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Bowers v. First Student, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 23, 2015

CORLISS BOWERS; IRENE FLOURNOY; DIANETTE PORTER; TAMMY McCARLEY; MARDEL MAGORIAN; TRAVIS JOHNSON; MARY LYONS; ANNETTE BARTLETT; MARTHA VALLADEZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FIRST STUDENT, INC.; and DOES 1-100, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE THE CLASS AND PAGA REPRESENTATIVE ALLEGATIONS FROM PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT [19]

OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant First Student Inc. ("First Student") moves to strike class allegations and Private Attorneys General Act ("PAGA") representative allegations from Plaintiffs'[1] First Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs oppose on the basis that, given the misunderstanding involving a reassignment of judges combined with recent medical issues for Plaintiffs' counsel, Plaintiffs should be allowed to maintain their class and PAGA representative allegations and be able to move for class certification. For the reasons below, First Student's Motion is GRANTED.[2] (ECF No. 19.)

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs were employed by First Student as school bus drivers. (ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 ["FAC"] ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs allege that First Student did not pay the school bus drivers for all time worked, including time under First Student's control that Plaintiffs "were suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so." (Id. ) From April 12, 2007 up until this action began pending, First Student required Plaintiffs and other employees of First Student to: (1) work off-the-clock without compensation; (2) perform work other than driving school buses; (3) receive no more than prescribed wages of a fixed time period; and (4) work for less than minimum wage. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Furthermore, Plaintiffs allege that First Student failed to: (5) pay their employees each pay period; (6) provide employees with timely and accurate wage and hour statements; and (7) pay the employees in a timely manner upon separation. (Id. ¶ 20.) Additionally, First Student violated California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL") and breached their oral agreements with their employees. (Id. ) Plaintiffs intended to bring suit as a class action representing the Plaintiffs and other current/former employees of First Student similarly situated. ( See id. ¶¶ 19-36.)

On October 15, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against First Student alleging six causes of action: (1) Willful failure to pay regular wages; (2) Failure to pay wages when due; (3) Failure to pay minimum wage; (4) Failure to furnish accurate wage statements; (5) Waiting time penalties; and (6) Unfair Competition. (ECF No. 1, Ex. 2 ["Compl."] ¶¶ 45-86.) On October 21, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint adding a seventh cause of action for "Penalties Pursuant to Labor Code § 2699 on Behalf of Plaintiff and All Aggrieved Persons." (FAC ¶¶ 92-97.) Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief in the form of an order prohibiting First Student from continuing the activities outlined in the above allegations. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiffs further seek payment of all wages and benefits owed, penalties and interest, and attorney fees and costs. (Id. ¶ 42.) Lastly, Plaintiffs seek restitution and disgorgement of all sums wrongfully obtained by First Student. (Id. ¶ 44.)

On November 14, 2014, First Student removed this action to the Central District of California. (ECF No. 1.) Originally, this action was assigned to District Judge Margaret M. Morrow, but on January 26, 2015, this action was transferred to this Court. (ECF Nos. 9, 14.) On February 27, 2015, Plaintiffs filed an ex parte application to continue the deadline for class certification from February 17, 2014 to June 27, 2015. (ECF No. 15 ["Appl."].) On March 3, 2015, this Court denied Plaintiffs' ex parte application. (ECF No. 18.)

On March 12, 2015, First Student moved to strike class allegations and PAGA representative allegations from the First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff opposed and First Student replied. (ECF Nos. 20, 21.) First Student's Motion is now before the Court for consideration.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The Court may strike "from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). "[T]he function of a 12(f) motion to strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial...." Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983). Immaterial matter is that which has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being pleaded. Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th Cir. 1993) ( rev'd on other grounds Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517 (1994)) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Impertinent matter consists of statements that do not pertain, and are not necessary, to the issues in question. Id. Motions to strike are disfavored because they are often used as delaying tactics and because of the limited importance of pleadings in federal practice. Bureerong v. Uvawas, 922 F.Supp. 1450, 1478 (C.D. Cal. 1996). They should not be granted unless it is clear that the matter to be stricken could have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the litigation. Colaprico v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., 758 F.Supp. 1335, 1339 (N.D. Cal. 1991).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Class Allegations

Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, "[a]t an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative, the court must determine by order whether to certify the action as a class action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1)(A) (emphasis added). To abide by this requirement, the Central District of California has adopted Local Rule 23-3, which requires a proponent of a class action to move for class certification "[w]ithin 90 days after service of a pleading purporting to commence a class action...." L.R. 23-3. Moreover, "[d]istrict courts have broad discretion to enforce this rule." Rocha v. Yoshinoya West, Inc., No. CV 06-00487 MMM (AJWx), 2007 WL 8398819, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 8, 2007) (citing Reasonover v. St. Louis Cnty, Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 579 (8th Cir. 2006)).

From the date of First Student's removal, Plaintiffs had until February 17, 2015 to move for class certification. (Appl. 2.) It was not until ten days after that deadline that Plaintiffs filed an ex parte application requesting to extend the deadline to June 27, 2015. (Id. ) First Student argues that Plaintiffs' failure to comply with the timing requirements to move for class certification outlined in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and Local Rule 23-3 call for Plaintiffs' class allegations to be stricken from the First Amended Complaint. (Mot. 4-11.) Plaintiffs argue that First Student's Motion should be denied, and that Plaintiffs should be allowed to file a motion for class certification. (Opp'n 2-6.) Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that the health concerns of Plaintiffs' lead counsel constitute good cause worthy of extending the deadline for class certification, and Plaintiffs' failure to abide by the filing deadline is a result of excusable neglect. (Id. at ...


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