Prevailing Employers Can Recover Costs

On August 11, 2011, in Plancich v. United Parcel Service, Inc., (California Courts of Appeal – 4th District, No. E050631) Plancich sued UPS making several claims including failure to provide overtime compensation. The trial court and jury found in favor of UPS and the court also awarded costs to UPS. Plancich made a motion to strike the award of costs. The law Plancich relied on for his overtime claim grants attorney fees and costs to a prevailing employee but makes no mention of employers creating a one way recovery Planich argued. (Labor Code §1194). The trial court agreed and granted Plancich's motion because granting costs to the prevailing employer would render the law useless and be against public policy by having a "chilling effect on workers who have had their statutory rights violated." UPS appealed this ruling.

The appeals court found that the trial court's granting the motion to strike was not proper and UPS was entitled to move for costs. They found that the lower court's ruling was not correct because the law Plancich relied on is silent as to prevailing employer's recovery so Code of Civil Procedure § 1032 allows prevailing employers to recover costs because they were not expressly excepted from recovery. The court also found that this doesn't make Labor Code § 1194 meaningless because it still allows prevailing employees to recover attorney fees. The court couldn't consider whether this ruling would have a chilling effect on employee lawsuits because "the plain meaning of the statute governs the outcome."
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