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Guy v. TOYS R US, A Delaware Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 22, 2017

DARRICK M. GUY, Individually and on Behalf of All Similarly Situated Aggrieved Employees, Plaintiff,
TOYS R US, A Delaware Corporation Licensed to do Business in the State of California, Defendant.


          Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court are two motions to strike: Defendant Toys R Us (“TRU”) seeks to strike Plaintiff Darrick M. Guy's (“Guy”) class definition, (Doc. No. 27), and Guy seeks to strike documents attached to TRU's motion for TRU's purported failure to disclose pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. (Doc. No. 30.) Both motions are fully briefed. Having reviewed the parties' arguments in light of controlling legal authority, and pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1.d.1, the Court finds the matters suitable for decision without oral argument. As discussed below, the Court DENIES both motions.


         This wage-and-hour class action seeks to hold TRU liable for failing to pay to its employees certain benefits. Specifically, Guy alleges TRU maintained a policy of not paying its employees for earned “COMP” days upon their resignation or termination, thus resulting in a forfeiture of wages. (Doc. No. 25 ¶ 1.)[1] Guy also alleges TRU required its employees to use their personal cell phones as their primary point of contact, use for which employees were not reimbursed. (Id.)

         Guy was employed with TRU at a Babies R Us store as an assistant store manager from October 29, 2014, through April 2, 2016. (Id. ¶ 2.) Upon his resignation, Guy asserts he had earned two “COMP” days he had not taken and that he was not compensated for those days. (Id.) Guy also asserts he was required to have a personal cell phone as his primary point of contact, his superior contacted him on his personal cell phone, and he was not reimbursed for expenses he incurred in maintaining that cell phone, cell phone service, and data plan. (Id.)

         Guy instituted this lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court on July 22, 2016. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 1; Doc. No. 1-3 at 5.) Guy seeks to represent a class composed of “[a]ll persons currently and formerly employed by [TRU] in the State of California commencing from July 22, 2012 through the date of trial . . . .” (Doc. No. 25 ¶ 6 (emphasis in original).)

         TRU answered the original complaint on August 31, 2016, and immediately thereafter removed the action to this Court. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 3.) As relevant to the instant motions, TRU asserted the affirmative defense of release by stating that the complaint “is barred, in whole or in part, to the extent that [Guy] and/or any member(s) of the putative class previously released the claims asserted in this Action.” (Doc. No. 1-3 at 30 ¶ 7; Doc. No. 4 ¶ 7.) The parties' joint discovery plan also referenced the purported release of claims. Specifically, the plan states TRU's position that a portion of the putative class previously released the claims brought in this case “pursuant to a class settlement in a prior wage and hour class action filed against TRU entitled Zia Hicks [v. TRU], U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. 2:13-cv-01302-DSF-JCG, releasing claims prior to March 21, 2014.” (Doc. No. 12 at 6 [hereinafter the Hicks action].)

         TRU filed the instant motion to strike the class definition on March 13, 2017. (Doc. No. 27.) Guy filed an opposition simultaneously with his motion to strike. (Doc. Nos. 29, 30.) Both motions have been fully briefed. (Doc. Nos. 29, 31, 36, 37.) This order follows.


         I. Motion to Strike for Failing to Disclose

         Guy urges the Court to strike documents attached to TRU's motion to strike the class definition. All three exhibits are documents that were filed in the Hicks action. (Doc. Nos. 27-3, 27-4, 27-5.) Guy asserts striking the documents is proper because TRU failed to identify the documents in its initial disclosures, never amended those disclosures after Guy filed the FAC, never filed a notice identifying the Hicks action as being related to this case, and TRU's failure to produce the documents in response to Guy's interrogatories prior to filing its motion to strike the class definition. (Doc. No. 30-1 at 11-14.)

         Rule 26(a)(1)[2] requires parties to provide other parties with “a copy-or a description by category and location-of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or defenses, unless the use would be solely for impeachment[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A)(ii). If a party fails to make the disclosures required by Rule 26(a), “the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1).

         The party facing exclusion has the burden to prove its failure was substantially justified or harmless. Torres v. City of Los Angeles, 548 F.3d 1197, 1212-13 (9th Cir. 2008); Yeti by Molly, Ltd. v. Deckers Outdoor Corp., 259 F.3d 1101, 1106 (9th Cir. 2001). The Ninth Circuit gives wide latitude to a district court's exercise of discretion to issue sanctions for failure to disclose. Yeti by Molly, Ltd., 259 F.3d at 1106. However, “[e]xclusionary sanction[s] based on discovery violations are generally improper absent undue prejudice to the opposing side.” Wertz v. Target Corp., No. 08-CV-78 GSA, 2009 WL 635655, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 10, 2009) (citing Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, Inc. v. Perkin, 190 F.R.D. 644, 648-49 (N.D. Cal. 2000)).

         Having reviewed the parties' arguments and the docket in this case, the Court finds exclusion of the Hicks documents is not warranted. TRU should have highlighted the signifance of the Hicks action more prominently in the joint discovery plan. However, the Court finds that inclusion of the action-including the case name, case number, and district where it occurred-on the joint discovery plan sufficiently provided Guy with notice of the Hicks action such that TRU's failure to include the action in its initial disclosures is harmless. This is particularly so given that discovery is still ongoing and TRU's good faith belief that its disclosure of the Hicks action was sufficient. See Blair v. CBE Grp., Inc., 309 F.R.D. 621, 626 (S.D. Cal. 2015) (noting that some relevant factors to determining whether exclusion is proper include “the extent to which allowing the evidence would disrupt trial” and “the nondisclosing party's explanation for its failure to disclose the evidence” (quoting Allen v. Similasan Corp., 306 F.R.D. 635, 640 (S.D. ...

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