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Gonzalez v. Corecivic, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 4, 2018

CARLOS GONZALEZ, JUAN JOSE MERINO-RODAS, MARIBEL GUTIERREZ-DUARTE, and JENNYE PAGOADA-LOPEZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CORECIVIC, INC., Defendant.



         Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs Carlos Gonzalez, Juan Jose Merino-Rodas, Maribel Gutierrez-Canchola, Gladys Carrera-Duarte, and Jennye Pagoada-Lopez's (“Gonzalez Plaintiffs”) Motion to Consolidate, (“MTN, ” ECF No. 23). The Court permitted the plaintiffs (“Owino Plaintiffs”) in a related matter, Owino v. CoreCivic, 17-CV-1112, to intervene for the limited purpose of filing an opposition to this Motion, (ECF No. 36). Accordingly, Owino Plaintiffs filed a Response in Opposition, (“Owino Opp'n, ” ECF No. 37), as did Defendant CoreCivic, Inc., (“Def. Opp'n, ” ECF No. 38), to the Gonzalez Plaintiffs' Motion. The Gonzalez Plaintiffs filed a Reply in Support of, (“Reply, ” ECF No. 41), their Motion. The Court vacated the hearing and took the matter under submission without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). (ECF No. 42.) Having considered the Parties' arguments and the law, the Court rules as follows.


         This case involves two related class actions. On May 31, 2017, Owino Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Defendant in this Court. (“Owino Compl., ” ECF No. 1, No. 17-CV-1112.) The Owino Plaintiffs are former civil immigration detainees and allege they were paid $1 a day for labor while they were interred at Defendant's Otay Mesa Detention Facility. (Id. ¶ 10.) They also allege that other detainees were forced to work for no pay. (Id. ¶ 13.) Owino Plaintiffs seek to certify a class of “all civil immigration detainees who performed Forced Labor uncompensated work for CoreCivic at any Detention Facility owned or operated by it between November 2, 2004 to the applicable opt-out date, inclusive.” (Id. ¶ 30.)

         On December 27, 2017, Gonzalez Plaintiffs filed a second putative class action lawsuit against Defendant in the Southern District. (“Gonzalez Compl., ” ECF No. 1.) The case was transferred from Judge Anthony J. Battaglia's calendar to this Court pursuant to Civil Local Rule 40.1. The Gonzalez Plaintiffs, like Owino Plaintiffs, are former civil immigration detainees housed at Defendant's Otay Mesa facility. They allege that they received $1 or $1.50 a day for their labor at the detention facility. The Gonzales Plaintiffs seek to certify classes, including “[a]ll civil immigration detainees who performed work for CoreCivic at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in the Work Program within the past ten years.” (Id. ¶ 111.) Gonzalez Plaintiffs now seek to consolidate the two class actions.


         Consolidation of actions is appropriate “[i]f actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a)(2). A district court has broad discretion in determining whether to consolidate actions pending in the same district. See Investors Research Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for Cent. Dist. Of Cal., 877 F.2d 777, 777 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing 9 Charles A. Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2383 (1971); and A/S J. Ludwig Mowinckles Rederi v. Tidewater Const. Co., 559 F.2d 928 (4th Cir. 1977)). “In determining whether to consolidate cases, a court should also weigh any time and effort saved by consolidation against any ‘inconvenience, delay, or expense that [consolidation] would cause.'” Fialkov v. Celladon Corp., No. 15CV1458 AJB (DHB), 2015 WL 11658717, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 9, 2015) (alteration in original) (citing Huene v. United States, 743 F.2d 703, 704 (9th Cir. 1984)).


         All parties across both actions agree that the Owino and Gonzalez actions involve related facts and claims. The parties diverge, however, on what steps the Court should take to manage its docket and proceed forward with this case and the Owino case. Gonzalez Plaintiffs argue that their action involves common questions of law and fact such that consolidation of their action with the Owino action would be appropriate. (See MTN 4.)[1]Both Owino Plaintiffs and Defendant argue that the Court should exercise its discretion to dismiss, rather than consolidate, the Gonzalez action because the Gonzalez action is duplicative of the Owino action. (Def Opp'n 11; Owino Opp'n 7.) In response, Gonzalez Plaintiffs argue that dismissal of their action would be inappropriate because the two actions are not duplicative. (Reply 6.) The Court proceeds as follows. First, the Court determines whether the Gonzalez action is duplicative of the Owino action. Second, the Court determines which procedural action best serves the interests of judicial economy and preserves the rights of all parties going forward.

         I. Whether the Gonzalez Action is Duplicative

         As a threshold matter, the Court clarifies which rules or standards it applies in the analysis here. There are three similar rules the Court could apply to the issue before the Court. The Gonzalez Plaintiffs urge the Court apply Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42, which permits the Court to consolidate actions involving “common question of law or fact.” The Owino Plaintiffs would have the Court adopt a “first-to-file” rule, which applies when two similar actions are filed in different federal courts. Defendant submits the rule against claim splitting applies, which courts invoke when a plaintiff files two actions against the same defendant based on the same facts. District courts in this circuit have analyzed duplicative class actions under both the first-to-file rule, see Weinstein v. Metlife, Inc., No. C 06-4444 SI, 2006 WL 3201045, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 6, 2006), and the claim-splitting rule, see Chowning v. Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc., No. CV 15-8673 RGK (SPx), 2016 WL 7655752, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 2, 2016). The Court applies the claim-splitting rule because the first-to-file rule applies to cases between different districts. See Moore v. Roadway Express, Inc., No. CV 09-1588, 2009 WL 10670954, at *4 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 7, 2009).

         “District courts retain broad discretion to control their dockets and ‘[i]n the exercise of that power they may impose sanctions including, where appropriate, default or dismissal.'” Adams v. Cal. Dep't of Health Servs., 487 F.3d 684, 688 (9th Cir. 2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Thompson v. Hous. Auth. of City of L.A., 782 F.2d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 1986) (per curiam); and citing Link v. Wabash R.R., 370 U.S. 626, 629-30 (1962)), abrogated in part by Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 904 (2008). “Plaintiffs generally have ‘no right to maintain two separate actions involving the same subject matter at the same time in the same court and against the same defendant.'” Id. (quoting Walton v. Eaton Corp., 563 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1977) (en banc)).

         To determine whether a suit is duplicative, courts apply the test for claim preclusion. See The Haytian Republic, 154 U.S. 118, 124 (1894). This is a two-part standard. Thus, a court must first determine whether the causes of action and relief sought in the two suits are identical. Adams, 487 F.3d at 689. Then a court determines whether the parties, or their privies, are the same. Id.

         A. Same ...

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