The California Supreme Court has issued its much-anticipated decision in Estrada v. Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc., determining whether Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims can be dismissed as unmanageable.  The Court affirmed a lower court’s decision, holding that “trial courts lack inherent authority to strike PAGA claims on manageability grounds”—that is, trial courts may not “dismiss [them] with prejudice.”  Slip op. at 1-2.  In so holding, the Supreme Court overruled Wesson v. Staples the Office Superstore, LLC, 68 Cal. App. 5th 746 (2021).

The Court was careful to limit its decision to the question of whether trial courts can dismiss PAGA claims as unmanageable, but it assiduously avoided interfering with trial judges’ discretion to control their dockets.  Thus, it expressly “le[ft] undisturbed various case management tools” short of dismissing claims outright.  Slip op. at 45.  In doing so, the Court expressly endorsed lower court decisions holding that trial courts may “limit the evidence to be presented at trial or otherwise limit the scope of the PAGA claim.”  Id. at 42-43 (quoting Woodworth v. Loma Linda Univ. Med. Ctr., 93 Cal. App. 5th 1038, 1070 (2023)).  And it observed that because trial courts have the ability to limit evidence or claims, “it behooves the PAGA plaintiff to ensure that trial of the action is manageable[.]”  Id. at 43.

Because the California Supreme Court left intact trial courts’ inherent authority to control their own dockets in the face of unwieldy PAGA claims, the ultimate impact of Estrada may prove to be relatively minor.  Many trial courts already proactively work with litigants to manage individualized issues in PAGA cases, including by requiring plaintiffs to submit trial plans at an early practicable time.  Nothing in Estrada casts any doubt on the propriety of these practices.  Thus, employers should take the ruling as a tacit encouragement to continue to be assertive about limiting PAGA claims to a scope that allows parties and courts to manage individualized issues, even if outright dismissal is no longer on the table.  As we wrote in an earlier blog post, during oral argument for this case, several California Supreme Court justices expressed concern over denying trial courts the ability to limit (rather than strike) PAGA claims to ensure manageability.

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.

Photo of Gregory Knopp Gregory Knopp

Gregory (Greg) Knopp is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department in the Los Angeles office.

Greg defends companies in class and collective actions and other complex disputes. He has argued successfully before state and federal courts across the country and…

Gregory (Greg) Knopp is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department in the Los Angeles office.

Greg defends companies in class and collective actions and other complex disputes. He has argued successfully before state and federal courts across the country and has obtained dismissals of class actions in dozens of high-profile, highly consequential matters.

Greg’s clients range from entertainment companies to prominent retailers to professional sports leagues. He has also worked with financial services and other professional services firms, along with clients in the technology, transportation and healthcare spaces. All look to Greg for his ability to quickly spot legal issues and to determine strategies to maximize advantage.

With more than 20 years of experience in employment litigation, Greg has represented clients in a wide range of employment disputes involving wage and hour issues, issues specific to California employment law, sexual harassment, and arbitration compulsion.

Photo of Jonathan Slowik Jonathan Slowik

Jonathan Slowik is a special counsel in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

Photo of David Gobel David Gobel

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of Interdisciplinary Law, and part of the executive committee of USC’s Music Law Society. Prior to law school, David worked as a research executive for a marketing research firm in New York.