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Class Action Defense Cases–Rojas v. Brinderson:  California Federal Court Dismisses Labor Law Class Action For Failure To Allege Facts Necessary To Establish Class Action Claim

Class Action Claim on which Federal Court’s Original Jurisdiction was Based Dismissed for Failure to Plead Necessary Elements, and Supplemental Jurisdiction over Remaining Labor Law Class Action Claims will not be Exercised California Federal Court Holds

Plaintiffs-employees filed a labor law class action against Brinderson Constructors; the class action complaint contained five wage and hour claims, and a claim for alleged violation of California Labor Code section 2810.  Rojas v. Brinderson Constructors Inc., 567 F.Supp.2d 1205, 1207 (C.D. Cal. 2008).  With respect to the wage-and-hour claims, “[a] class action involving these very claims has been pending in California state court since 2004.”  Id.  Defense attorneys moved to dismiss the class action’s Labor Code section 2810 claim, which the district court had previously dismissed with leave to amend.  Id.  The district court granted the defense motion to dismiss the class action’s sixth cause of action, and then declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the class action’s remaining state law claims and, accordingly, dismissed the class action complaint in its entirety.  Id.

Because the district court found Section 2810 to be unambiguous, the court found it unnecessary to consider the statute’s legislative history.  Rojas, at 1208.  The federal court explained at page 1208, “Under Section 2810(a), an entity is liable ‘where the entity knows or should know that the contract or agreement [it entered] does not include funds sufficient to allow the contractor to comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws.’”  According to the statute, liability is predicated on an entity “entering into a contract with actual or constructive knowledge of the insufficiency of the funds,” thus requiring that the class action allege not only that Brinderson violated labor laws but that the Refinery Defendants “knew or should have known that their contracts with Brinderson did not include sufficient funds for Brinderson to comply with those laws.”  Id., at 1208-09.  The district court found that “Plaintiffs’ scattered allegations and incongruous arguments firmly ground this claim in conjecture.”  Id., at 1209.  Based on the court’s analysis, see id., at 1209-10, it held that “Plaintiffs may not proceed with this claim based on such vacuous allegations,” id., at 1210.

The district court dismissed the class action claim without leave to amend.  Rojas,
at 1211.  The court noted that plaintiffs “have twice amended their complaint, and further amendments will not likely cure the pleading deficiencies.”  Id.  The proposed amendments would not redress the deficiencies in the class action complaint, id., at 1211-12.  Moreover, because the only basis for invoking the federal court’s original jurisdiction was the Section 2810 claim, the five wage-and-hour claims “are only cognizable under this court’s supplemental jurisdiction.”  Id., at 1212.  Without the Section 2810 claim, the court dismissed the remaining class action claims, id.  The court explained at page 1212, “This dismissal is especially appropriate because, while this court has not even begun to evaluate the merits of those claims, California courts have been grappling with Plaintiffs’ claims against Brinderson for the past four years.” 

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