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John Flores, et al v. Bank of America

December 27, 2012

JOHN FLORES, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William V. Gallo U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' APPLICATION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES ORDER SUSTAINING DEFENDANTS' OBJECTIONS TO PLAINTIFFS' INTERROGATORIES NOS. 20-24

Plaintiffs and Defendants have informed the Court of a discovery dispute regarding Plaintiffs' interrogatories nos. 20-24 and Defendants' responses thereto. They have submitted a Joint Statement for Determination of Discovery Disputes ("Joint Statement"). The Court, having reviewed the Joint Statement, the authorities cited therein, the interrogatories at issue and the responses thereto, and GOOD CAUSE APPEARING, HEREBY DENIES Plaintiffs' application to compel further responses to the interrogatories and SUSTAINS Defendants' objections to the interrogatories.

A. Arguments

In Flores, Plaintiffs define the putative class as: "All persons in the United States who entered into a Loan Agreement (Interest Only to Fixed Rate) with Defendants but were not provided the agreed to loan modifications."

In Jones, Plaintiffs define the putative class as: "All persons in the United States who entered into a Loan Agreement (5-1 ARM 10 Year IO) with Defendants but were not provided the agreed to loan modifications."

Plaintiffs argue that the interrogatories seek information that is relevant to the class certification issues of numerosity, commonality and typicality. Plaintiff cites several cases that they believe supports the propriety of the discovery they seek. These cases are Bell v. Lockheed Martin, 270 F.R.D. 186 (D. NJ 2010), In re Bank of America Wage & Hour Litigation, 275 F.R.D. 534 (D. KS 2011), Vallabharpurapu v. Burger King, 276 F.R.D. 611 (N.D. Cal. 2007), and Putnam v. Eli Lilly, 508 F. Supp 2d 812 (C.D. Cal. 2007). Plaintiffs argue that these cases support their assertions that discovery outside of the putative class definition is proper and appropriate.

Defendants argue that the interrogatories are vague, overbroad, unduly burdensome, seek information outside the class definition, and implicate their customers' privacy interests. Further, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs have not shown good cause for the discovery they seek.

B. Ruling

When a court manages pre-class certification discovery, it must balance the need to promote effective case management, the need to prevent potential abuse and the need to protect the rights of all parties. Consequently, the discovery must be broad enough to give plaintiffs a 'realistic opportunity to meet (the certification) requirements.' However, it must also protect the defendants against discovery that is irrelevant or invades privileged and confidential areas. Pre-certification discovery is within the discretion of the court, and limitations may be imposed within the court's discretion. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. ABM Industries, Inc., 2008 WL 5385618 at *4 (E.D. Cal. 2008) (citations omitted). A class representative engaging in pre-certification discovery must show good cause that warrants expansion of discovery beyond the class, as defined in the complaint. Martinet v. Spherion Atlantic Enterprises, 2008 WL 2557490 (S. D. Cal. 2008).

Here, the interrogatories are vague, overbroad and unduly burdensome. Further, its appears to the Court that the only purpose of Plaintiffs' interrogatories in issue in the Joint Statement is to allow Plaintiffs to search for other customers of Defendants with claims similar to those of the Plaintiffs in Flores and Jones, without any factual connection to the Plaintiffs in Flores and Jones other than that they are Defendants' customers who did not receive loan modifications. In the Court's view, the type of discovery sought by Plaintiffs constitutes a "fishing expedition" which would be unduly burdensome for Defendants to further respond. Moreover, Plaintiffs have failed to show good cause for the requested discovery.

Plaintiff's cited cases do not apply in this case. Bell, supra, is an employment discrimination class action in which the discovery requests fell within the class definition or within the general allegations of the complaint. Further, the court noted that "' in employment discrimination cases, Courts generally grant wide latitude to... plaintiffs who seek to conduct company wide discovery, and the relevant issue is the extent to which the case involves a common policy or practice.'" [citing Gutierrez v. Johnson & Johnson, 2002 US Dist. LEXIS 15418 at *1 (D. NJ 2002).

Here, this case does not involve employment discrimination, where the parties are afforded wide latitude to conduct discovery and the requests fall outside the class definition. Further, Plaintiffs do not allege a common practice or policy with regard to Defendants' loan modification agreements. Moreover, Bell is not binding on this Court.

Bank of America Wage & Hour Employment Practices Litigation, supra, is a class action regarding Bank of America's wage and hour practices. The discovery requests in that case fell within the class definition or within the general allegations of the complaint. Plaintiffs in that case argued that the discovery sought would likely provide relevant information regarding their claims. Bank of America did not assert that it would be unduly burdensome to produce the requested information.

Here, this case does not involve claims regarding wage and hour practices and Defendants objected to the requested discovery as, inter alia, unduly burdensome. ...


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