Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Southern District Decertifies Class in Weigele v. Fedex Ground Package Systems

On April 5, 2010, Southern District Court judge, Janis L. Sammartino, granted defendant Fedex’s motions to deceretify in Weigele v. Fedex Ground Package Sys., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33305 (D. Cal. 2010). Defendant’s decertification motions targeted four certified sub-classes involving claims brought on behalf of approximately 500 Fedex California-based Dock Service Managers. Defendant’s motions targeted the elements of Rule 23(b)(3) (i.e. predominance and superiority), which the Court acknowledged had previously been met primarily due to Fedex’s uniform policy of classifying all managers as exempt. See Weigele, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33305, at 12-13. In revisiting the certification question, the Court noted the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Vinole required the Court to look beyond the uniform classification policy itself and assess the relationship between individual and common issues at play in adjudication of the exemption defense. See id., at 16-17 (citing Vinole v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 571 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2009)).

In granting decertification, the Court concluded that the individualized nature of the “primarily engaged” and “independent discretion” elements of Fedex’s exemption defense would predominate in the action. As reasoned by the Court, the number of tasks comprising the universe of a Dock Service Manager's duties, which the plaintiff’s expert set at several hundred, “will make it difficult to extrapolate from the testimony of a few managers to the experiences of the whole class.” See Weigele, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33305, at 22. Moreover, the Court reasoned that “the amount of time any particular manager spent in any particular area varies greatly” – a finding which was to be afforded “significant weight because it appears to be the dominant evidentiary factor in resolving Plaintiffs’ claims.” See id., at 22-23.  As further reasoned by the Court, the disparity among class members on these issues presented problems on the element of superiority, pitting the soundness of plaintiff’s statistical model directly against the efficiency of the litigating such claims on a class-wide basis. See id., at 29-31.

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