05 Apr 2018 Ninth Circuit Upholds Sanctions Against Law Firm
In an employment law case proceeding through a California federal district court, an interlocutory appeal regarding sanctions was recently upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is an important development for the ever-increasing threat employers face over state wage law violations and accompanying lawsuits.
For anyone doing business in the state of California, it comes as no surprise that this state has some of the strictest, and worker-friendliest employment laws in the country. As their advocates point out, many of the protections afforded by California law are important to prevent abuse of an employee. In many cases, however, well-meaning employers end up facing expensive and costly lawsuits as a result of minor infractions.
Hospital Sued by Two Nurses
In the case we are discussing today, two nurses brought a wage and hour class action lawsuit against their employer, a hospital. As part of their lawsuit, the nurses sought class certification predicated on certain claims that were verified by an expert witness. This is common in these kinds of suits.
Once a lawsuit has begun, it enters into what is known in the legal field as the discovery process. That process requires each party to divulge all of the relevant and potentially relevant material in their possession so a just and proper outcome may result from the case. In addition, each party to a lawsuit in the discovery phase has the opportunity to question the potential witness through depositions.
Refusal to Comply and Sanctions
This discovery process is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of those involved in the justice system. It comes with a great responsibility to comply by those who are involved in a lawsuit. When a party fails to comply, it can often lead to sanctions, adverse inferences, and other negative rulings from a court and put a winning proposition in jeopardy.
That is what happened in this case. The two nurses made an employment violation claim against their employers and backed those allegations, in part, with the assertions of expert witnesses. When the defendants tried to question those witnesses through deposition, the plaintiffs failed to make good faith efforts to comply with the ordered deposition. Pushing aside excuses made by counsel, the Court of Appeals found that counsel ignored the order.
As a result of their noncompliance through the discovery phase of the lawsuit, the magistrate in the case ordered sanctions against those bringing the lawsuit. Those sanctions cost their law firm $15,000. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling and reiterated much of what we have discussed here in this blog – that the power of discovery is important, and must be complied with to avoid any negative consequences at trial.
Your California Employment Law Firm
As your company faces these and similar challenges in the California employment landscape, you will need the advice and representation of an experienced, qualified law firm. That is what we offer your company at The Royse Law Firm. Our employment law practice is dedicated to helping your company thrive in uncertainty. Employment law in California is complex and can be costly if dealt with incorrectly. Contact us today.
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