Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, April 26, 2023


Page 1


Court of Appeal:

Right to Pursue PAGA Action Does Not Pass to Plaintiff’s Estate; Must Be Dismissed


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Sixth District Court of Appeal held yesterday that a representative lawsuit for wage and hour violations is not subject to California’s survivorship statutes.

Justice Adrienne Grover authored the unpublished opinion. It affirms Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh’s judgment in favor of the defendant, Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., but declares that Walsh erred in addressing the merits of a decedent Forrest C. Huff’s action under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), but should have dismissed it upon learning of his death.

“[A] PAGA cause of action is not a transferable property interest and cannot be pursued by the personal representative of a deceased plaintiff’s estate,” Grover explained.

Instead of dismissing the action, Walsh allowed the defendant’s son, Forrest A. Huff, to prosecute it as personal representative of the estate.

Survivorship Statutes

The son pointed to Code of Civil Procedure §377.21 which provides that a “pending action or proceeding does not abate by the death of a party if the cause of action survives” and §377.20 of that code saying:

“Except as otherwise provided by statute, a cause of action for or against a person is not lost by reason of the person’s death, but survives subject to the applicable limitations period.”

 He also cited §377.30 which sets forth that “[a] cause of action that survives the death of the person entitled to commence an action or proceeding passes to the decedent’s successor in interest….”

‘PAGA Is Different’

Grover wrote:

“But a cause of action under PAGA is different from a typical cause of action.  Plaintiffs in PAGA actions are not seeking relief on their own behalf; they are suing in a  representative capacity on behalf of the State of California….As the statute’s name suggests…, its effect is to deputize private parties to act for  the Attorney General in enforcing state labor laws.”

The government, not the plaintiff, is the real party in interest, Grover pointed out, adding:

“[A] PAGA cause of  action is not a property interest—it is a right to pursue a claim to collect penalties on  behalf of the state. That contrasts with a typical cause of action, which is a personal  property interest.”

The opinion is in line with a June 9, 2022 opinion by Div. Two of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Hargrove v. Legacy Healthcare, Inc. There, Acting Presiding Justice Art W. McKinister found that where the plaintiff in a PAGA action dies, another person cannot be substituted as plaintiff where that person does herself have a wage-and-hour claim.

The case is Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., H048684.


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