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Flynn v. Sony Electronics, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 7, 2015

RONALD FLYNN, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SONY ELECTRONICS, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF CLASS NOTICE PROPOSAL [ECF No. 219]

CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

On September 25, 2009, Plaintiffs Ronald Flynn commenced this putative class action alleging that Defendant Sony Electronics, Inc. manufactured and sold defective notebook computers under the VAIO brand name from January 1, 2007 to the present. Plaintiffs Thad Nation, Christina Egner, and Rickey Glasco were later added to this lawsuit. Now pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for approval of the class-notice proposal.

The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiffs' class notice proposal.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

On September 25, 2013, two classes were certified and defined as:

(1) California residents who purchased a Sony VAIO Laptop, series SZ, FZ, NQ, EB, and F in California between March 16, 2006 and present, for claims of violations of UCL, CLRA, Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, breach of implied warranty, and common counts of assumpsit and declaratory relief; and
(2) New Jersey residents who purchased a Sony VAIO Laptop, series SZ, FZ, NQ, EB, and F between March 16, 2006 and present, bringing claims for violation of NJCFA, Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, breach of implied warranty, and common counts of assumpsit and declaratory relief.

(September 25, 2013 Order 43:22-44:2.)

Plaintiffs hired Kurtzman Carson Consultants to disseminate and administer the proposed notice plan. (Pls.' Mot. 5:12-15.) Plaintiffs' consultant estimates that there are 436, 892 class members in California and New Jersey. The firm plans to reach approximately 38.86% of the class through individualized notice and 43.04% through notice by publication for a total of 81.9% of the class. (Rosenthal Decl. ¶¶ 14, 18.) The target of 80% was made in light of the Federal Judicial Center's Judges' Class Action Notice and Claims Process Checklist and Plain Language Guide setting a "reach standard" of 70-95%. (Rosenthal Supplemental Decl. ¶ 4.)

Plaintiffs propose a combination of direct and indirect methods to notify class members. The notices consist of a short-form and long-form notice that is modeled off of the Federal Judicial Center's notices, and the parties agree on the form, content, and distribution plan with two exceptions. (Pls.' Mot. 3:3-8.) Plaintiffs will send direct notice to 143, 792 identified class members in the form of an email containing a summary of the litigation and a link to the case website, and then again by mail for all email bouncebacks for which a postal address is known. ( Id. at 4:8-15.) Defendant does not object to this method. (Def.'s Opp'n 3:3-8.)

For class members that Defendant does not have contact information, Plaintiffs propose notice by publication in People magazine, the Los Angeles Daily News, Facebook text ads, a case-specific Facebook site, a case website with information about the litigation, and an internet banner on several thousand websites. (Pls.' Mot. 5:5-7:21.) Defendant objects to the proposed publication in People magazine as to the New Jersey class members as well as the proposed case-specific Facebook page. (Def.'s Opp'n, 3:3-8.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Class notice must be "reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections." Mullane v. Cent. Hannover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950). The notice must state clearly and concisely, in plain language:

(i) the nature of the action; (ii) the definition of the class certified; (iii) the class claims, issues, or defenses; (iv) that a class member may enter an appearance through an attorney if the member so desires; (v) that the court will exclude from the class any member who requests exclusion; (vi) the time and manner for requesting ...

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