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Ridgeway v. Walmart Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

August 6, 2019, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; January 6, 2020, Filed

Nos. 17-15983, 17-16142

Opinion

 [*1071]  SILER, Circuit Judge:

Long-haul truckers perform a vital service in the nation's economy. No wonder [**5]  then, that Wal-Mart, among the world's largest retail companies, employs hundreds of truck drivers. Still, over a decade ago, drivers in California felt that Wal-Mart did not pay them properly in accordance with California law. So they sued in a class action. After a sixteen-day trial, the jury agreed with Wal-Mart on most issues. On some claims, however, the jury sided with the class of truckers and awarded tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Now, Wal-Mart asks this panel to erase that judgment. Wal-Mart contends that the district court erred at every step along the way—in concluding that it had jurisdiction, in certifying a class, in interpreting California minimum wage law, in allowing expert testimony, and in providing jury instructions.

But it is improper for this court to play armchair district judge. In the end, while  [*1072]  Wal-Mart makes some compelling points, Wal-Mart raises no reversible error. Additionally, the district court properly concluded that liquidated damages are not owed under California law because Wal-Mart demonstrated that it acted in good faith and with a reasonable belief in the legality of its conduct. Accordingly, we AFFIRM.

I. Background

A. The Original Lawsuit, [**6]  the Stay, and the Named Plaintiffs

More than a decade ago, four truck drivers sued Wal-Mart in Alameda County Superior Court claiming Wal-Mart violated state meal and rest break laws. Those drivers worked out of several distribution centers in California that served as hubs through which Wal-Mart delivered items across the western United States. As part of their job, truckers would travel a wide range of routes, to different locations, hauling different freight. And, by industry standards, the truckers were paid well—an average of $300 per day and between $80,000 and more than $100,000 annually.

Still, drivers claimed that they were not receiving adequate minimum wage pay. Wal-Mart paid truckers through what it called an activity-based pay system. That system included pay for (1) mileage, (2) tasks that constituted "activity," such as arriving and departing a facility, as well as hooking a new trailer to the truck, and (3) hourly wages of fourteen dollars per hour for limited events like time spent waiting at a store or supplier, delays due to inclement weather, or delays caused by a truck breakdown.

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946 F.3d 1066 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 212 **; 170 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P62,017; 2020 WL 55073

CHARLES RIDGEWAY; JAIME FAMOSO; JOSHUA HAROLD; RICHARD BYERS; DAN THATCHER; WILLIE FRANKLIN; TIME OPITZ; FARRIS DAY; KARL MERHOFF, Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. WALMART INC., DBA Wal-Mart Transportation LLC, Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, Rehearing denied by, En banc Ridgeway v. Walmart Inc., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 5245 (9th Cir. Cal., Feb. 20, 2020)

Stay granted by, Motion granted by Ridgeway v. Walmart Inc., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 8190 (9th Cir. Cal., Mar. 13, 2020)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 3:08-cv-05221-SI. Susan Illston, District Judge, Presiding.

Ridgeway v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10510 (N.D. Cal., Jan. 25, 2017)Ridgway v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66228 (N.D. Cal., May 1, 2017)

CORE TERMS

drivers, layover, district court, manual, employees, rest break, inspections, minimum wage, damages, policies, argues, written policy, truckers, tasks, class member, compensated, plaintiffs', breaks, truck, named plaintiff, correctly, exercise control, partial summary judgment, jury instructions, good faith, cases, spend, liquidated damages, calculations, restrictions

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Appellate Briefs, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Business & Corporate Compliance, Transportation Law, Commercial Vehicles, Maintenance & Safety, Wage & Hour Laws, Scope & Definitions, Minimum Wage, Overtime & Work Periods, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Trials, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, Province of Court & Jury, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Trial by Jury in Civil Actions, Substantial Evidence, Sufficiency of Evidence, Carrier Duties & Liabilities, State & Local Regulation, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, Federal Preemption, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Class Members, Evidence, Admissibility, Procedural Matters, Rulings on Evidence, Prerequisites for Class Action, Commonality, Types of Evidence, Documentary Evidence, Summaries, Remedies, Damages, Labor & Employment Law, Damages, Liquidated Damages