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Williams v. Superior Court

Supreme Court of California

July 13, 2017, Filed

S227228

Opinion

 [***477]  [**74]   WERDEGAR, J.—This is a representative action seeking civil penalties on behalf of the State of California and aggrieved employees statewide for [*538]  alleged wage and hour violations. [****3]  (See Lab. Code, § 2698 et seq.; the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004; hereafter PAGA.) In the course of discovery, plaintiff Michael Williams sought contact information for fellow California employees. When the defendant employer, Marshalls of CA, LLC, resisted, Williams filed a motion to compel. The trial court granted the motion as to the store where Williams worked, but denied it as to every other California store, conditioning any renewed motion for discovery on Williams sitting for a deposition and showing some merit to the underlying action. Williams petitioned the Court of Appeal to compel the trial court to vacate its discovery order. The Court of Appeal denied the writ, and we granted review to consider  [***478]  the scope of discovery available in PAGA actions.

CA(1)(1) In the absence of privilege, the right to discovery in this state is a broad one, to be construed liberally so that parties may ascertain the strength of their case and at trial the truth may be determined. Our prior decisions and those of the Courts of Appeal firmly establish that in non-PAGA class actions, the contact information of those a plaintiff purports to represent is routinely discoverable as an essential prerequisite to effectively [****4]  seeking group relief, without any requirement that the plaintiff first show good cause. Nothing in the characteristics of a PAGA suit, essentially a qui tam action filed on behalf of the state to assist it with labor law enforcement, affords a basis for restricting discovery more narrowly. Nor, on this record, do other objections interposed in the trial court support the trial court's order. We reverse.

Factual and Procedural Background

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3 Cal. 5th 531 *; 398 P.3d 69 **; 220 Cal. Rptr. 3d 472 ***; 2017 Cal. LEXIS 5124 ****; 27 Wage & Hour Cas. (BNA) 687; 167 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P61,802; 2017 WL 2980258

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; MARSHALLS OF CA, LLC, Real Party in Interest.

Subsequent History: Reported at Williams v. Superior Court, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 5658 (Cal., July 13, 2017)

On remand at, Writ granted by Williams v. Superior Court, 17 Cal.App.5th 274, 224 Cal.Rptr.3d 926 (Cal. App. 2d Dist., Nov. 15, 2017)

Prior History:  [****1] Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC503806, William F. Highberger, Judge. Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division One, No. B259967.

Williams v. Superior Court, 236 Cal. App. 4th 1151, 187 Cal. Rptr. 3d 321, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 421 (Cal. App. 2d Dist., May 15, 2015)

CORE TERMS

discovery, contact information, employees, disclosure, trial court, interrogatories, aggrieved employee, violations, privacy, cases, notice, privacy interest, fellow employee, class action, statewide, compelling interest, allegations, discoverable, representative action, invasion of privacy, private information, right to privacy, compelling need, good cause, conditioning, policies, parties, fellow, abuse of discretion, civil penalty

Civil Procedure, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery, Motions to Compel, Relevance of Discoverable Information, Methods of Discovery, Interrogatories, Undue Burdens in Discovery, Labor & Employment Law, Wage & Hour Laws, Remedies, Private Suits, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Protective Orders, Constitutional Law, Substantive Due Process, Privacy, Personal Information, Record on Appeal, Standards of Review