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Strauch v. Computer Sciences Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 30, 2017

JOSEPH STRAUCH and TIMOTHY COLBY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION, Defendant.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S SECOND MOTION TO DECERTIFY

          JANET BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.

         In this overtime exemption misclassification action, Defendant Computer Sciences Corporation (“CSC”) moves [Doc. # 373] to decertify the certified California and Connecticut classes of Associate Professional and Professional System Administrators (“SAs”) on the basis of the purported legal deficiency of Plaintiffs' trial plan. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion.

         I. Background

         After oral argument held on May 10, 2017, [Doc. ## 326, 329], the Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs' Motion [Doc. # 323] for Class Certification on June 30, 2017, certifying Connecticut and California Rule 23 subclasses of Professional and Associate Professional System Administrators. See Strauch v. Computer Scis. Corp., No. 3:14-CV-956 (JBA), 2017 WL 2829652, at *1 (D. Conn. June 30, 2017).

         On July 14, 2017, Defendant sought to appeal this Court's Order on Class Certification to the Court of Appeals, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(f). (Petition for Permission to Appeal Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(f) at 1, Strauch v. Computer Sciences Corporation, No. 17-2185 (2d Cir. July 14, 2017).) Defendant asked the Court of Appeals to determine “[w]hether the District Court erred in certifying a class under Rule 23 by placing improper weight on the company's uniform job titling program where the record evidence clearly demonstrated wide variation among individuals in the actual job qualifications, characteristics, and duties.” (Id.)[1] On November 21, 2017, the Court of Appeals denied Defendant's Rule 23(f) petition, finding that “an immediate appeal is unwarranted.” (Mandate Granting Mot. to File Reply and Denying Rule 23(f) Petition [Doc. # 410].)

         During the pendency of the petition for interlocutory review, Defendant on August 4, 2017 moved to decertify the California class of Associate Professional and Professional System Administrators due to the purported inadequacy of Mr. Strauch as a class representative. (Mot. Decertification California Subclass [Doc. # 343].) After carefully considering that Motion to Decertify, the Court denied the motion on October 18, 2017, leaving the California class intact. See Strauch v. Computer Scis. Corp., No. 3:14-CV-956 (JBA), 2017 WL 4683993, at *1 (D. Conn. Oct. 18, 2017). On October 27, 2017, Defendant filed the instant Motion [Doc. # 373] for Decertification (hereinafter “Second Mot. to Decertify”) arguing that the California and Connecticut classes should both be decertified due to a legally deficient trial plan put forward by Plaintiffs.

         II. Discussion

         Trial plans are a useful and important tool for managing the unique challenges associated with complex class action litigation. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(1)(A), “[a]t an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative, the court must determine by order whether to certify the action as a class action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1)(A). Rule 23's text contains no requirement that plaintiffs provide a trial plan as part of the class certification determination, but the Advisory Committee notes to the 2003 Amendment explain the potential usefulness of trial plans in assisting courts making class certification determinations:

A critical need is to determine how the case will be tried. An increasing number of courts require a party requesting class certification to present a “trial plan” that describes the issues likely to be presented at trial and tests whether they are susceptible of class-wide proof.

         Advisory Committee Notes to 2003 Amendment to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 (citation omitted).

         Rule 23 itself therefore imposes no actual requirement of a trial plan, but courts cited by Defendant have decertified or refused to certify classes where the courts determined that plaintiffs could present no manageable way of trying a class case.

         While Defendant fails to provide the Court with any support for the proposition that Rule 23 imposes a formal requirement of a trial plan, much less one that meets certain enumerated criteria, Defendant is correct that in managing complex class litigation, the Court retains the responsibility of ensuring that a putative class, once certified, remains susceptible to class-wide proof at trial.

         Defendant claims that Plaintiffs' trial plan is inadequate because it calls for an insufficient and arbitrarily-selected sample size of testifying witnesses, because it fails to account for variance among class members, because it fails to account for SAs in the certified classes who performed exempt job duties, and because the trial plan risks violating the parties' due process and Seventh Amendment rights.

         Plaintiffs counter (1) that Defendant is attempting to relitigate the class certification order by making the same arguments but raising no previously overlooked case law or evidence, (2) that Plaintiffs intend to make their case primarily based on direct, common evidence such that they need not present a statistical sample of class member live witness ...


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