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Puerto v. Superior Court

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven

January 15, 2008, Filed

B199631

Opinion

 [**703]  ZELON, J.—Petitioners Jason Puerto, Jeffrey Armstrong, Thomas J. Baer, Charles Allen Schreck, Kelvin Nettleton, John Heim, Dennis Tucker, and Christopher Michael Williamson filed suit against their former employer, Wild Oats Markets, Inc., alleging wage and hour violations. During discovery, the trial court partially granted a motion to compel Wild Oats to provide the telephone numbers and addresses of individuals previously identified by name by Wild Oats in response to a form interrogatory, adopting a procedure to protect their privacy by sending a notice that would have required those individuals to fill in a postcard authorizing a third  [***2] party administrator to disclose their addresses and phone numbers to petitioners. We conclude that the opt-in notice unduly hampers petitioners in conducting discovery to which they are entitled by erecting obstacles that not only exceed the protections necessary to adequately guard the privacy rights of the employees involved but also exceed the discovery protections given by law to far more sensitive personal information. Based on this conclusion, we hold that the trial court abused its discretion, and grant the writ.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Petitioners worked in Wild Oats stores. In October 2006, they filed suit against Wild Oats alleging, inter alia, unlawful nonpayment of overtime compensation, failure to compensate for all hours worked, and unfair business practices. Petitioners' claims arose from their alleged misclassification as exempt employees.

A. Discovery Request

In October 2006, each petitioner served written discovery on Wild Oats that included Judicial Council of California Form Interrogatory No. 12.1 (Form Interrogatory No. 12.1), which requested that Wild Oats: “State the  [*1246]  name, ADDRESS, and telephone number of each individual: [¶] (a) who witnessed the INCIDENT or the events occurring immediately before or after the INCIDENT;  [***3] [¶] (b) who made any statement at the scene of the INCIDENT; [¶] (c) who heard any statements made about the INCIDENT by any individual at the scene; and [¶] (d) who YOU OR ANYONE ACTING ON YOUR BEHALF claim has knowledge of the INCIDENT (except for expert witnesses covered by Code of Civil Procedure section 2034).” The capitalized terms were defined in the interrogatory definitions. “INCIDENT” was defined as “The alleged claims, events and causes of action set forth in plaintiff's complaint.” “YOU OR ANYONE ACTING ON YOUR BEHALF” included “you, your agents, your employees, your insurance companies, their agents, their employees, your attorneys, your accountants, your investigators, and anyone else acting on your behalf.” The term “ADDRESS” was defined to mean “the street address, including the city, state, and zip code.”

B. Wild Oats's Responses

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158 Cal. App. 4th 1242 *; 70 Cal. Rptr. 3d 701 **; 2008 Cal. App. LEXIS 48 ***

JASON PUERTO et al., Petitioners, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; WILD OATS MARKETS, INC., Real Party in Interest.

Subsequent History: Decision reached on appeal by Schreck v. Wild Oats Mkts., Inc., 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1142 (Cal. App. 2d Dist., Feb. 19, 2014)

Prior History:  [***1] Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC359723, Ronald M. Sohigian, Judge.

CORE TERMS

discovery, contact information, witnesses, disclosure, employees, privacy, trial court, superior court, form interrogatory, opt-in, addresses and telephone numbers, right to privacy, interrogatory, telephone number, petitioners', intrusion, parties, records, potential witness, circumstances, consumer, nonparty, percipient witness, responses, disclose, subpoena, privacy interest, cases, witness identification, employment record

Civil Procedure, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Relevance of Discoverable Information, Protective Orders, Constitutional Law, Substantive Due Process, Privacy, Personal Information, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, General Overview, Legal Ethics, Legal Services Marketing, Contact With Prospective Clients