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In re Seagate Technology LLC Litigation

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

June 21, 2016

IN RE SEAGATE TECHNOLOGY LLC LITIGATION CONSOLIDATED ACTION

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT AS INTERIM CO-LEAD CLASS COUNSEL RE: DKT. NO. 42

          RONALD M. WHYTE United States District Judge.

         Before the court is plaintiffs’ Motion for Appointment as Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel filed on May 13, 2016. Dkt. No. 42. Plaintiffs move for the appointment of their attorneys Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP (“Hagens Berman”) and Axler Goldich LLC (“Axler Goldich”) as interim co-lead counsel for the putative class. The court heard argument on June 17, 2016. For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES without prejudice the Motion for Appointment as Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs bring this putative consumer class action against defendant Seagate Technology LLC, alleging that Seagate’s misrepresentations and failure to disclose the latent defects of certain internal and external hard disk drives constitute breach of consumer protection, unfair competition, and false advertising laws; breach of express and implied warranties; and unjust enrichment. Dkt. No. 39 ¶¶ 1-12.

         A. Procedural History

         The original complaint in this case was filed on February 1, 2016, under the name Nelson v. Seagate Technology LLC. Dkt. No. 1. A similar complaint was filed on February 5, 2016 in Ginsberg, et al. v. Seagate Technology LLC. Case No. 16-cv-00612, Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint for Nelson on May 4, 2016. Dkt. No. 36. The amended complaint for Ginsburg was filed on the same day. Case No. 16-cv-00612, Dkt. No. 36. On May 6, 2016, the court consolidated the two actions. Dkt. No. 38. Plaintiffs filed a Consolidated Amended Complaint on May 9, 2016. Dkt. No. 39.

         B. Motion for Appointment as Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel

         Plaintiffs now move to appoint Hagens Berman and Axler Goldich as interim co-lead counsel for the putative class pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(g)(3). Plaintiffs contend that doing so will protect the interests of the putative class and empower counsel to move the case forward. Plaintiffs aver that Hagens Berman and Axler Goldich are the most qualified firms to represent the putative class during the pre-certification stage because both firms have expended a considerable amount of time investigating the underlying claims, have significant experience litigating complex consumer class action cases, are intimately familiar with the applicable law, and have substantial resources to devote to this case. Plaintiffs also note the firms’ willingness and ability to commit to a time-consuming process, in addition to their geographic diversity.

         Defendant’s opposition rests on two arguments. First, defendant opposes the motion as premature and unnecessary, stating that there are no overlapping, duplicative, or competing lawsuits against Seagate pending before this court or any other federal court, and thus no other firms competing for appointment. Second, defendant asserts that counsel for plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate efficiency in these proceedings. Defendant points to the multiple complaints and amended complaints filed before the Consolidated Amended Complaint, which required defendant to brief its 12(b)(6) motion three times.

         Plaintiffs reject defendant’s contention that plaintiffs’ counsel have litigated this case inefficiently, maintaining instead that they have timely navigated each procedural issue. Plaintiffs allege that other firms have been investigating the underlying claims and that some of these firms have contacted plaintiffs’ counsel seeking involvement. Finally, plaintiffs discuss Pozar v. Seagate Technology LLC (No. CGC-15-547787), a similar lawsuit pending in California Superior Court. To ensure efficient coordination between the state and federal actions, particularly during discovery, plaintiffs argue that all parties should be clear that Hagens Berman and Axler Goldich are authorized to act on behalf of the putative federal class.

         II.ANALYSIS

         Pursuant to Rule 23(g)(3), the court may designate interim counsel to act on behalf of a putative class before determining whether to certify a class. Although Rule 23(g)(3) does not provide a standard for appointment of interim counsel, courts typically look to the factors used in determining the adequacy of class counsel under Rule 23(g)(1)(A). See, e.g., Ramirez v. Trans Union, LLC, No. 12-cv-00632-JSC, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37186, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013). These factors are:

(1) the work counsel has done in identifying or investigating potential claims in the action;
(2) counsel's experience in handling class actions, other complex litigation, and the types of claims ...

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