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Cram v. Electronic Data Systems Corp.

December 12, 2007

JOEL M. CRAM, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ELECTRONIC DATA SYSTEMS CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Nita L. StormesU.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL INTERROGATORY ANSWERS [Doc. No. 34]

On October 3, 2007, this Court granted Plaintiffs' request to commence and conduct expedited jurisdictional discovery in this case, and instructed the parties that each could propound upon the other up to ten interrogatories, with the limited discovery to be completed within thirty days of the date of the order. (See Court's 10/3/07 Order Granting Plaintiff's Ex Parte Application, 7.) On November 12, 2007, subsequent to the close of the expedited discovery period, Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel, requesting that the Court order Defendant Electronic Data Systems Corporation ("Defendant") to provide supplemental responses to two interrogatories. Defendant filed an opposition to the motion [Doc. No. 45] and Plaintiffs filed a reply [Doc. No. 49]. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion [Doc. No. 34].

BACKGROUND

On August 21, 2007, Plaintiffs Joel M. Cram and Minh D. Nguyen ("Plaintiffs") filed a putative class action complaint in San Diego County Superior Court against Defendant Electronic Data Systems Corporation ("Defendant") alleging causes of action for: (1) unpaid overtime compensation in violation of California Labor Code ("CLC") Sections 510 and 1194; (2) waiting penalties pursuant to CLC Sections 201-203; and (3) unfair competition in violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et seq. (See Plaintiffs' Complaint ¶¶ 28-48.) On September 20, 2007, Defendant removed the action to this Court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), which provides federal district courts with original jurisdiction over class actions with 100 or more putative class members, where the amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, and where "minimal" diversity of citizenship exists between at least one class member and the defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).

Plaintiffs dispute Defendant's allegations regarding amount in controversy, and on September 25, 2007, filed a Motion to Remand this matter back to state court arguing that the amount in controversy requirement is not met [Doc. No. 3]. The motion to remand is set for hearing on January 7, 2008 before presiding District Judge Larry A. Burns. On that same date, Plaintiffs also filed an ex parte application requesting permission from the Court to conduct discovery on the amount in controversy issue [Doc. No. 8]. Based on Defendant's demonstrated willingness to provide Plaintiffs with information to support the assertion that the amount placed in controversy by Plaintiffs' complaint exceeds $5,000,000, and Plaintiffs' request for such information, and in consideration of the Ninth Circuit's approach to pre-remand discovery in CAFA cases, the Court granted the ex parte application, allowing expedited discovery to go forward on the single issue of amount in controversy. (See Court's 10/3/07 Order, 7.)

Plaintiffs served Defendant with ten interrogatories pursuant to the Court's order. Upon receipt of Defendant's initial responses thereto, Plaintiffs determined that the responses were insufficient. Counsel for the parties met and conferred, and Defendant agreed to provide Plaintiffs with supplemental responses. After reviewing the supplemental responses, Plaintiffs remained dissatisfied with the answers to two out of the ten interrogatories, and the instant motion to compel ensued. Plaintiffs seek an order directing Defendant to provide more complete answers to Interrogatories 9 and 10, detailed below. Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, 2.) Defendant opposes the motion, arguing that the supplemental response provided to Interrogatory 9 is sufficient, and that Interrogatory 10 seeks information outside the scope of permissible discovery at this stage of the litigation. (Defendant's Opposition, 2-5.)

Defendant also requests that the Court award attorneys fees and costs associated with defending against Plaintiffs' motion, arguing that the motion was brought for no reason other than to harass Defendant and escalate the cost of litigating this matter. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiffs filed a reply, arguing that the supplemental information they seek is essential to controverting Defendant's claim that the amount in controversy requirement is met pursuant to CAFA. (Plaintiff's Reply, 2.)

DISCUSSION

The Federal Rules allow for broad discovery in civil actions: "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party. . . Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). This provision is liberally construed to provide wide-ranging discovery of information necessary for parties to evaluate and resolve their dispute. Oakes v. Halvorsen Marine Ltd.,179 F.R.D. 281, 283 (C.D. Cal. 1995). The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 610 (N.D. Cal. 1995). In turn, the party opposing discovery has the burden of showing that discovery should not be allowed, and also has the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections. DirectTV, Inc. V. Trone, 209 F.R.D. 455, 458 (C.D. Cal. 2002); Oakes, 179 F.R.D. at 283.

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33, a party may propound interrogatories which require the answering party to "furnish such information as is available to the party" after conducting a reasonable inquiry. See FED. R. CIV. P. 33(a). Each interrogatory must be answered separately and under oath. FED. R. CIV. P. 33(b). Plaintiffs seek a supplemental response to Interrogatory 9, which "Please describe in the greatest detail possible the basis, if any, for EDS' contention that the amount in controversy in the above-captioned civil action exceeds Five Million Dollars ($5,000,000.00). At a minimum, please show EDS' calculations, and explain the underlying factual basis for the numbers utilized by EDS in performing such calculations."

Plaintiff's Motion, Ex. "A," 28.) Defendant objected to the interrogatory based on the attorney work product doctrine. Without waiving the objection, Defendant provided a two page supplemental response that detailed the number of individuals Defendant has employed since August 21, 2003 (approximately 280 individuals in the State of California in the particular job positions that Plaintiffs' complaint place at issue in this matter), the approximate hourly rate at which those individuals were paid ($28.49 per hour), as well as the average number of overtime hours worked by each individual, and calculated the resulting estimated value of Plaintiffs' unpaid overtime compensation claims at $7,144,146.70. (Id. at 28-30.)

Plaintiffs do not appear to dispute the calculations contained in Defendant's response, but argue that the lengthy answer provided by Defendant to this interrogatory is insufficient because it fails to provide any information regarding the anticipated cost of Plaintiffs' requested injunctive relief. Plaintiffs' Motion, 4.) Thus, although Defendant provided specific dollar calculations regarding the anticipated value of Plaintiffs' damages claims, Plaintiffs assert that Defendant should have provided equally specific calculations regarding the cost of potential future injunctive relief. (Id.) In the supplemental response, Defendant states that the seven million dollar amount "does not include plaintiffs' claims for attorneys' fees and injunctive relief, which will likely equal or exceed" the damages calculations. (Plaintiff's Motion, Ex. A," 30.)

Defendant argues that the cost of injunctive relief was not calculated because the permanent nature of the relief sought by Plaintiffs makes the calculation too speculative. Defendant states:

"[t]he permanent nature of the injunction plaintiffs seek makes performing the calculation impossible. Specifically, whatever the cost would be in any one year of providing overtime pay to individuals who have allegedly been misclassified as exempt would have to be multiplied by an infinite number of years and would be subject to numerous variables including increases in wage rates and the size of the relevant workforce. Thus, EDS' ...


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