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Negrete v. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

July 3, 2013

VIDA F NEGRETE
v.
ALLIANZ LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA; AND RELATED CASE: CAROLYN B. HEALEY, ETC.
v.
ALLIANZ LIFE INS. CO. OF N. AMERICA

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

CHRISTINA A. SNYDER, District Judge.

Proceedings: (In Chambers:) DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DECERTIFY THE CALIFORNIA CLASS (filed June 3, 2013) [936]

PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR MODIFICATION OF THE DEFINITION OF THE CERTIFIED CLASSES (filed June 11, 2013) [937]

I. INTRODUCTION

The Court finds this motion appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; Local Rule 7-15. Accordingly, the hearing date of July 8, 2013, is vacated, and the matter is hereby taken under submission.

In these related class action cases, plaintiffs Vida F. Negrete ("Negrete"), as conservator for Everett Ow ("Ow"), and Carolyn B. Healey ("Healey") (collectively, "plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and a nationwide class of an estimated 200, 000 senior citizens, allege that defendant Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Inc. ("Allianz") conspired with a network of affiliated Field Marketing Organizations ("FMOs") to induce class members to purchase deferred annuities issued by Allianz.

On November 26, 2006, the Court granted class certification of a nationwide RICO class, as well as a California subclass asserting claims under the Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), False Advertising Law ("FAL"), and a claim for "financial abuse" under the Elder Abuse Act, California Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.30. Negrete v. Allianz Life Ins. Co. of N. Am. , 238 F.R.D. 482, 496-97 (C.D. Cal. 2006) ("Negrete I"). In doing so, the Court found the adequacy of representation and typicality requirements satisfied under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) as to both named plaintiffs. On February 8, 2007, the Court formally appointed Negrete and Healey as Class Representatives, with Negrete, as conservator for Everett Ow ("Ow"), serving as representative for the California class. Dkt. No. 167. At that time, Allianz did not object to her appointment.

On May 30, 2012, Allianz moved to decertify the nationwide RICO class on the grounds that the class no longer met the requirements of commonality, typicality, and predominance under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b). The Court denied Allianz's motion to decertify the nationwide RICO class on December 27, 2012. Negrete v. Allianz Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 287 F.R.D. 590 (C.D. Cal. 2012) ("Negrete II").

On October 6, 2012, Ow passed away. On June 3, 2013, Allianz filed the instant motion to decertify the California-only subclass, contending that Negrete will be an inadequate class representative in light of Ow's death. Plaintiffs opposed the motion on June 24.

On June 11, 2013, plaintiffs filed a motion to modify the definition of both the nationwide and California classes by excluding certain products and individuals from the original class definitions. Allianz does not oppose modification of the class definitions in principle, but it raises various objections to plaintiffs' proposed modifications and class notice. After considering the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On March 14, 2006, Negrete was permanently appointed as Ow's conservator. By the time of Ow's deposition in June 2006, Negrete testified that his memory had further declined. Friedman Decl. Opp'n, Ex. 1 (Negrete Depo. 78:22-79:14). In July 2008, Negrete stated that Ow could no longer "accurately remember events occurring in 2002 and... [was] incapable of currently recalling seeing documents or what documents meant even though he may have read the documents at the time." Id . Ex. 3 (Negrete Decl., July 7, 2008, ¶¶ 6-7). In response to this submission, Allianz contended at that time that this development "calls into question [Ow's] ability to serve as class representative." Dkt. No. 470 at 28 (February 13, 2009).

Negrete reaffirmed Ow's lack of mental capacity in July 2011. Id . Ex. 4. Ow passed away on October 6, 2012, and plaintiffs gave notice of his passing on October 17, 2012.

B. Modification of the Class Definition

The Court originally certified a RICO and California ...


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