In 2003, a California trial court certified a class in Savaglio v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., reportedly consisting of more than 115,000 hourly Wal-Mart employees, which sought to recover premium payments from Wal-Mart under Labor Code § 226.7 for missed or late meal periods. In December 2005, an Alameda County jury awarded the class more than $66 million in premium payments and $115 million in punitive damages. Wal-Mart appealed and the case is currently pending before the First Appellate District, Division Four.
The appeal is now fully briefed, and the First District granted numerous requests for leave to file amicus briefs. However, after the parties requested oral argument, and before any argument could be heard, the Supreme Court granted review in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 25. Consequently, the First District has issued a stay:
"Subject to further order of this court, appellants' motion to stay further proceedings pending the Supreme Court's decision in Brinker v. Superior Court is granted. The request to establish a briefing schedule following the decision in Brinker will be addressed at a later time."
Among the issues that Wal-Mart raised on appeal was whether California's "new right-exclusive remedy" rule bars a punitive damage award in a wage and hour case. The 4th District Court of Appeal recently ruled that punitive damages are generally unavailable as part of a claim for meal break, rest break or overtime claims based upon Labor Code violations in Brewer v. Premier Golf Properties (2008) __ Cal.App.4th __.
While Brinker will be binding upon the Court of Appeal in the Savaglio case, Brewer will not be binding upon the First District, and the case does present a possibility of a split between appellate districts. However, we expect a petition for review to be filed in Brewer, and the Supreme Court will likely have denied or granted review in that case long before the stay is lifted in Savaglio.