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Amador v. City of Los Angeles

United States District Court, Central District of California

November 6, 2014

FRANK AMADOR, JR., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, Defendants

For Frank Amador, JR, Maurice Brunel, Maurice Brunel, Christian Christensen, Joseph Ciancanelli, Jeffrey Collado, Marlo Cross, Gary Cusick, Patrick Delaney, Nguyen do, Tina Glenn, Steven Gross, Maurice Hallauer, Edward Heredia, Mark Hernandez, Gary Holbrook, Charles Howard, Michael Kilpatrick, Edward Kim, Stephanie Krajchir, Teresa Lincoln, Hector Lomelin, John Long, James Macdonald, David Morales, Michell Nowlen, Johny Onyshko, Jr., Robert Orlando, Gregory Owens, Jeffrey Pailet, John Poland, Mark Preciado, Daniel Putnam, Engelbert Quechenberger, Nicholas Titirigg, Jorge Torres, Alan Thatcher, John Vach, Jr., Phil Walters, Dale Washburn, Brian Wilson, William Young, Jeremy Yamamoto, Plaintiffs: Gregory G Petersen, Richard L Hutchinson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Gregory G Petersen ALC, Newport Beach, CA USA.

For City of Los Angeles, Defendant: Brian P Walter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore APC, Los Angeles, CA USA; Daniel P Aguilera, Wayne H Song, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, Los Angeles, CA USA; Geoffrey S Sheldon, LEAD ATTORNEY, Joshua Andrew Goodman, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, Los Angeles, CA USA.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO DISMISS ALL INDIVIDUALLY NAMED PLAINTIFFS EXCEPT FRANK AMADOR JR.

MANUEL L. REAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion To Strike, Or In The Alternative, To Dismiss All Individually Named Plaintiffs Except Frank Amador Jr., which was filed on September 9, 2014. Having been thoroughly briefed by both parties, this Court took the matter under submission on October 27, 2014.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 establishes that " on motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. Since Rule 21 does not proscribe its own standards for determining whether a party has been misjoined, the Ninth Circuit has looked to Rule 20 for guidance. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the Central Dist. Of Cal., 523 F.2d 1073, 1079 (9th Cir. 1975). Rule 20 provides that plaintiffs may join together in one action if:

(A) they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.

Therefore, if the test for permissive joinder is not satisfied, a court, in its discretion, may sever the misjoined parties, so long as no substantial right will be prejudiced by the severance. Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1350 (9th Cir. 1997). In such a case, the court can generally dismiss all but the first named plaintiff without prejudice to the institution of new, separate lawsuits by the dropped plaintiffs. Id.

On May 21, 2014, the District Court granted Defendant's Motion to Decertify as to two consolidated lawsuits against the City of Los Angeles - Alaniz, et al. v. City of Los Angeles (No. CV 04-8592 GAF (AJWx)) and Mata, et al. v. City of Los Angeles (No. CV 07-6782 GAF (AJWx)). In so doing, the Court held that Plaintiffs' claims were simply too individualized to proceed in any manner other than individual lawsuits. Specifically, as the Decertification Order indicates, the claims arise in a wide variety of factual and employment settings, Defendant's defenses to the claims will require individualized presentation of evidence, and the interests of judicial efficiency and economy would be frustrated if Plaintiffs proceeded in a collective action.

In response, Plaintiffs re-filed their individual claims in twenty-eight lawsuits, grouping themselves according to department. This action is one of these twenty-eight newly filed suits, in which the individually named plaintiffs claim they each worked at the Emergency Services Division. However, the same logic that led to the decertification of the two collective actions applies to joinder under Rule 20.

First, the Plaintiffs in this action have worked at multiple stations/divisions, each under different supervisors, throughout their individual claims period. For example, Wallace Carr, a named Plaintiff in this action, has worked at four different divisions, including Foothill, Hollywood, South, and Traffic Coordination. Charles Howard, another named Plaintiff, worked at Metro, Pacific, Southwest, and 77th. Plaintiff Jeremy Yamamoto worked at Emergency Operations, Valley Traffic, and Metropolitan.

Furthermore, even within a single department, Plaintiffs' claims are too varied to be joined. For example, Plaintiff William Young alleges that overtime work was approved by Sergeants Grayson and Brown, whereas Plaintiff Charles Howard alleges overtime approval from Sergeants Batts and Hooper. Therefore, Plaintiffs' attempt to join themselves into mini collective actions by division does not solve the problem because each Plaintiff has worked in multiple divisions, with varying assignments and supervisors during the relevant statutory period.

Second, as stated in the Decertification Order, Plaintiffs will need to demonstrate that Defendant either had actual or constructive knowledge that Plaintiffs were working off-the-clock without pay. Defendant is therefore entitled to raise several defenses that are inherently individualized. This will require individualized presentation of evidence, and joinder would therefore be improper.

Finally, allowing joinder here would be unfair and prejudicial to Defendant. Even if the joinder requirements of Rule 20 are met, a district court must examine whether permissive joinder would comport with the principles of fundamental fairness or would result in prejudice to either side. Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1296 (9th Cir. 2000). Here, because many of the Plaintiffs worked in more than one assignment and often worked different shifts in any given assignment during the relevant statutory period, each Plaintiff will have several supervisors and co-workers that will be required to testify at trial. Allowing joinder of numerous plaintiffs who are claiming unpaid overtime for over the course of the last decade will result in countless mini-trials within one trial. Therefore, fairness and procedural considerations weigh against joinder.

Thus, because Plaintiffs' claims arise in a wide variety of factual and employment settings, Defendant's defenses to the claims will require individualized presentation of evidence, and the interests of judicial efficiency and economy would be frustrated if Plaintiffs proceeded in a collective action, joinder is improper, and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss All Individually Named Plaintiffs Except Frank Amador Jr. is granted.

The next issue is whether paragraphs five, sixteen, eighteen, and twenty-one of Plaintiffs' Complaint should be stricken pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). Rule 12(f) provides that the court may order stricken from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.

Paragraph five of Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that all Plaintiffs herein have the same or substantially similar claims, and that joinder is proper because all allegations involve the same wrongful and/or illegal employment policy, practice, and/or scheme. As discussed above, Plaintiffs do not have substantially similar claims. Plaintiffs' claims are individualized, and must be brought separately by each individual Plaintiff. Therefore, paragraph five of Plaintiffs' Complaint is stricken pursuant to Rule 12(f).

In paragraphs sixteen and eighteen Plaintiffs allege that they performed certain duties while holding the rank of sergeant and/or lieutenant. However, some of the Plaintiffs never held the rank of sergeant or lieutenant. For example, named Plaintiffs Howard, Carr and Yamamoto stated in their declarations that they never held the rank of sergeant or lieutenant. As such, general allegations about duties of sergeants and lieutenants are immaterial to all Plaintiffs, and paragraphs sixteen and eighteen of Plaintiffs' Complaint are therefore stricken.

Plaintiffs allege in paragraph twenty-one that they performed special duties that required donning and doffing at the worksite, and that they were entitled to be compensated for their time. In Alaniz and Mata, Defendant City moved for summary adjudication on Plaintiffs' donning and doffing claims. On July 7, 2010, the District Court granted the City's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, dismissing the donning and doffing claims. After these claims were dismissed, the only claims that remained were the varied off-the-clock claims. Because Plaintiffs are reasserting claims that were already dismissed with prejudice in Alaniz and Mata, paragraph twenty-one of Plaintiffs' Complaint is stricken.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion To Strike, Or In The Alternative, To Dismiss All Individually Named Plaintiffs Except Frank Amador Jr. is GRANTED.


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