Claire Headley v. Church of Scientology International, et al. (August 2009 ruling on motion to dismiss)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
Case - No. CV 09-3987 DSF (MANx)
Date - 8/12/09
Title - Claire Headley v. Church of Scientology International, et al.
Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Not Present
Attorneys Present for Defendants: Not Present
(In Chambers) Order GRANTING in Part and DENYING in Part
Defendant Church of Scientology International’s Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in the Alternative, For
a More Definite Statement Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(e) (Docket No. 8), GRANTING in Part and
DENYING in Part Defendant Religious Technology Center’s
Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in the Alternative, For
a More Definite Statement Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(e) (Docket No. 5), and GRANTING in Part and
DENYING in Part Motion to Strike Portions of Second Amended
Complaint (Docket Nos. 7, 10)
Before the Court is Defendant Church of Scientology International’s (“CSI”)
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in the Alternative, For a More Definite Statement Pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) and Defendant Religious Technology Center’s
(“RTC”) Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in the Alternative, For a More Definite Statement Pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Also before the court is CSI’s Motion to Strike
Portions of Second Amended Complaint. RTC joins in the Motion to Strike.
For the following reasons, the Court: (1) GRANTS in Part and DENIES in Part
CSI’s Motion to Dismiss or For a More Definite Statement; (2) GRANTS in Part and
DENIES in Part RTC’s Motion to Dismiss or For a More Definite Statement; (3)
GRANTS in Part and DENIES in Part the Motion to Strike.
On January 20, 2009, Plaintiff Claire Headley filed this action against CSI and
RTC (collectively “Defendants”). Headley filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”)
on May 19, 2009. She was employed by Defendants from 1991 to January 2005. (SAC ¶
6.) Headley claims that Defendants forced her to work for below minimum wage and
denied overtime pay. (Id. ¶ 19.) Headley alleges: (1) restitution of wages under
California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq.; (2) unfair business practices
under § 17200; and (3) violations of California and federal prohibitions against forced
Motion to Dismiss
A. Motion to Dismiss
A motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests
the legal sufficiency of the pleadings. “When a federal court reviews the sufficiency of a
complaint, before the reception of any evidence by affidavit or admissions, its task is
necessarily a limited one. The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but
whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Scheuer v.
Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800 (1982).
“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Specific facts are not necessary;
the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Dismissal is appropriate only if the plaintiff fails to assert a
cognizable legal theory or to allege sufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory.
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). But the Rule
“requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). Moreover, the court need not accept legal conclusions as true. Ashcraft v. Iqbal,
__ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).
The plaintiff bears the burden of pleading sufficient facts to state a claim. Courts
will not supply essential elements of a claim that are not initially pled. Richards v.
Harper, 864 F.2d 85, 88 (9th Cir. 1988). “[W]hen ruling on a defendant’s motion to
dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. “The court need not, however, accept as true
allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit. Nor is
the court required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted
deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266
F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted).
When a party moves to dismiss a complaint on statute of limitations grounds, the
fact that the dates as alleged in the complaint fall outside of the limitations period is not
enough for dismissal. The motion “can be granted only if the assertions of the complaint,
read with the required liberality, would not permit the plaintiff to prove that the statute
was tolled.” Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1993) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted).
Motion for a More Definite Statement
B. Motion for a More Definite Statement
A court may order a more definite statement and “require such detail as may be
appropriate in the particular case . . . .” McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir.
1996). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e) (“A party may move for a more definite statement
of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or
ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably prepare a response.”). Motions for a more
definite statement are disfavored. In re American Int’l Airways, Inc., 66 B.R. 642, 645
(Bankr. E.D. Pa. 1986). “[W]here the information sought by the moving party is
available and/or properly sought through discovery the motion should be denied.”
Famolare, Inc. v. Edison Bros. Stores, Inc., 525 F. Supp. 940, 949 (E.D. Cal. 1981).
Motion to Strike
C. Motion to Strike
A court “may order stricken from any pleading any insufficient defense or any
redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f).
“‘Immaterial’ matter is that which has no essential or important relationship to the
claim for relief . . . being pleaded.” Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th
Cir. 1993) (citation omitted), rev’d on other grounds, Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U. S.
517 (1994). “‘Impertinent’ matter consists of statements that do not pertain, and are not
necessary, to the issues in question.” Id. Allegations may be stricken as scandalous if
they “bear no possible relation to the controversy or may cause the objecting party
prejudice.” Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distributing Co., 961 F.2d 654, 664 (7th Cir.
1992). “Scandalous” matter includes statements that impugn the character of defendants,
and that are superfluous descriptions rather than substantive elements. Alvarado-Morales
v. Digital Equip. Corp., 843 F.2d 613, 618 (1st Cir. 1988) (striking references to
concentrations camps, torture, brainwash, etc. in the context of a voluntary incentive
“The function of a Rule 12(f) motion is to avoid the expenditure of time and
money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues
prior to trial.” Bassiri v. Xerox Corp., 292 F. Supp. 2d 1212, 1219 (C.D. Cal. 2003),
rev’d on other grounds, 463 F.3d 927 (9th Cir. 2006); see also California ex rel. State
Lands Comm’n v. United States, 512 F. Supp. 36, 38 (N.D. Cal. 1981) (“[W]here the
motion may have the effect of making trial of the action less complicated, or have the
effect of otherwise streamlining the ultimate resolution of the action, the motion to strike
will be well taken.”). Nevertheless, such motions are “viewed with disfavor and are not
frequently granted.” Bassiri, 292 F. Supp. 2d at 1220; accord Cal. Dep’t of Toxic
Substances Control v. Alco Pac., Inc., 217 F. Supp. 2d 1028, 1033 (C.D. Cal. 2002).
In reviewing a 12(f) motion, courts view the pleading under attack in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Bassiri, 292 F. Supp. 2d at 1220. Therefore,
“[m]otions to strike should not be granted unless it is clear that the matter to be stricken
could have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the litigation.” Id. (citation
omitted). Courts often require a “showing of prejudice by the moving party” before the
challenged material will be stricken. Alco Pac., Inc., 217 F. Supp. 2d at 1033 (citation
“[A] motion to strike may be used to strike any part of a prayer for relief when the
damages sought are not recoverable as a matter of law.” Bureerong v. Uvawas, 922 F.
Supp. 1450, 1479 n.34 (C.D. Cal. 1996) (citation omitted).
CSI’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint
A. CSI’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint
1. First Cause of Action for Restitution of Wages Under California
Business and Professions Code § 17200 and Second Cause of
Action for Unfair Business Practices Under § 17200
Headley alleges that she worked for Defendants from 1991 to January 2005. (SAC
¶¶ 19, 25.) Reading the SAC with the required liberality at this stage of the proceedings,
the Court assumes for purposes of this motion to dismiss only that Headley was
employed by Defendants until the end of January 2005. Headley asserts that Defendants
failed to “pay proper wages” pursuant to federal and state labor laws during this period.
(Id. ¶¶ 19, 43.) Defendants argue that the statute of limitations bars the first and second
causes of action. Headley counters that Defendants are equitably estopped from asserting
the statute of limitations defense.
“[A]ny business act or practice that violates the Labor Code through failure to pay
wages is, by definition (§ 17200), an unfair business practice.” Cortez v. Purolator Air
Filtration Prods. Co., 23 Cal. 4th 163, 178 (2000). “Any action on any UCL cause of
action is subject to the four-year period of limitations created by [§ 17208].” Id. at 179.
The statute of limitations for a § 17200 claim “begins to run when [a] cause of
action accrues, irrespective of whether plaintiff knew of its accrual . . . .” See Stutz
Motor Car of Am., Inc. v. Reebok Intern., Ltd., 909 F. Supp. 1353, 1363 (C.D. Cal.
1995). Each alleged violation “create[s] a separate and distinct violation, triggering the
running of a new limitations period.” Jones v. Tracy Sch. Dist., 27 Cal. 3d 99, 105
(1980). Headley alleges Defendants committed “a series of multiple wrongs” from 1991
to January 2005. See Stutz, 909 F. Supp. at 1364. Headley’s allegations of § 17200
violations, therefore, have different expiration dates. For example, an alleged violation of
§ 17200 that occurred in March 1995 expired in March 1999; an alleged violation in
December 2004 expired in December 2008. As noted, Headley filed this action on
January 20, 2009. Therefore, any § 17200 violations that occurred between January 20,
2005 and January 31, 2005 are not time-barred by § 17208. See id.
The Court also finds that § 17200 violations allegedly occurring before January
20, 2005 are not time-barred. Equitable estoppel “comes into play only after the
limitations period has run and addresses itself to the circumstances in which a party will
be estopped from asserting the statute of limitations as a defense to an admittedly
untimely action because his conduct has induced another into forbearing suit within the
applicable limitations period. Its application is wholly independent of the limitations
period itself and takes its life, not from the language of the statute, but from the equitable
principle that no man will be permitted to profit from his own wrongdoing in a court of
justice.” Battuello v. Battuello, 64 Cal. App. 4th 842, 847-48 (1998). The complaint
must identify specific conduct that is an alleged basis for estoppel and also “plead facts
indicating that this conduct ‘actually and reasonably induced’ [the plaintiff] to forbear
filing suit within the limitations period.” Peregrine Funding, Inc. v. Sheppard Mullin
Richter & Hampton LLP, 133 Cal. App. 4th 658, 686 (2005). “[E]stoppel may certainly
be invoked when there are acts of violence or intimidation that are intended to prevent the
filing of a claim.” Doe v. Bakersfield City Sch. Dist., 136 Cal. App. 4th 556, 567 (2006)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Headley claims that while she worked for Defendants from 1991 to 2005 her pay
was below minimum wage and she was not paid for overtime. (SAC ¶ 19.) Headley
further alleges: (1) Defendants have engaged in a program to have employees waive or
disavow claims of employment or minimum wage (id. ¶ 16); (2) Defendants attempted to
transform covered employees into volunteers (id. ¶ 17); (3) she was coerced and
intimidated into having two abortions to keep her job with Defendants (id. ¶¶ 19, 30-31);
(4) she was not free to leave while working at Gold Base, which is CSI’s international
base located in Hemet, California (id. ¶¶ 58-59); (5) a razor-wire topped fence encircles
Gold Base with sharp inward pointing spikes to prevent escape (id. ¶ 59); (6) the gates at
Gold Base are guarded at all times, preventing employees from freely coming and going
(id.); (7) her freedom of movement was restricted to Gold Base where she was confined
and contact with the outside world was prohibited, which prevented her from phoning or
emailing for help (id. ¶¶ 59-60); (8) Defendants subjected workers who failed to follow
orders to severe, sometimes corporal, punishment (id. ¶ 61); (9) Defendants led her to
believe that she had few rights (id. ¶ 23); (10) Defendants failed to post required notices
of employee rights (id. ¶33); (11) Defendants tell employees that they have no realistic
rights and that the rights and powers of CSI’s upper management are virtually unlimited
(id.); (12) employees who want to quit are threatened with punishment (id. ¶ 34); (13) she
was intimidated by the threat of hard labor, sleep deprivation, confinement, physical
restraint, lack of food, and isolation from her husband (id. ¶ 34); (14) she remained in
fear that her personal liberties would be further violated unless she continued to provide
services and labor to Defendants (id. ¶ 62); (15) Defendants watched and guarded her to
control her and prevent her escape (id. ¶ 35); and (16) Defendants and their agents
contacted employees of her business and threatened them with harassing subpoenas (id. ¶
Given these allegations, the Court cannot conclude that Headley’s equitable
estoppel claim must fail. Therefore, the Court denies the Motion to Dismiss the First and
Second Causes of Action.
2. Third Cause of Action for Violation of California and Federal Laws
Prohibiting Forced Labor
a. California Statutory and Constitutional Provisions Against
Under California Penal Code § 236.1(a), “[a]ny person who deprives or violates
the personal liberty of another . . . to obtain forced labor or services[ ] is guilty of human
trafficking.” California Civil Code § 52.5 specifies that a “victim of human trafficking,
as defined in section 236.1 of the Penal Code, may bring a civil action” for damages,
including actual and punitive damages. California Civil Code § 3 states that Civil Code
provisions are not retroactive “unless expressly so declared.” Both § 236.1 and § 52.5
became effective on January 1, 2006 and neither statute expressly declares itself to have
retroactive effect. Therefore, neither statute can be retroactively applied to the specified
unlawful conduct, because it occurred before January 1, 2006.
Accordingly, the Court grants the Motion to Dismiss as to this claim without leave
b. Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (“TVPA”), 18 U.S.C. §
Defendants argue that Headley’s forced labor claims under federal law are largely
time-barred. The Court disagrees.
18 U.S.C. § 1589(a)(1) prohibits knowingly obtaining the labor or services of a
person by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical
restraint to that person or another person. The victim of a §1589(a)(1) violation may
bring a civil action against the perpetrator and may recover damages and reasonable
attorneys fees. § 1595(a). Effective December 23, 2008, an action under § 1595 is
subject to a 10-year statute of limitations. § 1595(c).
Congress did not expressly include a statute of limitations period when it enacted
the TVPA on October 28, 2000. When a statute enacted after 1990 does not expressly
contain its own statute of limitations period, an action filed under such statute must be
commenced within four years after the cause of action accrues. 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a).
Thus, the TVPA had a four-year limitations period from October 28, 2000, the date of its
original enactment, to December 23, 2008, the effective date of the ten-year limitations
“Congress, of course, has the power to extend the period of limitations without
running afoul of the ex post facto clause, provided the period has not already run.”
United States v. Richardson, 512 F.2d 105, 106 (3d Cir. 1975). Courts that have “upheld
extensions of unexpired statutes of limitations . . . have consistently distinguished
situations where limitations periods have expired.” Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607,
618 (2003). These courts reason that giving a prosecution a “longer lease of life”
(extending unexpired limitations periods) as opposed to reviving a “prosecution already
dead” (extending expired limitations periods) is not so “harsh and oppressive” as to
violate “instinctive feelings of justice and fair play.” Falter v. United States, 23 F.2d 420,
425-26 (2d Cir. 1928).
Similarly, the Ninth Circuit has “suggested that a rule extending a statute of
limitations . . . is acceptable if such application would not ‘result in manifest injustice’
and there is no ‘statutory direction or legislative history to the contrary.’” Chenault v.
United States Postal Service, 37 F.3d 535, 538 (9th Cir. 1994). As the legislative history
of the § 1595(c) amendment extending the limitations period from four years to ten years
is silent as to the issue of retroactivity and Defendants, at least in the papers submitted so
far, have not shown that manifest injustice will result, the Court finds that § 1595(c) may
be retroactively applied to unexpired TVPA claims. Thus, any TVPA action that was not
yet barred under the original four-year statute of limitations may be maintained so long as
it is commenced within ten years after the cause of action arose. Here, Defendants’
alleged forced labor conduct occurred from 1996 to 2005. Headley’s claim regarding
such conduct starting December 23, 2004 had not expired under the original four-year
limitations period when the ten-year statute of limitations under § 1595(c) became
effective on December 23, 2008. Accordingly, the limitations period on such claims have
been extended from four years to ten years and these claims are not time-barred.
Further, alleged violations of § 1589 that occurred before December 23, 2008 can
be considered. The United States Supreme Court has held that “discrete discriminatory
acts [in employment] are not actionable if time barred, even when they are related to acts
alleged in timely filed charges.” Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101,
113 (2002). In contrast, “[a] hostile work environment claim is composed of a series of
separate acts that collectively constitute one ‘unlawful employment practice.’” Id. at 117.
“It does not matter, for purposes of the [hostile work environment] statute, that some of
the component acts of the hostile work environment fall outside the statutory time period.
Provided that an act contributing to the claim occurs within the filing period, the entire
time period of the hostile environment may be considered by a court for the purposes of
determining liability.” Id. The Ninth Circuit recognizes this distinction. See RK
Ventures, Inc. v. City of Seattle, 307 F.3d 1045, 1061 n.13 (9th Cir. 2002). “The timely
filing provision [of a hostile work environment claim] only requires that a Title VII
plaintiff file a charge within a certain number of days after the unlawful practice
happened.” Morgan, 536 U.S. at 117. The timely filing provision of the TVPA also
requires that a plaintiff file an action within a certain period (10 years) of the violation.
See § 1595(c). The Court finds that Headley’s allegations are analogous to a hostile work
environment claim and therefore the “more generous continuing violation rule” applies.
See RK Ventures, 307 F.3d at 1061 n.13.
Headley alleges that CSI subjected her to a coercive work environment from 1996
to 2005. The Court finds that such alleged conduct constitutes a continuing violation of
the TVPA, and is therefore actionable as a single unlawful practice subject to a ten-year
statute of limitations. The Court preliminarily finds that it will consider the entire time
period of the alleged forced labor to determine any potential liability. Headley timely
filed her TVPA claim and therefore the Court denies the Motion to Dismiss as to this
claim. The Court also rejects the equitable estoppel argument for the reasons discussed
RTC’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint
B. RTC’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint
RTC’s arguments in support of the Motion to Dismiss are the same as those offered
by CSI. Therefore, the Court, based on the analysis above, denies RTC’s Motion to
Dismiss except as to the forced labor claim pursuant to California Penal Code § 236.1(a)
and California Civil Code § 52.5, which was dismissed with prejudice.
CSI’s and RTC’s Motions for a More Definite Statement
C. CSI’s and RTC’s Motions for a More Definite Statement
The Court does not find the SAC to be so vague or ambiguous as to justify
ordering a more definite statement. The Court denies these motions.
Motion to Strike Portions of Second Amended Complaint
D. Motion to Strike Portions of Second Amended Complaint
Defendants make numerous requests to strike allegations from the SAC. The
Court has considered each in turn.
The Court views “the pleading under attack in the light most favorable to
[Headley]” and therefore will not grant a motion to strike “unless it is clear that the
matter to be stricken could have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the
litigation.” Bassiri, 292 F. Supp. 2d at 1220.
The SAC is certainly not the clearest pleading the Court has seen. The Court,
however, declines to strike the allegedly immaterial, impertinent or scandalous
allegations, most of which clearly do not fall into any of these categories. In addition,
while the references to case law are unnecessary and generally inappropriate in a
pleading, the Court finds no particular reason to strike them. They will not be grounds
for additional discovery, and will not be presented to a jury.
Defendants also move to strike allegedly improper prayers for relief. First,
Defendants move to strike Headley’s prayer for attorneys fees pursuant to California
Civil Procedure Code § 1021.5 in the context of a § 17200 claim. (SAC ¶¶ 42-50.)
“Section 1021.5 codifies the ‘private attorney general doctrine’ adopted by [the
California] Supreme Court. The doctrine is designed to encourage private enforcement of
important public rights and to ensure aggrieved citizens access to the judicial process
where statutory or constitutional rights have been violated.” Ryan v. Cal. Interscholastic
Fed’n, 94 Cal. App. 4th 1033, 1044 (2001) (internal citations omitted). Attorneys fees
are recoverable in a § 17200 claim that comes under the private attorney general
doctrine. Harper v. 24 Hour Fitness, Inc., 167 Cal. App. 4th 966, 976 (2008).
Therefore, the Court denies the Motion to Strike as to page 25, lines 12-14 and page 26,
lines 24-26 of the SAC.
Second, Defendants move to strike Headley’s prayer for a permanent injunction
with respect to the § 17200 claim. Injunctive relief is available for violations of § 17200.
Cel-Tech Comms., Inc. v. Los Angeles Cellular Tel. Co., 20 Cal. 4th 163, 179 (1999).
The Court denies the Motion to Strike as to page 33, lines 12-14 of the SAC.
Third, Defendants move, pursuant to California Civil Procedure Code § 425.14, to
strike Headley’s prayer for punitive damages as to the forced labor claim. This claim has
been dismissed. The Court denies as moot the Motion to Strike as to page 33, lines 17-
Finally, Defendants move to strike Headley’s prayer for an “award of reasonable
attorney’s fees computed with an appropriate lodestar in consideration of the difficult and
litigious nature of Defendants” but fails to offer any argument in support. The Court
denies the Motion to Strike as to page 33, lines 19-21.
For these reasons, the Court: (1) GRANTS in Part and DENIES in Part Defendant
Church of Scientology International’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Second Amended
Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in the Alternative,
For a More Definite Statement Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e); (2)
GRANTS in Part and DENIES in Part Defendant Religious Technology Center’s Motion
to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), or, in the Alternative, For a More Definite Statement Pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(e); and (3) DENIES Church of Scientology International and
Religious Technology Center’s Motion to Strike Portions of Second Amended
IT IS SO ORDERED.
- The Court accepts the allegations in the SAC as true for purposes of this motion only.
- The SAC alleges that Defendants claimed that they did not have to obey minimum wage and
other labor laws. The Court assumes for purposes of this motion that state and federal wage
and labor laws apply to Defendants.
- Headley also alleges that “Defendants have systematically ignored and violated said laws to
the damage of Plaintiff Headley and others similarly situated” and that she “has standing for
herself, and as a representative of persons wrongfully ordered and intimidated . . . into having
unwanted abortions and coerced into providing forced labor.” (SAC ¶¶ 7, 44). Central District
of California Local Rule 23-1 states that the “title of any pleading purporting to commence a
class action shall include the legend: “(Title of Pleading) Class Action.” Local Rule 23-2
specifies that “[a]ny pleading purporting to commence a class action shall contain a separate
section entitled “Class Action Allegations.” Headley fails to comply with these and other rules
related to bringing a class action.
- Headley also alleges that “forced labor would constitute a common law tort under California
law.” (SAC ¶ 58.) The Court finds that California courts have not recognized such a tort and
therefore grants the motion to dismiss as to this tort claim.
Furthermore, Headley alleges that Defendants’ actions violate Article I, § 1 of the
California Constitution and California Civil Code § 52.1. Article I, § 1 of the California
Constitution states that “[a]ll people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable
rights. Among them are enjoying and defending life and liberty . . . .” Article I, § 6 of the
California Constitution states that “involuntary servitude is prohibited except to punish crime.”
Section 52.1(b) states that “[a]ny person whose exercise or enjoyment of rights secured by the .
. . Constitution or laws of this state, has been interfered with [by another through threats,
intimidation, or coercion], may institute and prosecute in his or her own name and on his or her
own behalf a civil action for damages . . . .”
As Headley alleges that Defendants used intimidation and threats of force to make her
work for below minimum wage and prevent her free movement, the Court finds that Headley
has stated a cognizable claim under the California Constitution and § 52.1. See County of
Fresno v. Superior Court, 82 Cal. App. 3d 191, 203 (1978) (stating that “a system of forced
labor . . . would violate the constitutional prohibition against involuntary servitude” pursuant to
Article I, § 6 of the California Constitution). The applicable statute of limitations period is
either one year or three years. See Gatto v. County of Sonoma, 98 Cal. App. 4th 744, 759
(2002). This claim, therefore, has expired. The Court, however, denies the Motion to Dismiss
as to this claim on the basis of equitable estoppel for the reasons discussed above.
- All cases discussed in this paragraph involve criminal charges. Accordingly, the statute of
limitations analysis in each case focuses on whether the subsequent extension of a pre-existing
statute of limitations violates the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution and is therefore
- “In determining whether to award attorney fees under section 1021.5 to the ‘successful party,’
we apply a three-prong test inquiring whether (1) the litigation resulted in the enforcement of
an important right affecting the public interest, (2) a significant benefit has been conferred on the general public or a large class of individuals, and (3) the necessity and financial burden of
private enforcement renders the award appropriate.” Ryan, 94 Cal. App. 4th at 1044. The
Court need not make this determination now.