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ROBERTSON v. NORTH AMERICAN VAN LINES

April 13, 2004.

KAREN ROBERTSON, as Trustee of the Trust of Lloydine Ann Reese, and TERRA SAKS-YOUNG, on behalf of themselves, all others similarly situated, and the general public, Plaintiffs,
v.
NORTH AMERICAN VAN LINES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL CONTI, Senior District Judge

ORDER RE: PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION
I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for class certification pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs seek to certify a class of customers who employed Defendant North American Van Lines ("Defendant" or "North American") to move their household goods and who were injured by North American's allegedly deceptive and unlawful business practices. Having read Plaintiffs' complaint and the papers submitted in connection with this motion and for the reasons articulated below, the Court hereby denies Plaintiffs' motion for class certification. II. BACKGROUND

A more complete discussion of the circumstances leading up to the filing of this action can be found in this Court's January 22, 2004 Order. For now however, a shorter recitation will suffice. The two named Plaintiffs, Karen Robertson*fn1 and Terra Saks-Young, are former customers of North American. Each of them contracted with North American to move their household belongings across the country, and each received a final bill that was considerably higher than the original estimate that North American had provided. Plaintiffs allege that these instances are part of North American's widespread and deceptive practice of baiting consumers with reasonable, written estimates, then increasing the charges to artificially-inflated amounts and holding consumers' household belongings hostage until the artificially-inflated amount is paid. Pls.' First Amended Compl. ("FAC") at ¶ 1. Plaintiffs contend this practice is in direct violation of federal regulations that require motor carriers to provide "reasonably accurate estimates" and, under certain circumstances, not to charge more than 110% of the estimated price. See 49 C.F.R. § 375.3(b), 375.3(d) (2002)*fn2. Plaintiffs also contend that Defendant routinely violates several other federal regulations that govern motor carriers, namely, the requirements that a motor carrier provide notice to consumers when their goods are going to be weighed, that a carrier only use certified scales in conducting such weighings, and the requirement regarding the amount of fuel that can be in the tank of the moving truck at the time of each weighing. See 49 C.F.R. § 375.7(a)7; 49 C.F.R. § 375.7(a); 49 C.F.R. § 375.7(a)(3), respectively.

  On May 21, 2003, Plaintiffs filed the instant action before this Court. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on November 5, 2003, which listed four causes of action: 1) breach of contract; 2) violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, California Civil Code § 1750, et seq.; 3) violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17200; and 4) violation of federal statute 49 U.S.C. § 14704(a)(2). Plaintiffs' claim under 49 U.S.C. § 14704(a)(2) is based on Defendants' alleged violations of the federal regulations listed above regarding reasonable estimates, notice of weighing, etc.

  In the January 22, 2004 Order, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs' first three causes of action on the grounds that they were preempted by federal law. The Court found that the federal regulatory scheme governing the interstate transportation of household goods is so pervasive as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for state law to operate in this area. Plaintiffs, with their remaining claim for relief, now seek to certify a class on behalf of:
All persons and entities through the United States and its territories who contracted with North American Van Lines, Inc. ("Defendant") to move household goods based on "Named Shipper Option" written estimates during the period January 1, 1999 to the present (the "Class Period") and whose final charges prior to delivery were in excess of 110% of the estimated cost as a result of a variance between the last written estimated weight rendered by Defendant prior to complete loading and the purported actual weight determined by Defendant after loading.
Pls.' FAC at ¶ 16. Plaintiffs contend that this class has been injured by Defendant's systematic and uniform violation of several federal regulations governing the conduct of motor carriers. Plaintiffs seek restitution, compensatory damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, and attorneys' fees and costs. Pls.' FAC, ¶ 73. Plaintiffs further request that Karen Robertson be appointed as class representative and that Plaintiffs' counsel be certified as class counsel. Plaintiffs assert they have met the requirements under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) and that this action can be certified by the Court under both 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3). After reviewing Plaintiffs' complaint and the papers submitted in connection with this motion, the Court finds that Plaintiffs cannot satisfy the requirements under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b) and therefore deny Plaintiffs' motion for class certification.

 III. LEGAL STANDARD

  A. Motion for Class Certification

  Class actions are governed by Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The party seeking class certification bears the burden of demonstrating that all four requirements under Rule 23(a) have been met and at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b). However, whether to certify a class is within the "trial court's considered discretion." Doninger v. Pacific Northwest Bell, Inc., 564 F.2d 1304, 1309 (9th Cir. 1977) (quoting Price v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 501 F.2d 1177, 1179 (9th Cir. 1974)). Before certifying a class, the court "must conduct a `rigorous analysis' into whether the prerequisites of Rule 23 are met." Valentin v. Carter-Wallace, Inc., 97 F.3d 1227 (9th Cir. 1996)(citing In re American Medical Sys., 75 F.3d 1069 (6th Cir. 1996).

  1. Rule 23(a)

  Rule 23(a) lists four prerequisites to a class action: 1) the class must be so numerous that joinder is impracticable; 2) there are common questions of law or fact; 3) the claims and defenses of the class representative are typical of those of the class; and 4) the class representative will fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class.

  In addition to meeting the requirements of Rule 23(a), the parties seeking class certification must also show that the action is maintainable under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(1), (2), or (3). Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1022 (9th Cir. 1998)(citing Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 117 S.Ct. 2231, 2245 (1997)). In this case Plaintiffs propose certification under both 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3).

  2. Rule 23(b)(2)

  In order to certify a class under Rule 23(b)(2), Plaintiffs must show that Defendant "has acted or refused to act on grounds generally applicable to the class, thereby making appropriate final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief with respect to the class as a whole. . . . " Fed.R.Civ.P.23(b)(2). In addition, "[c]lass actions certified under Rule 23(b)(2) are limited to those cases where the primary relief sought is injunctive or declaratory relief." Barabin v. Aramark Corp., 2003 WL 355417, *1 (3rd Cir.); see also James v. City of Dallas, 254 F.3d 551, 571 (5th Cir. 2001) (stating that "To maintain an action under Rule 23(b)(2), [injunctive] relief rather than monetary damages must be the predominant form of relief the plaintiffs pursue."). If a plaintiff seeking certification under Rule 23(b)(2) has ...


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