United States District Court, E.D. California
DOROTHEA EMMONS and LISA STAPLETON, individually, and on behalf of other members of the general public similarly situated, and as aggrieved employees, Plaintiffs,
QUEST DIAGNOSTICS CLINICAL LABORATORIES, INC., a Delaware corporation; QUEST DIAGNOSTICS INCORPORATED, doing business as QUEST DIAGNOSTICS INCORPORATED OF NEVADA, a Nevada corporation; QUEST DIAGNOSTICS NOCHOLS INSTITUTE, a California corporation; DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION
SETTLEMENT (DOC. NO. 74)
16, 2016, Dorothea Emmons and Lisa Stapleton
("plaintiffs") filed a motion for preliminary
approval of a class action settlement. (Doc. No. 74.) The
court held a hearing on the motion on June 21, 2016. (Doc.
No. 80.) Attorneys Bevin Pike and Eduardo Santes appeared
telephonically on behalf of plaintiffs and attorney Aimee
Mackay appeared telephonically on behalf of defendants. For
the reasons discussed below, the court grants the motion.
action was removed from Stanislaus County Superior Court
under the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA") on
April 1, 2013. (Doc. No. 1.) The complaint alleges Quest
Diagnostics Clinical Laboratories, Inc., Quest Diagnostics
Incorporated, and Quest Diagnostics Nochols Institute
("defendants") violated California labor law by
failing to (1) pay overtime wages, (2) pay minimum wages, (3)
provide meal periods, (4) provide rest breaks, (5) pay all
wages owed upon termination, (6) provide accurate wage
statements, and (7) pay business-related expenses. Plaintiffs
further allege violations of California Labor Code §
2698 and California Business and Professions Code §
17200. (Id. at 24-37.) Plaintiffs sought relief both
on their own behalf and on behalf of a proposed main class
and two proposed subclasses consisting of non-Floater and
Floater Phlebotomists employed by defendants. (Id.
16, 2016, plaintiffs filed the current motion seeking
preliminary approval of a class action settlement. (Doc. No.
74.) The proposed settlement defines the class as "[a]ll
persons who worked as ‘Floater' or
‘Non-Floater' Phlebotomists for Defendants in
California at any time during the period from April 29, 2011
to the date of Preliminary Approval." (Id. at
proposed settlement seeks a gross settlement amount of $2,
350, 000.00. After deducting the requested attorney's
fees and costs, settlement administration costs, payment to
the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency
("LWDA"), and the class representative enhancement
payments, the class members will net $1, 495, 667.00.
(Id.) Plaintiffs estimate each class member will
receive approximately $575.00. (Id. at 10.)
motion, plaintiffs and the putative class seek an order: (1)
granting preliminary approval of the proposed class action
settlement; (2) conditionally certifying the settlement
class; (3) approving distribution of notice to the settlement
class; (4) approving plaintiffs as class representatives; (5)
approving Capstone Law APC as class counsel; (6) approving
Simpluris, Inc. as class administrator; and (7) setting a
hearing date for final approval of the settlement.
have long recognized that settlement class actions present
unique due process concerns for absent class members."
In re Bluetooth Headset Prods. Liab. Litig., 654
F.3d 935, 946 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). To protect the rights of absent class
members, Rule 23(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
requires the court approve all class action settlements
"only after a hearing and on finding that it is fair,
reasonable, and adequate." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(2);
Bluetooth, 654 F.3d at 946. However, it has been
recognized when parties seek approval of a settlement
agreement negotiated prior to formal class
certification, "there is an even greater potential for a
breach of fiduciary duty owed the class during
settlement." Bluetooth, 654 F.3d at 946. Thus,
the court must review such agreements with "a more
probing inquiry" for evidence of collusion or other
conflicts of interest than what is normally required under
the Federal Rules. Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150
F.3d 1011, 1026 (9th Cir. 1998); see also Bluetooth,
654 F.3d at 946.
parties seek class certification for settlement purposes
only, Rule 23 "demand[s] undiluted, even heightened,
attention" to the requirements for certification.
Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 620
(1997). The district court must examine the propriety of
certification under Rule 23 both at this preliminary stage
and at a later fairness hearing. See, e.g., Ogbuehi v.
Comcast, No. 2:13-cv-00672-KJM-KJN (E.D. Cal. Oct. 2,
2014); West v. Circle K Stores, Inc., No. 04-cv-0438
WBS GGH, 2006 WL 1652598, at *2 (E.D. Cal. June 13, 2006).
of a proposed class action settlement ordinarily proceeds in
three stages. See Manual for Complex Litigation
(4th) § 21.632. First, the court conducts a preliminary
fairness evaluation and, if applicable, considers conditional
class certification. Id. Second, if the court makes
a preliminary determination on the fairness, reasonableness,
and adequacy of the settlement terms, the parties are
directed to prepare the notice of certification and proposed
settlement to the class members. Id. Third, the
court holds a final fairness hearing to determine whether to
approve the settlement. Id.; see also Narouz v.
Charter Commc'ns, Inc., 591 F.3d 1261, 1266-67 (9th
request conditional certification of the settlement class
under Rule 23(c)(1). The parties ask the court to certify the
following settlement class:
All persons who worked as "Floater" or
"Non-Floater" Phlebotomists for Defendants in
California at any time during the period from April 29, 2011
to the date of Preliminary Approval.
(Doc. No. 74 at 9.)
23(c)(1) permits a court to "make a conditional
determination of whether an action should be maintained as a
class action, subject to final approval at a later
date." Fry v. Hayt, Hayt & Landau, 198 F.R.D.
461, 466 (E.D. Pa. 2000). Conditional certification requires
satisfaction of the pre-requisites of Rule 23(a) and (b).
Rule 23(a) Requirements
Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) states in pertinent part that
"[o]ne or more members of a class may sue or be sued as
representative parties on behalf of all." As a threshold
matter, in order to certify a class, a court must be
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
impracticable (the "numerosity" requirement); (2)
there are questions of law or fact common to the class (the
"commonality" requirement); (3) the claims or
defenses of representative parties are typical of the claims
or defenses of the class (the "typicality"
requirement); and (4) the representative parties will fairly
and adequately protect the interests of the class (the
"adequacy of representation" requirement).
In re Itel Secs. Litig., 89 F.R.D. 104, 112 (N.D.
Cal. 1981) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)).
proposed class must be "so numerous that joinder of all
members is impracticable." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1). The
numerosity requirement demands "examination of the
specific facts of each case and imposes no absolute
limitations." Gen. Tel. Co. of the Nw., Inc. v.
EEOC, 446 U.S. 318, 330 (1980).
parties stipulate there are 2, 600 potential class members.
(Doc. No. 74 at 14.) Courts have routinely found the
numerosity requirement satisfied when the class comprises 40
or more members. Ansari v. New York Univ., 179
F.R.D. 112, 114 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). Numerosity is also satisfied
where joining all class members would serve only to impose
financial burdens and clog the court's docket. In re
Itel Litig., 89 F.R.D. at 112. Here, the joinder of
approximately 2, 600 current and former, floater and
non-floater phlebotomists to hear their several claims would
only further clog this court's already overburdened
docket. Numerosity is thus satisfied.
23(a) also demands "questions of law or fact common to
the class." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(2). The rule does not
require all questions of law or fact be common to every
single class member. The raising of any common question,
however, does not suffice. See Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v.
Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 349 (2011) ("[a]ny competently
crafted class complaint literally raises common
‘questions.'") (quoting Nagareda, Class
Certification in the Age of Aggregate Proof, 84 N.Y.U. L.
Rev. 97, 131-132 (2009)); Ellis v. Costco Wholesale
Corp., 657 F.3d 970, 981 (9th Cir. 2011) ("In other
words, Plaintiffs must have a common question that will
connect many individual promotional decisions to their claim
for class relief.") Rather, class representatives must
demonstrate common points of facts and law will drive or
resolve the litigation. Dukes, 564 U.S. at 350
("What matters to class certification . . . is not the
raising of common ‘questions'-even in droves-but,
rather the capacity of a classwide proceeding to generate
common answers apt to drive the resolution of the
litigation.") (internal citations omitted). To satisfy
Rule 23(a)'s commonality requirement, a class ...