“Death knell” doctrine applies to representative PAGA actions as well as class actions

The “death knell” doctrine, which allows for the immediate appeal of an order that allows a plaintiff to pursue individual but not class claims, applies to representative actions under the Private Attorneys General Act. In this case, the appellant, a former employee of the respondent company, brought a class action including a PAGA claim against the respondent. The respondent filed a petition to dismiss the class and representative claims and to compel arbitration of the appellant’s individual claims. The trial court granted the petition. The appellant challenged the trial court’s decision with respect to the PAGA claim only, arguing that the decision was immediately appealable under the death knell doctrine. The respondent argued that the doctrine applied only to class actions and not to PAGA claims. The First Appellate District held that the death knell doctrine applies to representative PAGA actions as well as class actions, and thus that the trial court’s decision was appealable. The appellate court found that the differences between class actions and representative PAGA actions are not material for the purposes of the death knell doctrine, since the underlying rationale of the doctrine—that without the possibility of group recovery, an individual plaintiff may be financially disincentivized from pursuing his lawsuit to a final judgment, a situation which would “r[ing] the death knell for the class claims” by ensuring the claims never saw appellate review—applies equally to both. Finding that the appellant met the criteria for the doctrine to apply, the court reversed and remanded. [Miranda v. Anderson Enterprises, Inc., (Cal. Ct. App. 2015) 14 C.D.O.S. 11293]

Categories: Legal Developments