to preclude jury instructions allowing punitive damages is GRANTED. 13 14 IT IS SO ORDERED. 15 16 Dated: October 18, 2011 SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2

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