California Supreme Court Weighing Issue That Could “Obliterate” Paga


On November 8, 2023, the state’s high court heard oral argument regarding a current split of authority regarding a trial court’s inherent power to dismiss PAGA claims that are too unwieldy to try. The spilt arises from two separate holdings in Estrada v. Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc. (2022) 76 Cal.App.5th 685 and Wesson v. Staples the Office Superstore, LLC (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 746. The Wesson Court held that, under Cal. Const., art. VI, § 1, a trial court has the inherent power to strike unmanageable claims, including those brought under PAGA, reasoning that an unwieldy claim could infringe upon an employer-defendant’s fair opportunity to litigate its defenses. The plaintiff in Wesson—a Second District case—petitioned for review but was denied in December 2021.

The Court in Estrada—a Fourth District case—held that PAGA claims do not have a manageability requirement akin to standard class actions. Thus, dismissal of a PAGA action on manageability grounds was reversible error. The defendant in Estrada petitioned for review, which was granted. At oral argument, Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc., argued that trial courts should not be stripped of their power to strike unmanageable PAGA claims, and they should be left “with their full tool box.” Estrada argued that allowing trial courts to strike unmanageable claims would effectively “obliterate PAGA.”

The high court generally issue opinions within ninety days or oral argument; thus its decision is expected in early February 2024.

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