The opinion of the court was delivered by: Present: Honorable VIRGINIA A. Phillips, U.S. District Judge
Marva Dillard None Present Courtroom Deputy Court Reporter
PROCEEDINGS: MINUTE ORDER ADVISING PARTIES OF TENTATIVE
Before the Court is a Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement ("Motion") filed by Plaintiffs Rene O. Quiroz Sandoval, Miguel Angel Ardon, Jorge Reyes Nunez, Oscar Abrew, and Jose M. Vargas (collectively, "Plaintiffs") on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated (collectively, "Class Members"). Prior to the November 7, 2011 hearing on the Motion, the Court advises the parties of its tentative ruling DENYING Plaintiffs' Motion without RENE O. QUIROZ SANDOVAL, et al. v. ROADLINK USA PACIFIC, INC., etc., et al. MINUTE ORDER of November 9, 2011
Plaintiffs and the proposed class members are current or former hourly employees of Defendant Roadlink USA Pacific LLC ("Defendant"), a transportation and logistics company. Plaintiffs allege Defendant engaged in a pattern and practice of failing to compensate its employees for overtime, requiring employees to work through meal and rest periods without compensation, and requiring employees to work "off the clock." (Compl. (Doc No. 1) ¶¶ 1-5; 27.) Plaintiffs defined two classes in their Complaint: Class A are all current and former employees Defendant employed as Truck Drivers within California within four years of the filing of the original complaint until the date of entry of judgment; Class B are all former employees Defendant employed as Truck Drivers within California within on year of the filing of the original complaint until the date of entry of judgment. (Compl. ¶ 16.)
On March 18, 2010, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint against Defendant in the California Superior Court for the County of San Bernardino, alleging claims for:
1. Failure to Pay Overtime in violation of California Labor Code §§ 226, 510, 1194, et seq. (Brought on Behalf of Plaintiffs and Class A);
2. Failure to Pay Wages in violation of California Labor Code §§ 201, 202, 1198 (Brought on Behalf of Plaintiffs and Class A);
3. Failure to Provide Meal Periods or Compensation in Lieu Thereof in violation of California Labor Code §§ 226.7 and 512 (Brought on Behalf of Plaintiffs and Class A);
4. Failure to Pay Wages of Terminated or Resigned Employees in violation of California Labor Code §§ 201-203 (Brought on Behalf of Plaintiffs and Class B);
5. Racial Discrimination in violation of California Government Code § 12940 (Brought on Behalf of Plaintiffs);
6. Wrongful Termination in violation of Public Policy (Brought on Behalf of Plaintiffs); and
7. Unfair Competition in violation of California Business & Professions Code § 17200, et seq. (Brought on Behalf of Plaintiffs, Class A and B, and the California General Public).
On June 11, 2010, Defendant filed its answer. (Not. of Removal Ex. A. (Doc. No. 1).) On July 1, 2010, Defendant filed its Notice of Removal, removing the case to this Court on the basis of this Court's diversity jurisdiction. (Not. of Removal at 2.)
Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand on July 30, 2010. (Doc. No. 9.) On August 23, 2010, Defendant filed its Opposition. (Doc. No. 17.) Plaintiffs filed their Reply untimely on September 7, 2010. (Doc. No. 19; see also L. R. 7-10 (requiring replies, if any, to be filed "not later than fourteen (14) days before the date designated for the hearing of the motion").) The Court denied the Motion to Remand on September 14, 2010. (Doc. No. 20.)
The parties stipulated repeatedly to extend the time to file a motion for class certification. (See Doc. Nos. 18, 22, 26.) In the interim, Plaintiffs filed - and the Court granted on May 23, 2011 - a Motion to Compel Production of Documents by Defendant. (See Doc. Nos. 31, 32.) The parties then stipulated to provide notice of the lawsuit to current and former employees. (Doc. Nos. 31, 32.)
Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Class Certification on July 11, 2011. (Doc. No. 34.) On July 29, 2011, the parties stipulated to continue and stay the deadlines in order to finalize their settlement agreement and file a motion for preliminary approval of the settlement. (Stip. to Stay Deadlines Due to Settlement (Doc. No. 35.) ¶ 4.)
On October 3, 2011, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed "Motion for Order: (1) Conditionally Certifying a Settlement Class; (2) Preliminarily Approving Class Action Settlement; (3) Approving Notice of Class Action Settlement; and 4) Setting Hearing For Final Approval," the Declaration of Richard E. Donahoo ("Donahoo Declaration"), a Proposed Order, and Proposed Claim and Notice Forms. (Doc. No.
Class Certification Parties seeking class certification for settlement purposes must satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 ("Rule 23"). Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 620 (1997). A court considering such a request should give the Rule 23 certification factors "undiluted, even heightened, attention in the settlement context." Id.
Under Rule 23(a), in order to bring a class action, a plaintiff must demonstrate:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable ["numerosity"], (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class ["commonality"], (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class ["typicality"], and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class ["adequacy of representation"].
In addition to these prerequisites, a plaintiff must satisfy one of the prongs of Rule 23(b) in order to maintain a class action. Where, as here, a plaintiff moves for class certification under Rule 23(b)(3), the plaintiff must prove:
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. The matters pertinent to the findings include: (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.*fn1
Approving Class Action Settlement
Rule 23(e) states: "[t]he claims, issues, or defenses of a certified class may be settled, voluntarily dismissed, or compromised only with the court's approval." The court must hold a hearing and find that the settlement "is fair, reasonable, and adequate." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(e)(2). Review of a proposed settlement generally proceeds in two stages, a hearing on preliminary approval followed by a final fairness hearing. See Federal Judicial Center, Manual for Complex Litigation, § 21.632 (4th ed. 2004).
At the preliminary approval stage, a court determines whether a proposed settlement is "within the range of possible approval" and whether notice should be sent to class members. In re Corrugated Container Antitrust Litig., 643 F.2d 195, 205 (5th Cir. 1981); see also Gautreaux v. Pierce, 690 F.2d 616, 621 n. 3 (7th Cir. 1982) (stating that the purpose of a preliminary approval hearing is "to ascertain whether there is any reason to notify the class members of the proposed settlement and to proceed with a fairness hearing"); Manual for Complex Litigation § 21.632.
Failure to Comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e)(3) Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e)(3), "[t]he parties seeking approval [of a class action settlement] must file a statement identifying any agreement made in connection with the proposal." By requiring multiple parties to file the required statement, Rule 23(e)(3) requires both the plaintiff and the defendant to file the statement identifying their agreement. See also 4 Newberg on Class Actions § 11.24 (4th ed.) (parties to a settlement "usually prepare and execute a joint stipulation of settlement [that] is submitted to the court for preliminary approval"). Here, Plaintiffs filed the Motion, but Defendant did not countersign the Motion or include a declaration in support of the Motion; Defendant only signed the Settlement Agreement. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motion violates Rule 23(e)(3).
The Court therefore DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion. Nevertheless, in the interest of judicial efficiency, the Court examines the substance of Plaintiffs' Motion and the proposed Settlement Agreement, but cautions Plaintiffs that the following analysis is based solely on the Settlement Agreement and Plaintiffs' representations.
Conditional Class Certification
In this Motion, Plaintiffs seek certification of the settlement class, described as: "all current and former employees employed by Defendant as truck drivers within the State of California from the period of March 18, 2006 through the Preliminary Approval Date of the class settlement." (Donahoo Decl. (Doc. No. 39) Ex. A ("Settlement") § 1.3.) Plaintiffs seek an injunction, declaratory relief, and damages for violations of their legal rights to meal breaks and overtime pay under California Labor Code Sections 226.7, 512, 226, 510, 1194 et seq. (Compl. at 1.)
To establish, under Rule 23(a)(1), that joinder of all members is "impracticable," the plaintiff need not show that it would be "impossible" to join every class member. Haley v. Medtronic, Inc., 169 F.R.D. 643, 647 (C.D. Cal. 1996). There is no specific number requirement, as the court may examine the specific facts of each case. Ballard v. Equifax Check Servs., Inc., 186 F.R.D. 589, 594 (E.D. Cal. 1999). Indeed, courts have not required evidence of specific class size or identity of class members to satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(a)(4). Robidoux v.
Here, Plaintiffs estimate the proposed class to be approximately 179 members. (Mot. at 8.) Plaintiffs base this number on Defendant's records showing whom the trucking company employed as California truck drivers from March 18, 2006 to the present. (Id.) The Court finds it would be impracticable to require joinder here because of the large number ...