Northern District Holds That No Aiding and Abetting Liability Exists Under UCL

by charlesjung

comcast van
Image by Tyler Yip via Flickr

The Northern District of California granted a motion to strike aiding and abetting allegations from a class action complaint.  Toy v. Triwire Engineering Solutions, Inc.,  No. C 10-1929 SI, 2010 WL 3448535 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2010) (slip op.).


Plaintiff Jason Toy filed a putative class action in state court against defendants TriWire Engineering Solutions, Inc., Comcast Corporation, and Comcast Cable Communications Management LLC, alleging that TriWire and Comcast employed Toy as a cable technician to install, disconnect, and upgrade cable television and computer services for consumers throughout California.  Id. *1.  Plaintiff contended he was not exempt from overtime requirements, and was not paid overtime in accordance with the law. Id.

Plaintiff also alleged that Comcast “aided and abetted” TriWire in its alleged violations of the law “with full knowledge that TriWire was not complying with California and Federal wage compensation laws.” Id.The complaint alleged that “by shifting responsibility for the installation of Comcast equipment to TriWire and knowingly allowing TriWire to systematically underpay its cable technicians including plaintiff and all class members, Comcast was able to unfairly compete in the market place by reducing the true costs of installing and servicing its equipment through the use of laborers paid less than lawful wages.” Id.

The first amended complaint alleged four causes of action: (1) unfair, unlawful and fraudulent business practices under California Business & Professions Code § 17200, against all defendants; (2) late payment of wages in violation of California Labor Code §§ 201-203, against TriWire; (3) failure to pay overtime compensation in violation of California Labor Code § 1198, against all defendants; and (4) California Private Attorney General’s Act penalties pursuant to California Labor Code § 201, 203, 510, 512, 558, 1194, 1197.1, 1198 and 2802, against TriWire. Id.

Aiding and Abetting

Comcast moved to strike portions of the complaint alleging that Comcast “aided and abetted” in TriWire’s violations of wage and hour laws. Id. *3.  Plaintiff’s alleged aiding and abetting as one of several alternative bases for Comcast’s liability under the UCL claim. Id. Comcast contended that aider and abettor liability may only arise when either the statute specifically allows for such a claim, or when the acts at issue constitute an intentional tort. Id. Plaintiff contended that a defendant may be held liable for aiding and abetting under the UCL regardless of whether the underlying statutory violation provides for such liability, or whether the conduct at issue is tortious. Id.

The court disagreed, finding that the case authority presented by plaintiff discussed aiding and abetting liability under the UCL in the context of fraud and/or intentional tort.  Id. “In the absence of any authority supporting plaintiff’s aiding and abetting theory, the Court concludes that the UCL does not provide for such liability.”   Accordingly, the Court struck the aiding and abetting allegations. Id.

Judges and Attorneys

Before District Judge Susan Illston.