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Kalajian v. Rite Aid Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 7, 2018

TINA KALAJIAN, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
v.
RITE AID CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation, and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING JOINT MOTION TO STAY CASE [17]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Tina Kalajian (“Plaintiff”), on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, filed a suit against Rite Aid Corporation (“Defendant”) on September 14, 2017, for improperly advertising, marketing, and selling an “aloe vera gel” without a detectable level of aloe vera. (Compl. ¶ 20, ECF No. 1.) Another case is currently pending in the Northern District of Illinois and involves similar issues. See Beardsall v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., No. 1:16-cv-06103 (N.D. Ill. June 10, 2016). The parties jointly request to stay this action in its entirety for six months in order to allow the Beardsall court to rule on class certification and the Beardsall parties to complete fact and expert discovery. (Mot. Stay 3, ECF No 17.) For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the parties' Joint Motion to Stay this litigation for all purposes until six (6) months from the date of this order.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges, on behalf of a class, that Rite Aid Renewal After Sun Gel purports and advertises itself as containing aloe vera, but independent laboratory tests show Defendant's product contains no actual aloe vera. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-3.) Plaintiff alleges claims for Breach of Express Warranty; Violations of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; Violations of the False Advertising Act; and Unlawful, Unfair and Fraudulent Business Acts and Practices. (Id. ¶¶ 56-89); see Cal. Comm. Code § 2313; Cal. Civ. Code § 1750 et seq; Cal. Bus. & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq; 17500, et seq.

         Beardsall is a class action against CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Walgreen Co., Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Fruit of the Earth, Inc. (Declaration of Andrew J. Peterson (“Peterson Decl”), Ex. A ¶¶ 45-49, ECF No. 17-2.) Like Rite Aid here, the retailer defendants in the Beardsall action are also alleged to have sold aloe vera products that do not have a detectable amount of aloe vera. (Id. ¶¶ 3-7.)

         In both actions, the plaintiffs rely on independent laboratory testing that revealed an absence of acemannan, the key compound in aloe vera. (Id. ¶ 102; Compl. ¶ 22, 24.) The parties here contend that the discovery conducted in Beardsall, especially the expert opinions gathered, will affect the outcome of this litigation, which they maintain involves complex scientific issues. (Mot. Stay 1.) The Beardsall court has ordered that class certification, Daubert, and dispositive motions be filed with the court by May 11, 2018. (Beardsall Min. Order, No. 1:16-cv-06103, ECF No. 143.) In contrast, Defendant has not yet filed a response to the initial complaint in this case.

         Recognizing that the Beardsall action is further progressed and addresses many of the same “complex scientific issues present in the instant action, ” the parties jointly move the Court to stay this action for six months. (Joint Mot. 4, ECF No. 17.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “The power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power in every court to control the disposition of the cases on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. North Am. Co., 29 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). The Court exercises its discretion in making such determinations, weighing competing interests, and seeking to maintain an even balance. See Id. at 254-55. This exercise of discretion includes an ability to stay a case “pending resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon the case.” Leyva v. Certified Grocers of Cal., Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979). “This rule applies whether the separate proceedings are judicial, administrative, or arbitral in character, and does not require that the issues in such proceedings are necessarily controlling of the action before the court.” Id. at 863-64.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         To determine whether a stay should be granted, the Court considers (1) the possible damage resulting from a stay; (2) the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer if required to go forward; and (3) the orderly course of justice, as measured by whether the stay will simplify or complicate issues, proof, and questions of law. Pamintuan v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., No. 16-CV-00254-HSG, 2016 WL 4319844, at *1 (N.D. Cal. July 14, 2016) (quoting CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962)). In this case, the balance of interests supports staying the proceeding since all three of these factors weigh in favor of granting a stay.

         A. Potential Damage Caused by Stay

         To determine any potential damage the stay could cause, the Court considers whether the delay would cause harm to the merits of the claim or any loss of evidence. Wilson v. Frito-Lay N. Am., Inc., No. 12-CV-1586 SC, 2015 WL 4451424, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 20, 2015). Neither party foresees any risk of prejudice in the instant action. (Joint Mot. 6.) Plaintiff alleges no concerns regarding loss of witnesses, and there is no indication of any other potentially lost evidence, given the short, six-month stay. Rather, the Beardsall case may lead to additional ...


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