United States District Court, D. Connecticut
LOCAL 1522 OF COUNCIL 4, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
BRIDGEPORT HEALTH CARE CENTER, INC., ET AL., Defendants.
RULING ON MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION (DOC. NO.
C. Hall, United States District Judge.
Espejo, Natividade Goncalves, Marion V. Perez, and Carlota
Rafael on behalf of themselves and certain other employees of
Bridgeport Health Care Center, Inc. (the “putative
representatives”) and labor organization Local 1522 of
Council 4, American Federation of State, County, and
Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“Local 1522”),
bring this action against defendants, Bridgeport Health Care
Center, Inc. (“BHCC”) and BHCC Chief Operating
Officer Chaim Stern (“Stern”). In their Third
Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 179), the plaintiffs bring
twenty-seven claims against one or both defendants, arising
from the defendants' alleged failure to fund employment
benefits programs, including a health plan, a pension plan,
disability insurance plans, life insurance plans, as well as
the defendants' failure to make payments to credit unions
and other designated entities on behalf of BHCC employees.
before the court is the plaintiffs' Motion for Class
Certification (Doc. No. 194). In that Motion, the plaintiffs
propose two subclasses:
(a) All employees of Bridgeport Health Care Center from
January 1, 2015 to the present, who are represented by Local
1522, who receive health insurance coverage from Bridgeport
Health Care Center pursuant to Article 29 of the parties'
collective bargaining agreement, life insurance or disability
insurance, and/or have payments deducted for Bridgeport
Federal Credit Union, and have union dues deducted from their
(b) All employees of Bridgeport Health Care Center from
January 1, 2015 to the present, who are represented by Local
1522 and are participants in the Bridgeport Health Care
Center Pension Plan pursuant to Article 33 of the
parties' collective bargaining agreement.
Mot. for Class Cert. (Doc. No. 194) at 1. The plaintiffs seek
an order certifying their proposed subclasses under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1), (b)(2), and (b)(3). The
plaintiffs further seek an order appointing Espejo,
Goncalves, Perez, and Rafael as class representatives and the
Law Offices of J. William Gagne, Jr. & Associates, P.C.
as class counsel. See Memorandum in Support of
Motion for Class Certification (“Pl.'s Mem.”)
(Doc. No. 194-1) at 2.
reasons set forth below, the Motion for Class Certification
(Doc. No. 194) is denied.
1522 is an unincorporated labor organization that represents
certified nursing assistants, dietary workers, ward maid and
housekeeping workers, maintenance mechanics, foodservice
workers, dietician aides, recreation workers, laundry
workers, beauticians, and licensed practical nurses who are
employed by defendant BHCC. Third Amended Complaint
(“3d Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 179) at 6
¶¶ 1-2; Defendants' Answer to Third Amended
Complaint (“Def.'s Answer”) (Doc. No. 205) at
3. The putative class representatives are employees of BHCC
and are part of the Local 1522 bargaining unit. 3d Am. Compl. at
6-7 ¶¶ 3-6; Def.'s Answer at 3.
BHCC is a Connecticut corporation. 3d Am. Compl. at 7 ¶
7; Def.'s Answer at 3. Defendant Stern is the Chief
Operating Officer of BHCC. 3d Am. Compl. at 7 ¶ 8;
Def.'s Answer at 3.
case arises from defendant BHCC's alleged failure to fund
various employee benefit programs, including health and life
insurance plans and a retirement plans. 3d Am. Compl. at
¶¶ 4-9. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants
withheld money from employee paychecks for these benefit
programs, but did not use the funds for the proper purpose.
Id. ¶¶ 17-20. The plaintiffs further
allege that BHCC withheld money from employee paychecks for
union dues but did not give that money to the union as
promised. Id. at ¶¶ 5, 21. Finally, the
plaintiffs allege that Chaim Stern is a fiduciary for the
employee benefit plans and breached his fiduciary duty,
including by using the aforementioned payroll deductions
“to pay other unrelated premiums and company
obligations.” Id. at 27-34, 39-40, 67-70.
twenty-seven counts in the Third Amended Complaint fall into
the following categories: (1) breach of contract claims
arising from the collective bargaining agreement between
Local 1522 and BHCC (Counts One, Two, Twelve, Sixteen, and
Seventeen); (2) tort claims including fraud, equitable
estoppel, promissory estoppel, misrepresentation, and
conversion (Counts Three, Four, Ten, Eleven, Eighteen,
Nineteen, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, and Twenty-Seven); (3)
claims that BHCC failed to fund benefit programs alleging
violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Program
(“ERISA”), title 29, section 1001 et
seq. (Counts Five, Six, Twenty, and Twenty-One); (4)
claims that BHCC failed to give required notice to plan
participants alleging violations of ERISA (Counts Thirteen,
Fourteen, and Fifteen); (5) promissory estoppel claims
alleging violations of ERISA (Counts Seven, Eight,
Twenty-Two, and Twenty-Three); and (6) claims that Stern
violated his fiduciary duty alleging violations of ERISA
(Counts Nine and Twenty-Four). See generally
3d Am. Compl. The plaintiffs request declaratory relief;
injunctive relief; money damages in the form of compensatory,
consequential, and punitive damages; and attorneys' fees.
3d Am. Compl. at 74-76.
plaintiffs have moved for class certification. See
Mot. for Certification (Doc. No. 194). The plaintiffs propose
two subclasses: one devoted to employees who participated in
health, life, dental, and other benefits plans, and one
specific to employees who were members of the BHCC pension
plan. Id. at 1. Both proposed subclasses are limited
to employees who are represented by the Local 1522 bargaining
unit. Id. The Motion for Certification is not
limited to any particular claims raised by the plaintiffs,
and the text of the Plaintiffs' Memorandum reflects the
plaintiffs' intent to certify the class as to the
thirteen claims brought by the putative
support of their Motion, the plaintiffs attach Affidavits by
the putative representatives (Doc. Nos. 201, 202, 203, 204)
and an Affidavit by Gail Richer (Doc. No. 194-3), Strategic
Account Executive with UMR, Inc., a corporation that formerly
acted as a third party claims administrator for BHCC. The
plaintiffs also provide two charts of claims that were denied
for non-payment, one which lists the claims denied by UMR,
Inc., see Exh. to Aff. of Gail Richer (Doc. No.
196-1); and (2) a chart that lists claims denied by
third-party administrator Meritain Health, with whom BHCC
contracted subsequent to its relationship with UMR, Inc.
(Doc. No. 233). Finally, in support of their request that
plaintiffs' counsel be appointed class counsel, the
plaintiffs attach an Affidavit by plaintiffs' counsel,
Attorney William Gagne. See Affidavit of J. William
Gagne, Jr. (“Gagne Aff.”) (Doc. No. 194-10).
defendants did not respond to the Motion for Class
5, 2017, the court issued an Order directing the parties to
inform the court as to whether the benefits plans in question
were specific to members of the Local 1522 bargaining unit,
or whether the plans covered employees who are not affiliated
with Local 1522. Order (Doc. No. 228). In response, on July
10, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation stating,
among other things, that “[t]he health plan, pension
plan and other employee benefit plans in question do not
cover only members of Local 1522.” Joint Response (Doc.
No. 229). Two days later, the parties filed a Supplement to
their Stipulation, emphasizing that, while the benefits plans
cover employees who are not affiliated with Local 1522, the
bargaining agreement between Local 1522 and BHCC means that
certain terms of the benefits plans only apply to members of
the Local 1522 bargaining unit. For example, employees
affiliated with other unions “may negotiate a different
retirement age or change the method of calculating the
employees' retirement benefit” as well as
“negotiate a different annual contribution by the
employer or different contribution terms for the
employee.” Supplemental Stipulated Statement (Doc. No.
230) at 2.
a discovery-related conference on August 7, 2017, the court
expressed concerns with certifying a class of some, but not
all, members of an ERISA plan, and gave the parties an
opportunity to submit responses to those concerns. On August
14, 2017, the plaintiffs submitted a Response (Doc. No. 250),
in which the plaintiffs renewed their argument that, because
different unions may negotiate different terms for the
employee benefits in question, the proposed classes of fewer
than all plan members could be certified.
September 7, 2017, the court issued yet another Order
expressing its concerns with certifying a class of fewer than
all plan members for ERISA claims. Order (Doc. No. 255). The
court ordered the parties to produce the terms of the
benefits plans themselves, which had not previously been
provided to the court. Id. The court also invited
briefing from the parties related to the court's concerns
about certifying the requested classes. Id. The
parties jointly filed the terms of the benefits plans in
question on September 14, 2017. Joint Response (Doc. No.
265). In addition, the plaintiffs filed a Response to that
Order on September 29, 2017, which Response contained legal
argument as to the court's stated concerns respecting
class certification. Plaintiff's Response
(“Pl.'s Response”) (Doc. No. 273). In keeping
with their pattern of silence as to the Motion to Certify,
the defendants did not take the opportunity to respond to the
Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) contains four
“[p]rerequisites” for class certification:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are
typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately
protect the interests of the class.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). These prerequisites are referred to as
“numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of
representation.” E.g., Amgen Inc. v.
Connecticut Ret. Plans & Trust Funds, 568
U.S. 455, 460 (2013). Class certification is appropriate only
if the court is satisfied, “after a rigorous analysis,
” that the proposed class meets each of the four
prerequisites. See Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 564
U.S. 338, 350-51 (2011).
addition to satisfying the four prerequisites, a class action
must qualify under at least one of the types of class actions
listed in Rule 23(b). The types of class actions are those in
(1) prosecuting separate actions by or against individual
class members would create a risk of: (A) inconsistent or
varying adjudications with respect to individual class
members that would establish incompatible standards of
conduct for the party opposing the class; or (B)
adjudications with respect to individual class members that,
as a practical matter, would be dispositive of the interests
of the other members not parties to the individual
adjudications or would substantially impair or impede their
ability to protect their interests;
(2) the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act
on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final
injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is
appropriate respecting the class as a whole; or
(3) the court finds that the questions of law or fact common
to class members predominate over any questions affecting
only individual members, and that a class action is superior
to other available methods for fairly and efficiently
adjudicating the controversy.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b).
party seeking class certification bears the burden of
establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that each of
Rule 23's requirements has been met.” Amara v.
CIGNA Corp., 775 F.3d 510, 519 (2d Cir. 2014) (quoting
Myers v. Hertz Corp., 624 F.3d 537, 547 (2d Cir.
2010)). A court must “receive enough evidence, by
affidavits, documents, or testimony, to be satisfied
that” this is the case. Shahriar v. Smith &
Wollensky Rest. Grp., Inc., 659 F.3d 234, 251 (2d Cir.
2011) (quoting In re Initial Pub. Offerings Sec.
Litig., 471 F.3d 24, 42 (2d Cir. 2006)). In determining
whether a putative class meets the requirements of Rule 23,
the court must resolve any factual disputes and find any
facts relevant to this determination. See In re Initial
Pub. Offerings Sec. Litig., 471 F.3d at 41. The
court's obligation to make such determination “is
not lessened by overlap between a Rule 23 requirement and a
merits issue, even a merits issue that is identical with a
Rule 23 requirement.” Id. The Second Circuit
grants trial courts substantial discretion in determining
whether to grant class certification because of the
Circuit's “longstanding view that the district
court is often in the best position to assess the propriety
of the class and has the ability, pursuant to Rule
23(c)(4)(B), to alter or modify the class, create subclasses,
and decertify the class whenever warranted.” In re
Sumitomo Copper Litig., 262 F.3d 134, 139 (2d Cir.