Requests for Admission Costs Of Proof Sanctions Properly Included Expert Expenses.
In Amin’s Oil, Inc. v. Indrogit Biswas, Case No. B242081 (2d Dist., Div. 8 Aug. 5, 2014) (unpublished), plaintiff employer sued defendant for embezzlement/conversion, with defendant ex-employee suing for unpaid overtime wages. Employee prevailed, eventually awarded $16,215 in wages and penalties. Then, employee obtained $68,450 in attorney’s fees under Labor Code section 1194(a) for prevailing on the wage/hour cross-complaint (out of a requested $71,279.6, asking for a 50/50 allocation of time to the cross-complaint) as well as $60,700 in attorney’s fees (out of a requested $71,061.60) and $6,349 in expenses (out of a requested $12,735) under CCP § 2033.420 for the employer not admitting RFAs regarding employee’s failure to convert certain of employer’s property. Other routine costs of $24,637.32 were also awarded to employee.
Employer’s appeal did not go well.
The wage/hour fee award on employee’s cross-complaint was justified given that employee’s overtime claims were critical to his defense that he worked sufficient hours in regard to certain of employer’s claims. Employee did obtain over $16,000 in a favorable judgment, avoiding hundreds of thousands of exposure, so attorney’s fees under the Labor Code did not constitute any legal error.
On the RFA costs of proof sanctions, substantial evidence showed that employer was not justified in denying certain RFAs on conversion when the proof showed that employee was directed to misrepresent finances in order to inflate employer’s business value for a potential sale. Appellant argued that plaintiff was not entitled to recover defense expert witness fees as costs-of-proof sanctions, but the appellate court disagreed because they were indeed “reasonable expenses” under section 2033.420.
BLOG POINTER—Defendant/cross-complainant employee did a smart thing in allocating fees 50/50 as to the overtime cross-claim, with the lower court buying into it.