JUDITH Q. CHAVEZ, KATHLEEN CHRISTIANSON, ORALIA GARCIA, and MARRIETTA JONES, individually, and on behalf of all similarly situated registered nurses employed by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital at Pasco, d/b/a/ Lourdes Medical Center, Petitioners,
OUR LADY OF LOURDES HOSPITAL AT PASCO, d/b/a LOURDES MEDICAL CENTER and JOHN SERLE, individually, and in his capacity as an agent and officer of Lourdes Medical Center, Respondents.
Q. Chavez, Kathleen Christianson, Oralia Garcia, Marrietta
Jones, and other registered nurses (nurses) sought class
certification in their wage action against their employer,
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital at Pasco d/b/a Lourdes Medical
Center and John Serle (Lourdes). The trial court denied class
certification, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. At issue is
whether the trial court properly found that the nurses failed
to satisfy the predominance and superiority requirements
necessary for class certification. We reverse the Court of
Appeals and hold that the trial court abused its discretion
by finding that individual issues predominate and by failing
to compare alternative methods of adjudication. We hold that
predominance is met because the dominant and overriding issue
in this litigation is whether Lourdes failed to ensure the
nurses could take rest breaks and second meal periods and
could record missed breaks.We hold superiority is met because
a class action is superior to other methods of adjudication
for the resolution of these claims. We reverse and remand to
the trial court with instructions to certify the class.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
nurses were hourly employees at Lourdes. At the relevant
time, Lourdes employed more than 100 nurses in nine different
departments. Until 2013, Lourdes used a timekeeping system
from Kronos Incorporated and an accounting system from
Medical Information Technology Inc. called Meditech. Kronos
automatically deducted 30 minutes from an employee's
compensable time for a meal period during any shift lasting
longer than five hours. When an employee clocked out, the
employee could account for his or her first missed meal
period by canceling the automatic deduction, and Lourdes
would later pay for those 30 minutes at the appropriate rate.
Kronos did not permit nurses to track missed rest breaks. Nor
did Kronos permit nurses working 12-hour shifts-a category
that includes the majority of nurses at Lourdes-to track
missed second meal periods.
2012, the nurses filed this individual and class action for
unpaid wages, asserting that they regularly missed breaks
without compensation due to Lourdes' failure to ensure
they could take breaks and record missed breaks. They sought
monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief. The parties
engaged in extensive discovery for nearly a year and
introduced conflicting facts.
April 2013, the nurses moved for class certification. The
court deferred ruling on the motion at that time and directed
the nurses to file summary judgment motions before renewing
their class certification motion. The nurses brought three
summary judgment motions, and the trial court denied each of
them, concluding that issues of fact remained as to whether
individual nurses were afforded time to take breaks. The
trial court noted that availability of a meal break could
depend on the particular shift and that some nurses might be
able to take intermittent rest breaks.
2015, the nurses amended their complaint and renewed their
class certification motion to include all registered nurses
who worked at least one hourly shift at the hospital from
June 2009 through March 2013 and, alternatively, to certify
subclasses of these same nurses by department or shift hours.
The trial court denied the motion, ruling that the nurses
failed to satisfy the predominance and superiority
requirements of CR 23(b)(3). The court was concerned that the
differences between shift length and nurse type created
nurses appealed the denial of certification under CR
23(b)(3). The Court of Appeals affirmed, basing its decision
solely on the superiority prong. The Court of Appeals
emphasized the deferential nature of the abuse of discretion
standard. See Chavez v. Our Lady of Lourdes Hosp. at
Pasco, No. 33556-9-III, slip op. at 31 (Wash.Ct.App.
Feb. 9, 2017) (unpublished),
pdf/7335569_unp.pdf ("We must assume the hospital's
testimony to be accurate or else we do not bestow full
deference to the court's ruling favoring the
hospital."). Although the trial court had not expressly
resolved conflicts in the evidence, the Court of Appeals
decided to review the facts "in a light most favorable
to Lourdes Medical Center." Id. at 30. The
court acknowledged that "no case . . . explicitly
directs [the court] to view the facts in such a gloss for
purposes of reviewing a class action ruling."
nurses sought this court's review, which we granted.
Chavez v. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, 189 Wn.2d
1009, 402 P.3d 825 (2017).
the trial court abused its discretion in ruling that the
nurses failed to satisfy the predominance and superiority
requirements of CR 23(b)(3).
action is an exception to the usual rule that litigation is
conducted by and on behalf of only the individual named
parties. Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 569 U.S. 27, 33,
133 S.Ct. 1426, 185 L.Ed.2d 515 (2013). A "primary
function of the class action is to provide a procedure for
vindicating claims [that], taken individually, are too small
to justify individual legal action but which are of
significant size and importance if taken as a group."
Brown v. Brown, 6 Wn.App. 249, 253, 492 P.2d 581
23(b) concerns the requirements to maintain a class action
and forms the basis of this appeal. A class action may be
maintained under CR 23(b)(3) if the "court finds that
the questions of law or fact common to the members of the
class predominate over any questions affecting only
individual members, and that a class action is superior to
other available methods for the fair and efficient
adjudication of the controversy." Factors to be
considered by the court when assessing predominance and
(A) the interest of members of the class in individually
controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions;
(B) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the
controversy already commenced by or against members of the
class; (C) the desirability or undesirability of
concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular
forum; (D) the difficulties likely to be encountered in the
management of a class action.
courts liberally interpret CR 23 because the "rule
avoids multiplicity of litigation, 'saves members of the
class the cost and trouble of filing individual suits[, ] and
. . . also frees the defendant from the harassment of
identical future litigation.'" Smith v. Behr
Process Corp., 113 Wn.App. 306, 318, 54 P.3d 665 (2002)
(alterations in original) (quoting Brown, 6 Wn.App.
at 256-57). Accordingly, courts should err in favor of
certifying a class because the class is always subject to the
trial court's later modification or decertification.
See Oda v. State, 111 Wn.App. 79, 91, 44 P.3d 8
court's decision to grant class certification is reviewed
for manifest abuse of discretion. Lacey Nursing Ctr.,
Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 128 Wn.2d 40, 47, 905 P.2d
338 (1995). A trial court's decision to deny class
certification will be upheld if '"the record
indicates the court properly considered all CR 23
criteria.'" Schnall v. AT&T Wireless Servs.,
Inc., 171 Wn.2d 260, 266, 259 P.3d 129 (2011) (quoting
Nelson v. Appleway Chevrolet, Inc., 160 Wn.2d 173,
188, 157 P.3d 847 (2007)). However, if the trial court fails
to articulate its application of the CR 23 criteria to the
facts relevant to class certification, an appellate court
will reverse the denial of class certification. See Wash.
Educ. Ass 'n v. Shelton Sch. Dist. No. 309, 93 Wn.2d
783, 793, 613 P.2d 769 (1980).
trial court abused its discretion by ruling that the nurses
failed to satisfy the predominance requirement
determine whether common issues predominate over individual
ones, a trial court pragmatically examines whether there is a
common nucleus of operative facts in each class member's
claim. Moeller v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Wash., 155
Wn.App. 133, 148, 229 P.3d 857 (2010), aff'd 173
Wn.2d 264, 267 P.3d 998 (2011). The relevant inquiry is
whether the issue shared by class members is the dominant,
central, or overriding issue in the litigation. Miller v.
Farmer Bros. Co., 115 Wn.App. 815, 825, 64 P.3d 49
(2003). The trial court ruled that the nurses had not
satisfied the predominance prong of CR 23(b)(3):
The Court finds that common class issues do not predominate
over individual questions because issues regarding shift,
nurse type, nurse roles and job duties, patient assignments
and census, managers, and department cause the ...