Central District Orders Pre-Certification Disclosure of Name and Contact Information for Putative Class Members, Finding that Such Disclosure Was “Common Practice” in Class Actions

by charlesjung

Wenceslas Hollar - Secrecy
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The Central District granted plaintiff’s motion to compel disclosure of the name and contact information (full name, last known addresses and telephone numbers) for class members of a putative class action for unpaid commission wages.  Celia Alvarez, et al. v. The Hyatt Regency Long Beach, et al., CV 09-04791-GAF (VBKx).  According to the court, the class was defined as all non-exempt employees for the period commencing May 7, 2005.  (Thank you to Radhika Sainath for alerting me to the decision.)

Defendants contended that the information was not relevant for class certification and invaded the privacy rights of the putative class.  Plaintiffs offered to enter into a protective order and offer that the information be given to a third party who would send the class members an opt-out letter.  Defendant rejected these proposal.

The court noted that the information sought was “not sensitive and personal information, such as might be contained in medical records, or similar documents.”  It further found that “[i]n the class action context, disclosure of names, addresses and telephone numbers is common practice.” Order at 2 (citing  Pioneer Electronics v. Superior Court, 40 Cal. 4th 360, 372 (2007)).

The court was not persuaded that an opt-out system is necessary, because the procedure would be extremely time-consuming, given the short precertification discovery period and because in Pioneer Electronics, “the California Supreme Court supported the proposition that an opt-in style of notice would not be required, but did not impose an opt-out style of notice”.  The court rejected the proposal to utilize a third party and an opt-out system, finding that it was “no longer feasible, given the looming deadline for the class certification motion.”

The court did impose some privacy limitations including informing class members of their rights not to talk to counsel, keeping a list of contacted class members, and using the information only for the purposes of the litigation:

While the Court thus concludes that the privacy interests at hand exist, but are outweighed by the need for the discovery, still, privacy interests do not entirely slip away. Reasonable limitations can and will be imposed, as follows. Each counsel (or other individual initiating the contact, in whatever form), will inform each contacted potential putative class member that he or she has a right not to talk to counsel and that if he or she elects not to talk to counsel, counsel will then terminate the contact and not re-contact the individual. Each counsel will keep a list of all individuals contacted and preserve that list so that it may be filed with the Court, if required, along with Plaintiffs’ certification motion and any other pertinent documents. The parties will not use any of this contact information for any purpose outside of this litigation, and will not disseminate this information to anyone who is not necessary to the prosecution or defense of this action.

Judge and Attorneys

United States Magistrate Judge Victor B. Kenton.

Radhika Sainath and Randy Renick of Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick LLP for Plaintiffs.

Nick Rosenthal for Defendants.