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Stephen D. Aho, An Individual, Individually and On Behalf of Similarly Situated Persons v. Americredit Financial Services

March 19, 2012

STEPHEN D. AHO, AN INDIVIDUAL, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF SIMILARLY SITUATED PERSONS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICREDIT FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC., D.B.A. ACF FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC., A BUSINESS ENTITY FORM UNKNOWN,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara L. Major United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S ) MOTION TO COMPEL DEPOSITIONS AND WRITTEN DISCOVERY [ECF No. 176]

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Ex Parte Request to Compel Depositions and Written Discovery. ECF No. 176 ("Pl.'s Mot."). Pursuant to this Court's order setting a briefing schedule (ECF No. 177), Defendant timely filed its opposition (ECF No. 179 ("Opp'n")) and Plaintiff timely filed his reply (ECF No. 180 ("Reply")).

Having considered all of the briefing and supporting documents presented, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's motion to compel.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This class action arises from Defendant's alleged violations of the requirements of California's Business and Professions Code and the Automobile Sales Finance Act ("ASFA"), among other laws, "by failing to provide required notices and rights to reinstatement and redemption for California consumers regarding vehicles [Defendant] AmeriCredit repossessed." ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff is seeking a determination that Defendant's notices of its intent to dispose of the repossessed vehicles ("NOIs") failed to comply with the ASFA, and that Defendant consequently lost the right to assert deficiency claims. Id. Among other forms of relief, Plaintiff is seeking restitution based on the amount of money each class member paid on Defendant's invalid deficiency claims. Id.

On November 8, 2011, Judge Sabraw issued an Order certifying the following class under Rule 23(b)(2):

All persons who were sent an NOI by AmeriCredit to an address in California at any time from March 18, 2005 through May 15, 2009, following the repossession or voluntary surrender of a motor vehicle, who were assessed a deficiency balance following the disposition of the vehicle, and against who AmeriCredit has asserted, collected, or attempted to collect any portion of the deficiency balance. The class excludes persons whose obligations have been discharged in bankruptcy, persons against whom AmeriCredit has obtained final judgments in replevin actions, persons whose contracts include arbitration clauses that prohibit class membership, and persons who received NOIs that denied them the right to reinstate.

ECF No. 98 at 20. Pursuant to Judge Sabraw's Order, the above described class is "entitled to pursue all forms of requested relief, with the exception of statutory damages under the Rosenthal Act and restitution of any amounts paid toward a deficiency balance." Id. Judge Sabraw also "certifie[d] under Rule 23(b)(3) a subclass consisting of all those who made a payment toward a deficiency and are therefore entitled to restitution." Id.

On January 31, 2012, Judge Sabraw issued an Order denying Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on its Rosenthal Act claim (ECF No. 153) and an Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on his declaratory relief and 17200 claims (ECF No. 154). Trial is scheduled to commence on April 16, 2012. See ECF No. 28 at 7.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure generally allow for broad discovery, authorizing parties to obtain discovery regarding "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Also, "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Id. Relevant information for discovery purposes includes any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence," and need not be admissible at trial to be discoverable. Id. There is also no requirement that the information sought directly relate to a particular issue in the case; rather, relevance "encompass[es] any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 354 (1978) (citation omitted). District courts have broad discretion to determine relevancy for discovery purposes, see Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002), and "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action," Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). District courts also have broad discretion to limit discovery to prevent its abuse. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2) (instructing that courts may limit discovery where it is "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative," "obtain[able] from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive," or where its burden or expense "outweighs its likely benefit").

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, "a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery." Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1). The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevance requirement of Rule 26. Soto, 162 F.R.D. at 610. Thereafter, the party opposing discovery has the burden of showing that the discovery should be prohibited, and the burden of "clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections." DIRECTV, Inc. v. Trone, 209 F.R.D. 455, 458 (C.D. Cal. 2002) (citing Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975)).

DISCUSSION

The instant discovery dispute arises from the fact that Defendant, in its February 17, 2012 trial brief, indicated that it has instituted new policies that negate Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief. See ECF No. 162 at 4. Upon learning of these policy changes for the first time by reading Defendant's trial brief, Plaintiff requested additional discovery, but Defendant "dismissed and denied" this request. Reply at 3. However, on March 2, 2012, defense counsel provided Plaintiff's counsel with a declaration from Craig Paterson, in which Mr. Paterson stated that "[o]n February 14, 2012, AmeriCredit implemented a new policy with respect to all members of the certified class (including subclass members) in this action." Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 1, at 2 ("Paterson Declaration"). Plaintiff asserts that because Defendant "has instituted new policies and procedures, hitherto unknown and undisclosed," Plaintiff is "entitled to have discovery regarding the new, surprise changes." Pl.'s Mot. at 3-4. Defendant, however, contends that Plaintiff not only failed to properly meet and confer prior to filing his motion, but also that ...


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