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Carroll v. Wells Fargo & Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 13, 2017

KELLY CARROLL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WELLS FARGO & COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO STRIKE Docket No. 169

          EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge

         The above-referenced case is a putative class action for wage-and-hour violations. Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to strike Wells's amended answer (located at Docket No. 162) or, in the alternative, to strike a specific affirmative defense in that amended answer - i.e., the defense that certain members of the putative class are barred from becoming a member of the class because of their agreements to arbitrate employment disputes with Wells.

         Having considered the parties' briefs and accompanying submissions, as well as the oral argument of counsel, the Court hereby DENIES the motion to strike.

         I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         As the parties are aware, this case has a somewhat complicated history. The highlights are identified below:

• Ms. Carroll initiated this wage-and-hour class action in state court in April 2015. Wells removed in May 2015. See Docket No. 1 (notice of removal). At this time, Wells did not move to compel arbitration, apparently because it had no arbitration agreement with Ms. Carroll.
• In July 2015, Wells filed its first motion to dismiss. See Docket No. 19 (motion). Wells withdrew the motion after Ms. Carroll filed an amended complaint. See Docket No. 35 (notice).
• In August 2015, Wells moved to dismiss the amended complaint. See Docket No. 44 (motion). In October 2015, the Court granted in part and denied in part the motion and gave Ms. Carroll leave to amend. See Docket No. 50 (order).
• Ms. Carroll filed a second amended complaint (“SAC”) in November 2015. See Docket No. 55 (SAC). Approximately two weeks later, Wells moved to partially dismiss that pleading. See Docket No. 56 (motion). In January 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part the motion. In the same order, the Court gave Ms. Carroll leave to file a third amended complaint (“TAC”). See Docket No. 64 (order).
• Ms. Carroll filed her TAC in February 2016. See Docket No. 69 (TAC). On February 19, 2016, Wells answered. At that time, Wells made no reference to a right to compel arbitration with respect to any putative class member. See Docket No. 70 (answer to TAC). At that point, the pleadings appeared to be settled.
• In June 2016, a motion to intervene was filed by, inter alia, Ms. Layog. See Docket No. 73 (motion). In July 2016, the Court denied the motion to intervene but did relate Ms. Layog's case to Ms. Carroll's. Because of the overlap between Ms. Carroll and Ms. Layog's cases, the Court ordered the parties to meet and confer to discuss the possibility of consolidation. The Court also deferred setting a hearing on the motion to dismiss in Ms. Layog's case and vacated the deadlines (temporarily) on Ms. Caroll's class certification motion. See Docket No. 99 (order).
• In August 2016, Ms. Carroll moved to dismiss or stay Ms. Layog's case and further moved to file a fourth amended complaint (“4AC”), more specifically, to add an additional named plaintiff. See Docket Nos. 105, 107 (motions). The Court vacated the briefing and hearing schedules for the two motions and instructed the parties to meet and confer to discuss how the cases should proceed. See Docket No. 112 (minutes).
• In October 2016, the Court severed the FLS A portion of the Layog case and transferred that portion to the District of New Jersey. The remaining part of Layog was consolidated with the Carroll case. See Docket No. 128 (order). Subsequently, the Court appointed Ms. Carroll's attorney lead counsel and instructed the parties to meet and confer regarding the filing of a consolidated amended complaint and a response thereto. See Docket No. 135 (order).
• In November 2016, Plaintiffs filed a consolidated complaint. See Docket No. 142 (complaint). This is the current operative complaint.
• On January 6, 2017, Wells answered the consolidated complaint. Its answer made no reference to a right to compel arbitration with respect to any putative class member. See Docket No. 160 (answer).
• Less than a week later, on January 12, 2017, Wells filed an amended answer. See Docket No 162 (amended answer) In the amended answer, Wells added a new defense related to arbitration: “To the extent that Plaintiffs purport to assert a collective and/or class action, certain members of the putative collective and/or class are barred, in whole or in part, from becoming a member of any purported class or collective because of their agreement with Wells Fargo to resolve through individual ...

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