ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION [DOC. 190]
M. JAMES LORENZ, District Judge.
This putative class action brought by three truck drivers-Plaintiffs Josue Soto, Ghazi Rashid, and Mohamed Abdelfattah-working for Defendant Diakon Logistics (Delaware), Inc., asserting violations of California wages-and-hours laws. Plaintiffs now move for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Defendant opposes.
The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). (Doc. 188.) For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiffs' motion for class certification.
Defendant provides home-delivery services to various furniture and appliance retailers. (FAC ¶ 12.) Plaintiffs are all truck drivers who worked for Defendant in California. ( Id. ¶¶ 8-10.) Each named plaintiff worked for Defendant during different though partially overlapping time periods in different locations. ( Id. ) They contend that they were classified by Defendant as independent contractors when they were in fact non-exempt employees. ( Id. ¶ 1.)
On December 5, 2007, Mr. Soto filed a putative class-action complaint in state court seeking recovery from Defendant for failure to reimburse for reasonable business expenses, issue itemized wage statements and for other alleged violations of the California Labor Code provisions. (Removal Notice ¶ 1.) He also alleged that Defendant violated the California Business and Professions Code § 17200, et seq. ( Id. ) He requested damages and injunctive relief. Defendant removed the action to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) and (d)(2). ( Id. ¶ 2.) Subsequently, Plaintiffs amended their complaint to add Mr. Rashid and Mr. Abdelfattah as plaintiffs to this class action. (Doc. 28.)
Plaintiffs' initial motion for class certification was denied without prejudice. (Doc. 117.) Thereafter, the parties conducted discovery. Plaintiffs then filed a subsequent motion for class certification, which was also denied without prejudice. (Doc. 156.) Plaintiffs now move for class certification for a third time under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. (Doc. 190.) Defendant opposes.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
The class action is "an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only." Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2550 (2011) (quoting Califano v. Yamasaki, 442 U.S. 682, 700-01 (1979)). In order to justify a departure from that rule, "a class representative must be part of the class and possess the same interest and suffer the same injury' as the class members." Id. (citing E. Tex. Motor Freight Sys., Inc. v. Rodriguez, 431 U.S. 395, 403 (1977)). In this regard, Rule 23 contains two sets of class certification requirements set forth in Rule 23(a) and (b). United Steel, Paper & Forestry, Rubber, Mfg. Energy, Allied Indus. & Serv. Workers Int'l Union v. ConocoPhillips Co., 593 F.3d 802, 806 (9th Cir. 2010). "A court may certify a class if a plaintiff demonstrates that all of the prerequisites of Rule 23(a) have been met, and that at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b) have been met." Otsuka v. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., 251 F.R.D. 439, 443 (N.D. Cal. 2008). "The burden is on the plaintiff to establish that the  requirements have been met." Id.
"Rule 23(a) provides four prerequisites that must be satisfied for class certification: (1) the class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) questions of law or fact exist that are common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class." Otsuka, 251 F.R.D. at 443 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)). "A plaintiff must also establish that one or more of the grounds for maintaining the suit are met under Rule 23(b), including: (1) that there is a risk of substantial prejudice from separate actions; (2) that declaratory or injunctive relief benefitting the class as a whole would be appropriate; or (3) that common questions of law or fact predominate and the class action is superior to other available methods of adjudication." Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)).
A trial court has broad discretion in making the decision to grant or deny a motion for class certification. Bateman v. Am. Multi-Cinema, Inc., 623 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2010). "In determining the propriety of a class action, the question is not whether the plaintiff has stated a cause of action or will prevail on the merits, but rather whether the requirements of Rule 23 are met." Otsuka, 251 F.R.D. at 444 (citing Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 178 (1974)). This analysis requires a district court to conduct a "rigorous analysis" that frequently "will entail overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying claim." Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2550-51. "Although in determining whether to certify the class, the district court is bound to take the substantive allegations of the complaint as true, the court also is required to consider the nature and range of proof necessary to establish those allegations." See In re Coordinated Pretrial Proceedings in Petroleum Prods. Antitrust Litig., 691 F.2d 1335, 1342 (9th Cir. 1982) (citations omitted).z
"Although there is no explicit requirement concerning the class definition in FRCP 23, courts have held that the class must be adequately defined and clearly ascertainable before a class action may proceed." Schwartz v. Upper Deck Co., 183 F.R.D. 672, 679-80 (S.D. Cal. 1999) (Brewster, J.). "An identifiable class exists if its members can be ascertained by reference to objective criteria. A class description is insufficient, however, if membership is contingent on the prospective member's state of mind." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "In other words, it must be administratively feasible to determine whether a particular person is a class member." Id.
Plaintiffs' action is premised on the claim that they and the putative class members were misclassified by Defendant as independent contractors, when they should have been classified as non-exempt employees. Previously, Plaintiffs defined the class to include any person who had signed a "Service Agreement" that categorized them as independent contractors. They narrowed this definition in their subsequent motion by excluding any person who operated more than one delivery vehicle for Defendant. Plaintiffs now seek to define the class even more narrowly as follows:
All persons who performed work for Diakon Logistics (Delaware) Inc. as a delivery-truck driver in the State of California between December 5, 2003 and the present and were designated and paid by Diakon as an independent contractor rather than an employee, and who did not employ or use other drivers to perform the work assigned to them by Diakon.
Despite Defendant's contentions, the Court finds that this proposed class definition is adequately defined and clearly ascertainable because it provides the objective criteria needed to determine the members of the class. See Schwartz, 183 F.R.D. at 679-80; see also Smith v. Cardinal Logistics Mgmt. Corp., No. 07-2104, 2008 WL 4156364, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 5, 2008) (granting class certification for a similarly defined proposed class of delivery-truck drivers). Consequently, the Court will now proceed to the Rule 23(a) and 23(b) analyses.
A. Rule 23(a)
"Rule 23(a) ensures that the named plaintiffs are appropriate representatives of the class whose claims they wish to litigate." Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2550. "The Rule's four requirements-numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequate representation-effectively limit the class claims to those fairly encompassed by the named plaintiff's claims." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendant does not oppose Plaintiffs' typicality and adequate-representation analyses. Thus, Defendant effectively concedes and thus the Court need not address these requirements. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(f)(3)(b) & (c).
Rule 23(a)(1) requires that the class be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1). Plaintiffs maintain that as of December 31, 2011, there are approximately 345 drivers who fall within the class description. (Emge Decl. ¶ 10.) They argue that trying to join several hundred drivers as separate plaintiffs is "highly impracticable, " and would create undesirable, "fragmentary" enforcement of California's labor laws. (Pls.' Mot. 14:10-20.) Defendant responds by arguing that Plaintiffs do not support their number with any evidence and that the number of class members cannot be known based on Defendant's records. (Def.'s Opp'n 8:16-9:8.) However, Plaintiffs' reply points to numerous pieces of evidence-including foremost Charles H. Johnson's declaration, which is attached to Defendant's opposition brief, as well as service agreements and depositions-that provide the values for the potential class size. (Pls.' Reply 1:12-3:22.) This evidence suggests that at a minimum 315 drivers (out of a maximum of 471 drivers) meet the proposed class definition. ( Id. ) Therefore, Plaintiffs satisfy the Rule 23(a)'s numerosity requirement. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1).
Under Rule 23(a)(2), Plaintiffs must demonstrate that there are "questions of law or fact common to the class." The Supreme Court has held that plaintiffs must demonstrate "the capacity of a classwide proceeding to generate common answers" to common questions of law or fact that are "apt to drive the resolution of the litigation." Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2551 (internal quotations marks omitted). However, "[a]ll questions of fact and law need not be common to satisfy this rule." Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1019 (9th Cir. 1998). "The existence of shared legal issues with divergent factual predicates is sufficient, as is a common core of salient facts coupled with disparate legal remedies within the class." Id.
Plaintiffs present a list of seventeen purported common issues of fact to show that they satisfy the commonality requirement. (Pls.' Mot. 15:4-16:12.) They also provide legal authority that states that "District Courts throughout this circuit have found that commonality is met when the proposed class of plaintiffs asserts that class members were improperly classified as independent contractors instead of employees." Guifu Li v. A Perfect Franchise, Inc., No. 10-CV-01189-LHK, 2011 WL 4635198, at *7 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 5, 2011) (citing Norris-Wilson v. Delta-T Grp., Inc., 270 F.R.D. 596, 604 (S.D. Cal. 2010) (Burns, J.); Breeden v. Benchmark Lending Corp., 229 F.R.D. 623, 629 (N.D. Cal. 2005)); see also Campbell v. First Investors Corp., No. 11-CV-548, 2012 WL 5373423, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2012) (Benitez, J.) (finding that "whether [the class members] were inappropriately classified as independent contractors and, as a result, not paid in ...