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Arredondo v. Southwestern & Pacific Specialty Finance, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 18, 2019

ALICIA ARREDONDO, individually and acting in the interest of other current and former employees, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHWESTERN & PACIFIC SPECIALTY FINANCE, INC., CHECK ‘N GO OF CALIFORNIA, INC., and DOES 1 through 20, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL (DOC. 28)

          SHEILA K. OBERTO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Alicia Arredondo's “Motion to Compel Further Responses and Documents/Data to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents/Data and Interrogatories, Set One, ” filed October 14, 2019 (“Motion to Compel”). (Doc. 28.) Plaintiff and Defendant Southwestern & Pacific Specialty Finance, Inc. (“Defendant” or “Southwestern”) filed their “Joint Statement” directed to the Motion to Compel, as required by this Court's Local Rule 251, on October 30, 2019. (Doc. 31.) The Court reviewed the parties' papers and all supporting material and found the matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). The hearing set for November 6, 2019, was therefore vacated. (Doc. 33.)

         Having considered the parties' briefing, and for the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Compel will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Alicia Arredondo brings this putative class action against Southwestern alleging claims for violations of California's Labor Code and Unfair Competition Laws and a claim under California's Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”).[1] (Doc. 15.) The action proceeds on Plaintiff's first amended complaint (“FAC”), which alleges as follows:

         Southwestern owns and operates “Check-N-Go” stores, which offer payday loans, installment loans, check cashing services, money orders, and other financial services to the public. (FAC ¶ 10.) It has at least thirty (30) stores within the State of California. (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff worked as a Store Manager at several Check-N-Go stores in Modesto, Stockton, and Tracy. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 12.) Plaintiff claims that Southwestern violated overtime, meal, and rest period laws, and failed properly to report wage statements and to maintain payroll records. (Id. ¶¶ 31- 34.) She further alleges that Southwestern required her to perform work “off-the-clock” before and after her shifts in order to open and close the stores. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff asserts that Southwestern's conduct constituted a “uniform policy and systematic scheme of wage abuse against [defendant's] hourly-paid or non-exempt employees within the State of California.” (Id. ¶ 21.). Plaintiff seeks to assert claims as a representative PAGA on behalf of a proposed class defined as:

All persons who are or have been employed by Defendants as non-exempt, hourly employees within the State of California within four years prior to the filing of the original Complaint to the final disposition of this case.

         (FAC ¶ 37.)

         Plaintiff moves to compel Southwestern to produce discovery related to members of the proposed class. (Docs. 28, 31.) Specifically, Plaintiff seeks to compel Southwestern to provide the full name, address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and fax numbers for putative class members (Interrogatory No. 1), and to produce arbitration agreements, timekeeping and computer systems data, payroll data, and itemized wage statements for the putative class members (Request for Production of Documents Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 20, & 22, 52, 53, 54, & 56). (Id.) Southwestern asserts the discovery requests are “vague, ambiguous, overbroad, seek information protected by individual employees' rights to privacy, are not proportional to the needs of the case, and in some instances are simply irrelevant.” (Doc. 31 at 24.) According to Southwestern, the requests also seek “information on a class-wide basis specific to damages” and therefore go beyond the scope of class certification discovery permitted by the Court. (Id.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Discovery Generally

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that parties:

May obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). Thereafter, the party opposing discovery has the burden of showing that the discovery should be prohibited, and the burden of clarifying, explaining or supporting its objections.” Bryant v. Ochoa, No. 07cv200 JM (PCL), 2009 WL 1390794, at *1 (S.D. Cal. May 14, 2009) (citations omitted).

         B. Discovery in the Class Action Context

         As for discovery in the class certification context, “[w]hether or not discovery will be permitted . . . lies within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Kamm v. Cal. City Dev. Co., 509 F.2d 205, 209 (9th Cir. 1975). See also Artis v. Deere & Co., 276 F.R.D. 348, 351 (N.D. Cal. 2011) (citing Vinole v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 571 F.3d 935, 942 (9th Cir. 2009)). The Ninth Circuit states that the “advisable practice” for district courts on pre-certification discovery, “is to afford the litigants an opportunity to present evidence as to whether a class action was maintainable. And, the necessary antecedent to the presentation of evidence is, in most cases, enough discovery to obtain the material, especially when the information is within the sole possession of the defendant.” Doninger v. Pac. Northwest Bell, Inc., 564 F.2d 1304, 1313 (9th Cir. 1977); see also Artis, 276 F.R.D. at 351. Ninth Circuit case law therefore “stand[s] for the unremarkable proposition that often the pleadings alone will not resolve the question of class certification and that some discovery may be warranted.” Vinole, 571 F.3d at 942. A court does not abuse its discretion in refusing to authorize pre-certification discovery when the plaintiff fails to advance a prima facie showing that the class requirements [i.e., numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation] of Rule 23 are satisfied or that “discovery is likely to produce substantiation of class allegations.” Mantolete v. Bolger, 767 F.2d 1416, 1424 (9th Cir. 1985). A court is not required, however, to find a prima facie showing under Rule 23 prior to authorizing pre-certification discovery. See Kaminske v. JP Chase Bank N.A., No. SACV 09-00918 JVS (RNBx), 2010 WL 5782995, at *2 (C.D. Cal. May 21, 2010) (“[T]here is nothing in Doninger and Mantolete that suggests that a prima facie showing is mandatory in all cases, and it very well may be the case that courts routinely do not require such a showing. However, it is clear that a court has discretion to decide whether to require the prima facie showing that was approved in Doninger and Mantolete.”); Robinson v. The Chefs' Warehouse, Case No. 3:15-cv-05421-RS(KAW), 2017 WL 836943, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 3, 2017) (“Plaintiffs are not necessarily required to make a prima facie showing in order to obtain information for the putative class.”).

         Finally, “[t]he Supreme Court has recognized the importance of permitting class counsel to communicate with potential class members for the purpose of gathering information, even prior to class certification.” Guzman v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Case No. 17-cv-02606-HSG (KAW), 2018 WL 6092730, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2018) (citing Gulf Oil Co. v. Bernard, 452 U.S. 89, 102-03 (1981). See also Vinole, 571 F.3d at 942; Doninger, 564 F.2d at 1313. Concerning the contact information of the putative class members, district courts in this Circuit have often found that “[a]s a general rule, before class certification has taken place, all parties are entitled to equal access to persons who potentially have an interest in or relevant knowledge of the subject of the action, but who are not yet parties.” Wiegele v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., No. 06-CV-01330-JM(POR), 2007 WL 628041, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2007) (quoting Koo v. Rubio's Restaurants, Inc., 109 Cal.App.4th 719, 729 (2003)). For that reason, discovery of the putative class members' contact information is routinely allowed. See, e.g., Artis, 276 F.R.D. at 352 (“The disclosure of names, addresses, and telephone numbers is a common practice in the class action context.”); Putman v. Eli Lilly & Co., 508 F.Supp.2d 812, 814 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (“[I]t seems to the Court that contact with [class members] could well be useful to the plaintiff to determine, at minimum, the commonality and typically prongs of Rule 23.”).

         III. ...


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