United States District Court, S.D. California
June 16, 2014
RANDY NUNEZ, On Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
SUPERVALU, INC., a Minnesota corporation and DOES 1 through 20, Defendant.
WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.
The matters before the Court are the Motion to Stay (ECF No. 32), and the Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (ECF No. 27) ("Motion to Dismiss"), both filed by Defendant Supervalu, Inc.
On March 15, 2013, Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a Class Action Complaint for: (1) Violation of the California Unfair Competition Law; (2) Violation of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act; and (3) Breach of Express Warranty ("Complaint"). (ECF No. 1). The Complaint challenges the efficacy of dietary supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sold by Defendant Supervalu, Inc. at its Albertson's grocery stores. Plaintiff alleges that he purchased a bottle of the glucosamine/chondroitin supplement at one of Defendant's stores in San Diego for $15, and the supplement did not provide Plaintiff with the joint health benefits advertised on the bottle. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of a putative nationwide class, and alleges diversity subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).
On March 10, 2014, Defendant filed the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 27). On March 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 28).
On April 17, 2014, Defendant filed the Motion to Stay. (ECF No. 32). Defendant asserts that this is one of nine pending lawsuits challenging the efficacy of the same glucosamine/chondroitin dietary supplements manufactured by the same company. Defendant asserts that, on March 24, 2014, a settlement agreement was reached in three of the nine actions, Guilin v. Walgreen Co., No. 11cv7763 (N.D. Ill., filed Nov. 1, 2011); Eckler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 12cv727 (S.D. Cal., filed Mar. 26, 2012); and Quinn v. Walgreen Co., No. 12cv8187 (S.D.N.Y., filed Nov. 9, 2012) (collectively, " Quinn "). Defendant asserts that "[t]he settlement will involve certification of a national settlement class and will resolve all the [nine pending] Actions, including this one." (ECF No. 32-1 at 9). Defendant requests that this Court enter an order staying this action "during the pendency of the settlement approval process in Quinn. " Id. at 15. Defendant contends that a stay would promote judicial efficiency because "approval of the settlement in Quinn will resolve the claims pending in this Court." Id. at 13. Defendant contends that it will be prejudiced in the absence of a stay because it would "be forced to expend significant resources in discovery, a wasteful enterprise in the event that the settlement in Quinn is approved, " and could "become subject to competing court orders." Id. at 12 (quotation omitted). Defendant contends that Plaintiff will not be prejudiced because this action is still in the pleading stages, and "the stay would be for a finite period of time" due to the expedited briefing schedule set for the settlement approval in Quinn. Id. at 11.
On May 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed an opposition to the Motion to Stay. (ECF No. 33). Plaintiff contends that he would be prejudiced by a stay because he is not a party to Quinn, and because "there is likely nothing in the proposed settlement [in Quinn ] that would preclude Plaintiff Nunez from opting out and continuing to pursue his own action, thereby making a stay inefficient and ill-advised." Id. at 4. Plaintiff contends that "continuing to litigate this case will not place undue hardship on either party, nor will it burden the management of the Court's workload." Id. at 9.
On May 12, 2014, Defendant filed a reply in support of the Motion to Stay. (ECF No. 36).
"[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). "A trial court may, with propriety, find it is efficient for its own docket and the fairest course for the parties to enter a stay of an action before it, pending resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon the case." Leyva v. Certified Grocers of Cal., Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979). "Where it is proposed that a pending proceeding be stayed, the competing interests which will be affected by the granting or refusal to grant a stay must be weighed." Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1110 (9th Cir. 2005) (quotation omitted). "Among those competing interests are the possible damage which may result from the granting of a stay, the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law which could be expected to result from a stay." Id. (quotation omitted).
Plaintiff does not dispute that the issues and the putative classes are effectively the same in this case and in Quinn. It appears undisputed that if the Quinn settlement is approved, Plaintiff's own putative class action will be moot. Although Plaintiff will have the ability to opt out of the Quinn class and pursue his individual claims, there is no indication in the Complaint or any other filings that this Court will have subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's individual claims. Plaintiff fails to point to any reason why it might be unlikely that the Quinn settlement will ultimately be approved. However, if Plaintiff has a basis for challenging the fairness of the settlement, as a member of Quinn 's putative class, Plaintiff will have the opportunity to object to the settlement in the appropriate court. The Court has considered the arguments of the parties and the competing interests outlined by Lockyer, 398 F.3d at 1110. The Court finds that staying this action pending resolution of the settlement approval process in Quinn is, on balance, in the best interests of the parties and "the orderly course of justice." Id.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion to Stay is GRANTED. (ECF No. 32). This action is STAYED pending further order of the Court. No later than ninety (90) days from the date this Order is filed, the parties shall file a joint status report regarding the settlement approval process in Quinn. The Motion to Dismiss the Complaint is DENIED without prejudice. (ECF No. 27).