Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Supreme Court
Seabright Ins. v. US Airways
This case stemmed from injuries Anthony Verdon Lujan sustained when his arm got caught on a luggage conveyor when he was inspecting the conveyor as an employee of Lloyd W. Aubry Co. (Aubrey), an independent contractor hired by US Airways to maintain and repair the conveyor. Aubry's workers' compensation insurer paid Verdon benefits based on the injury and subsequently sued US Airways seeking what it paid in benefits. Verdon intervened as plaintiff in the action, alleging causes of action for negligence and premises liability. At issue was whether the Privette v. Superior Court rule applied when the party that hired the contractor (the hirer) failed to comply with workplace requirements concerning the precise subject matter of the contract and the injury was alleged to have occurred as a consequence of that failure. The court held that the Privette rule did apply in that circumstance. The court concluded that, by hiring an independent contractor, the hirer implicitly delegated to the contractor any tort law duty it owed to the contractor's employees to ensure the safety of the specific workplace that was the subject of the contract. That implicit delegation included any tort law duty the hirer owed to the contractor's employees to comply with applicable statutory or regulatory safety requirements. Accordingly, plaintiffs here could not recover in tort from US Airways on a theory that Verdon's workplace injury resulted from defendant's breach of what plaintiffs described as a nondelegable duty under California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 (OSHA), Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, sections 3999, 4002, regulations to provide safety guards on the conveyor. Therefore, the court erred in reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for defendant.
Baker v. Workers’ Comp. App. Bd.
In this case, the court construed Labor Code section 4659(c), which provided for the annual indexing of two categories of workers' compensation benefits, total permanent disability and life pension payments, to yearly increases in the state's average weekly wage (SAWW), so that lifetime disability payments made to the most seriously injured workers would keep pace with inflation. The indexing procedure was sometimes referred to as an "escalator," or one providing for "cost of living adjustments" (COLA's). At issue was whether the operative language of section 4659(c) required the annual COLA's for total permanent disability and life pension payments to be calculated (1) prospectively from the January 1 following the year in which the worker became "entitled to receive a life pension or total disability indemnity," (when the payments actually commenced); (2) retroactively to January 1 following the year in which the worker sustained the industrial injury; or (3) retroactively to January 2004, in every case involving a qualifying industrial injury, regardless of the date of injury or the date the first benefit payment became due. Applying fundamental rules of statutory construction, the court held that the Legislature intended that COLA's be calculated and applied prospectively commencing on the January 1 following the date on which the injured worker first became entitled to receive, and actually began receiving, such benefits payments, i.e., the permanent and stationary date in the case of total permanent disability benefits, and the date on which partial permanent disability benefits became exhausted in the case of life pension payments.
California Grocers Assoc. v. City of Los Angeles
Plaintiff filed a complaint against the City seeking to enjoin enforcement of the Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance, L.A. Ord. No. 177, 231, adding ch. XVIII, 181.00 et seq. to L.A. Mun. Code. The ordinance vested current grocery store employees with certain individual rights during a 90-day transition period. At issue was whether the worker retention ordinance was preempted as intruding upon either matters of health and safety already regulated by the state or matters of employee organization and collective bargaining fully occupied by federal law. The court held that the challenged ordinance was fully consistent with both the state and federal equal protection clauses and reversed the court of appeal's judgment.
Sullivan, et al. v. Oracle Corp., et al.
Plaintiffs, former workers for defendant, a large software company headquartered in California, sued defendant claiming overtime compensation under the Labor Code for days longer than eight hours, and weeks longer than 40 hours, worked entirely in California; claiming that defendant's failure to pay overtime for work performed in California was an "unlawful [or] unfair... business act or practice" for purposes of California's unfair competition law (UCL), Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200 et seq.; and claiming restitution under the UCL in the amount of overtime compensation due under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207(a), for weeks longer than 40 hours worked entirely in states other than California. The court held that the Labor Code's overtime provision did apply to plaintiffs' claims for compensation for work performed in California and that the same claims could serve as predicates for claims under the UCL. The court also held that plaintiffs' claims for overtime compensation under the FLSA for work performed in other states could not serve as predicates for the UCL.
Diaz v. Carcamo, et al.
Plaintiff sued a truck driver, the truck driver's employer, and a second driver after plaintiff sustained severe, permanent injuries from an automobile accident. At issue was whether plaintiff, who asserted both theories of respondeat superior and negligent entrustment against the employer and the employer admitted vicarious liability for any negligent driving by its employee, could still pursue the negligent entrustment claim. The court affirmed its holding in Armenta v. Churchill that an employer's admission of vicarious liability for an employee's negligent driving in the course of employment barred a plaintiff from pursuing a claim for negligent entrustment. Therefore, the trial court erred in not applying that holding to this case. The court held that, had the trial court not made the error, it was reasonably probable that the jury would have reached a result more favorable to defendants. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and directed that court to reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the case for a complete retrial.