Ninth Circuit Continues to Hold that Individualized Damages Issues Do Not Defeat Class Certification
In Leyva v. Medline Ind., Inc., No. 11-56849 (9th Cir. May 28, 2013), the Ninth Circuit reversed a United States District Court for the Central District of California’s denial of class certification brought by current and former employees against their employer, seeking to recover wages employer did not pay in alleged violation of California law.
The district court denied certification because “the damages inquiry will be highly individualized.” The district court explained:
Each of the 500 putative class members are allegedly entitled to different damage awards for being ‘short-changed’ by the rounding policy and/or the bonus policy. Because evaluating each putative class member’s claims would require fact-specific, individualized inquiries into the amount of pay to which he or she was entitled, the Court finds that individualized questions predominate over common questions in this case. Therefore, the proposed classes are not sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation.
The Ninth Circuit found the district court abused its discretion. The only individualized factor that the district court identified was the amount of pay owed. However, the Ninth Circuit reiterated the law in this circuit: “damage calculations alone cannot defeat certification.” Indeed, the Supreme Court clarified in Dukes that “individualized monetary claims belong in Rule 23(b)(3).” In fact, “damages determinations are individual in nearly all wage-and-hour class actions.” In addition, the Ninth Circuit found the record showed that the employer’s computerized payroll and time-keeping database would enable the court to accurately calculate its exposure for each putative class member’s claim.
The Ninth Circuit, thus, concluded that the “district court applied the wrong legal standard and abused its discretion when it denied class certification on the grounds that damages calculations would be individual. The court also abused its discretion by finding that the class would be unmanageable despite the record’s demonstration to the contrary.”