New York, New York – In the 211-page opinion affirming the multi-million dollar judgment against Wal-Mart, the three judge panel held that there was sufficient evidence in the record to conclude that Wal-Mart breached its contract with its hourly employees and violated the state's labor laws.
In 2006, following a six-week trial, a Philadelphia jury found Wal-Mart failed to compensate its hourly employees for missed rest breaks and hours worked off-the-clock as mandated by its own corporate handbook and policies. The jury awarded plaintiffs $78.5 million in compensatory damages. Subsequently, the Trial Court awarded an additional $62.2 million in statutory liquidated damages based on the jury's finding that Wal-Mart did not have a good faith basis for refusing to pay all wages due.
At class certification and at trial, Wal-Mart argued that its business records used for payroll and many other business purposes were so unreliable and inaccurate that they could not be used as proof. Judith Spanier, one of plaintiffs' co-lead counsel, said that this was a "key aspect" of the case because "Wal-Mart wanted to walk away" from its own business records. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court's determination refusing to permit Wal-Mart to avoid the effect of its own business records.
The Superior Court's opinion quoted the Trial Court's ruling that regularly kept business records are admissible and constitute prima facie proof of their contents:
It is unusual in the extreme for [Wal-Mart], who relies on their record for business purposes to contend that although required by law to be created and maintained, their records are so unreliable that they cannot constitute prima facie proof of their contents.
Additionally, Wal-Mart claimed, at trial, that it was denied due process because it was not allowed to call every class member to testify why their time records showed missed breaks or off-the-clock work. The Superior Court rejected that argument:
The contention that Wal-Mart was denied due process in not being able to question each individual employee is in derogation of class certification, since common questions of law and fact predominate. The primary and predominant issue was whether Wal-Mart promised its employees breaks, and whether it encouraged, at times, a culture of denying those promised breaks.
Judith Spanier said that she and her clients were very pleased with the Superior Court's decision: "Class members have waited a long time for their unpaid compensation and hopefully they will not have to wait much longer."
For more information please contact:
Judith L. Spanier
Abbey Spanier, LLP
212 East 39th Street
New York, New York, 10016