Fierro v. Landry’s Rest. Inc., 23 Cal. App. 5th 325 (2018)

Jorge Fierro filed this class action, claiming that he and the other members of the putative class were misclassified as exempt employees and that, in fact, they were non-exempt, non-managerial employees who are owed unpaid overtime wages and penalties. Landry’s responded by filing a demurrer, claiming that the claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitation. Although Landry’s conceded that the filing of an earlier class action for these claims tolled the statute of limitations applicable to Fierro’s individual claims, it maintained that the statute was not tolled for the class claims Fierro asserted. Landry’s also contended that because the earlier class action was dismissed for failure to bring the action to trial within five years, the class claims could not be resurrected in the new action filed by Fierro. The trial court sustained the demurrer to the class claims due to the earlier dismissal based upon the five-year rule. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that Landry’s had not established that the earlier class action was in fact dismissed based upon the five-year rule and, in any event, that judgment was not final since an appeal is still pending. The Court further held that application of the American Pipe tolling doctrine saved the class claims from dismissal under California law. Compare China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 584 U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1800 (2018) (successive class action may not be filed under federal law after the original statute of limitations period has expired); see also Shine v. Williams-Sonoma, Inc., 23 Cal. App. 5th 1070 (2018) (successive class action was barred by settlement from previous class action asserted against same defendants and in which lead plaintiff participated).