Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I Didn't Demand Inauthentic Documents, Did You Produce Them?

Gerard v. Orange Coast Med. Ctr., No. G048039 (D4d3 Feb. 10, 2015)

This is a meal break class action involving hospital workers. The principal substantive issue is whether a wage order permitting an employee to waive one of the two meal breaks he or she is required to receive in working a twelve hour shift is void because it is contrary to the Labor Code. (It is.) But the court also addresses two minor procedural issues.

First, in reversing an order granting summary judgment, the court addresses one of defendant’s evidentiary objections.  Defendant objected to the authenticity of wage statements that Defendant itself had produced in discovery. The documents were authenticated by a declaration from plaintiff’s attorney attesting that they were true and correct copies of records produced in discovery produced in response to his demands. Plaintiff himself also provided a declaration.

The court holds that party’s acting upon documents as authentic by producing them in response to inspection demands is evidence that “[t]he party against whom it is offered has at any time admitted its authenticity” and also that they “have been acted upon as authentic by the party against whom it is offered.” Evidence Code § 1414(a), (b). The case relied upon by defendants in arguing to the contrary—Claudio v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 134 Cal. App. 4th 224, 244 (2005)—involved an attorney’s declaration as to his own client’s documents, so § 1414 couldn’t apply. Moreover, in this case, plaintiff did also provide his own declaration attesting to the authenticity of the documents as his wage statements. Defendants were thus doubly wrong. And California lawyers now have a clean cite on the attorney authentication of opponent discovery point, which has rather doggedly evaded clear articulation in a published case.

Finally in reversing the denial of class cert, the court makes a point that should be self-evident : the certification decision is separate from the merits. So when the trial court refused to certify a class because the “proposed Representative Plaintiffs have failed to show that they have any claim against the Defendant,” it erred.

Reversed in relevant part. 

Update: Review granted, May 28, 2015, albeit probably not on this issue.

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