Luna et al v. Del Monte Fresh Produce (Southeast), Inc. et al, No. 1:2006cv02000 - Document 376 (N.D. Ga. 2009)

Court Description: ORDER and OPINION GRANTING plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File their Third Amended Complaint 294 , GRANTING plaintiffs' Motion for Joinder 295 , DENYING as moot plaintiffs' Motion to Intervene 302 , DENYING plaintiffs' Motion for Protective Order 319 , DENYING as moot defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery 368 , GRANTING the parties' Joint Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery 369 , and DENYING plaintiffs' Motion for a Scheduling Conference [3 74]. Discovery will conclude on Friday, April 9, 2010. Plaintiffs should disclose their experts by Monday, February 8, 2010. Defendant should disclose its experts by Tuesday, February 23, 2010. Dispositive motions and any motions for decertification are due on Monday, May 10, 2010. Signed by Judge Julie E. Carnes on 12/10/09. (fap)
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:N THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORG::A ATLANTA DIV:;:SION HECTOR LUNA, JULIAN GARCIA, FRAl',CISCO JAVIER LORENZO, SANTOS G. MALDONADO, PATRICIA WOODARD and BARTOLO NUNEZ, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, CIV:;:L ACTION NO. v. 1:06-CV-2000-JEC DEL MONTE FRESH PRODUCE (SOUTHEAST), INC., and DEL MONTE FRESH PRODUCE N.A., INC. , Defendants. o R D E R & 0 PIN ION This case is presently before the Court on plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File their Third Amended Complaint Notion for Joinder [295 J ¢ aintiffs' Motion [294J, to plaintiffs' Intervene [302], plaintiffs' Motion for Proteetive Order [319]. defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery [368]. the parties' Joint Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery [369J, and plaintiffs' Motion for a Scheduling Conference [374]. 'The Court parties and, plaintiffs' has for reviewed the record the set reasons and out the below, a.:cguments of concludes the that Notion for Leave to File their Third Amended Complaint [294] should be GRANTED, plaintif::"s' Motion for Joinder [295' should be GRANTED, plaintiffs' Motion to :i:ntervene [302) should be DENIED as moot, plaintiffs' Motion for Protective Order [32.9) should be DENIED, defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery [368] should be DENIED as moot, the parties' Joint Motion for Extensior. of Time to Complete Discovery [369J should be GRANTED, Conference (374) and plaintiffs' Motion for a Scheduling should be DENIED. BACKGROUND Plaintiffs are six migrant and seasonal agricultural laborers who worked on defendant Del Monte Fresh Produce Southeast's ("m'SE's") Georgia farms at various times during the 2003, 2004, 2:J05 and 2006 harvest (Second Amended Camp.!.. seasons. [106J at 'I[ 1.) They were recruited to work on defendants' farms by third-party farm labor (Id. contractors. Lorenzo were recruited at from Plaintiffs 3.) 'I[ Mexico pursuant Luna, to Garcia, the and temporary agricultural ·.-Iork visa program commonly known as the "H-2A program." (Id. at 'II 4.) Plaintiffs Maldonaoo, Woooard and Nunez were recruited (Id. at 'II 5.) during their from within the United States. Plaintiffs defenoant allege violated that, :Eederal laws governing employment the wages conditions of migrant and seasonal agricultural workers. 6.) They eiled this laws~it oisti.Dct classes of workers: Mexico; and (2) as (1) a with DMSE, and working (Id. class action on behal:E of at ~l twa H-2A guest-workers recruited from non-H-2A migrant and seasonal agricultural workers recruited from within the Ur.iteci States. 2 (Second .l'lliended CompI. [:06J at 'll'll 4-5.) In Count J of tr.e Complaint, assert claims for breach of contract. (Id.) the H-2A workers In Count II, the non-H­ 2A workers assert claims for violation of tr.e Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1801--1871 ("AWPA ). In Count III, all of the plaintiffs assert claims under the (Id. ) Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U_S.C. §§ 201-219 ("FLSA U 7. U (Id. ). at '1I i The case was bifurcated to permit an initial determination on the potentially plaintiffs' initial dispositive employer. discovery question (Scheduling period, the of Order part,ies judgment on the employment q'J.estion. defendants' [66].) staLlS Following filed motions (Order [231].) for as the sUIillllary In its order ruling on those motions, the Court held that defendant D'1SE q'J.aU,fied as plaintiffs' employer, but that defendant Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A. ("DMN1\") did r:ot. The (Id. ) Court thus judgment to DMNA on all of plaintiffs' c::'aims, sale defendant ir: the suit. granted sUillIllary leaving CMSE as the (Id _ ) Plaintiffs sc;.bsequently filed a motion for certification of the claims asserted in Counts I and II of their Complaint as a class action under Rule 23, and for certification of the claims asserted in Count III as a collective action under the FLSA. (Order [277].) The Court, granted plaintiffs' motion as to the claims in Count III, and . certified an FLSA collective action. (Id. at 31.) However, the Court denied plaintiffs' motion to certify a class action to litigate 3 the claims asserted ~n Counts.I and II. (Id. at 27.) As to thos· claims, the Court fOJnd that plaintiffs had not met the requirement of Rule 23 (b) (3) to show that common predominate over individual issues. factual (rd. ) and legal Plaintiffs appealed th Rule 23 class certification issJe to the Eleve:1th Circuit, rece:1tly affirmed the Court's decision. issue. whic (Order of USCA [303;.) 1,<lh11e the appeal was pe:1d1ng, the parties attempted to proceed with merits discovery in this Court. However, as has happened so frequently in this case, discovery has been stalled by disputes that the parties have chose:1 to resolve throJgh motions, agreement. ~he ~nstead of by primary dispute that has arisen concerns the proper scope of discovery directed toward the 52 plaintiffs who opted in to the FLSA collective action. Plaintiffs contend that it WOJld be unduly burdensome and expensive to sJbject all of the opt-ins tol discovery. (PIs.' Mot. for Protective Order [319] at 6.: They have l filed a motion for a protective order to limit discovery to a small sample of the opt-in plai:1tiffs, which motion is presently before the COl.lrt. (rd. ) Plaintiffs have also f~led a m01:::ion for permissive joinder and a rr,otion to am,end their complaint to add the 52 opt-ins as plaintiffs on Counts I and II of the complaint. [2941 and for Permissive Joinder [295].J ind~vidual (2ls.' Mot. to Amend Plaintiffs contend that, in light of the Court's denial of class certification on Counts I and II, joinder of these formerly absent class rr,embers is warranted. 4 (Id. at ~7.J The opt-in plaintiffs have filed a related motion to intervene as individual plaintiffs on Counts I and II. ':0 In':ervene [302].J (PIs.' Mot. All of these notions are present.ly before t.he Court. Finally, in an effort to address the scheduling issues created by t.he above disputes and the Eleventh Circuit appeal, the parties have filed a joint motion to extend the discovery period. Mot. for Ext.ension of Time to Conplete Discovery [369].) (Joint The Joint motion proposes t.hat the discovery deadline be extended to 120 days from the Court's decision on t:le pending motions and the Eleventh Circui~'s decision on plaintiffs' appeal. (Id. a~ 3.) The rno~ion adjusts the deadlines for expert disclosures and dispositive motions accordingly. (Id.) . The parties' joint motion, as well as defendants' related motion to stay discovery, are presently before the Court. DISCUSSION I. Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend and for Permissive Joinder In their motion to anend, Plaintiffs seek leave to file their Third Amended Complaint in this case. The Amended Conplaint reflects (PIs.' Mot. to Amend [294].J t'le Court's denial motion for Rule 23 certification on Counts I and IT. of plaintiffs' (Id. at 3.) It also adds the 52 FLSA opt-in plaintiffs as individual plaintiffs on Counts I and II. (Id. ) The opt-in plaintiffs are formerly absent members of the putative classes the Court declined to certify_ (Id. J Federal Rule 15 (a) provides that leave to amend shall be "freely 5 when justice s.o reqClires. give[n] E'SO. U R. C=v. 2. 15 (a) . Courts therefore generally grant leave unless there is a substantial :::eason to deny it. (11th Cir. 2006) the Gar.field v. NDC Health Corp., 466 F.3d 125.5, 1270 (~'In leave the absence of any apparent or declared :::eason sought should, as the elles require, be given. "') (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. :78, 182 (1962)). freely Denial of a motion to amend is an abuse of discretion in the absence of so~e factor to justify the decision, such as "undue delay, undue prejudice to defendants, [or] futility." "'.3d 1213, 12 7-:8 Carruthers v. BSA Adver., (llth Cir. 2004). The:::e is no reason to deny leave in this case. plaintiffs' Inc., 357 complaint. to reflect t:he Court's Amendment of ruling certification obviously does not prejudice defendant. on class Neithe::: does the joinder of the FLSA opt-ins as individual plaintiffs on Counts I and II. The opt-in plaintiffs a:::e already pa:::ticipating in the ease as FLSA claimants. Defendant has been aware of their identity, and thei::: potential claims under Counts I and ~, for months. As merits discovery is unfortunately still in the initial stages, defendant has sufficient time to prepare its defense to those claims. Indeed, defendant has already served all of the opt-ins with several broad discovery requests that have some bea:::ing on the claims. (See PIs.' Mot. for Protective O:::de::: [319] at 5 6.) Moreover, plaintiffs easily meet the joinder under Federal Rule 20. Rule 6 reqllire~ents 20 provides for permissive for permiss i ve joinder of parties to an action where: "aris out of the same (1) the parties assert a cIa transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occu::::::::ences" as the plaintiffs; ana (2) there is some "question of l·a·w or fact common" to the parties seeking joincier ard the plaintiffs in the action. v. Haley, F.3d 262 1194, oED. R. Crv. P. 20 (a). 1197 (11th Cir. See also Hubbar 2001) (discussing the ::::equirements for permissive joinder unaer Rule 20). The claims in Counts I and I I arise from a common paymen-c system dictated by u,-,iform H-2A employment Contractor ("FLC") agreeme,-,ts. contracts See Mooro v. a,-,d FarIT. Labor Comfed Savings Bank, 908 F.2d 834, 837-839 (11th Cir. 1990) (holding that a series of distinct co,-,trac-cs se ving -:0 sinilar, serial conplai!lts q'Jalifies as a single "series of transactions" prope:::: for permissive jo::',-,der un.der Rule In 20). adaition, certification o rae:::: , fact. (Oraer [277J ana as noteci in the Court's there are several common questions at 17, o~ class law and The Cou::::t did not find that the 30.) corrunon questions predomina-ced, as required for cc.ass certificatio,-, by Ruc.e 23 (b) (3). Howeve::::, "Rl:le 20 co,-,templates a. much lower threshoc.ci for a110wi'-'9 plaintiffs' claims to proceed to trial together than is ::::equired by Rule SpeciaLty Choms. 23 for Corp., class ce::::ti f::'catio,-,." 245 f.R. D. 539, 542 Fisher v. Ciba (S.D. Ala. 2C07) . .Cont::::a::::y -co defenda,-,t' s argument, plaintiffs' IT.otion for jo=.nde:::: is not u.:1::ime:'y. Defenciant points out that plaintiffs filed their motion over two years a er they initiated this lawsuit. 7 (De£.'s Resp. to Pls.' Mot. for Joinder [307J at 7-8.) exped!tio~sly so~ght However, plaintiffs joinder shortly after the Court denied motion for class certification. Parker, 462 D.'S. 345, 354 the~_ See Crown, Cork & Seal Co., Inc. v. (1983) (stating that, ~pon den:'al of class certification, "class members may choose to file tl:eir own suits or to intervene as plaintiffs in the pending action") and Armstrong v. Hartin l1arietta Corp. / 138 F. 3d 1374, 1391 (11th Cir. 1998) (notLl.g that, when a motion for class certification denied, absent class members are required to file their own sui t or join the action as individual plaintiffs in order to preserve their claims) . Nor will joinder cause undue de are already participating joinder Counts on discovery. I and in the case will II in this case. not as The opt-ins FLSA claimants. significantly complicate As noted, defendant has already served the opt-ins with extensi ve discovery requests. t4oreover, defendant's suggestion that plainti joinder motions" as will file "serial additional plaintiffs opt in to the case appears to be unwarranted. Resp. [307J August 7/ at :":"-12.) 2009. (Id. FLSA (See Def.'s The notice and opt-in period ccncluded on at 3.) Plaintiffs have not updated their motions to request joinder of any additiOnal opt-ins, nor would the Court be recept to such a motion at this time. 'I' ':'he goal 'conver:ience of and joinder expedite under the Rule 20 is to pronote resolution of disputes, trial! thereby Swan v. Ray, 293 F.3d 1252, 1253 eliminating unnecessary lawsuits. 8 (11th Cir. 2002). motIon for That goal will be served by granting Dlaintiffs' joinder in this case. Indeed, no legitimate interest would be served by requiring tte opt-in plaintiffs. who are alread participating in ttis lawsuit as FLSA claimants, to F.I~PA addi tional laws"-lits to pursue the breach of contract and asserted in C01.Onts I and II. Accordingly, file plaintiffs' 52 claims motion to amend and tteir :notion for perm:'ssive joinder are GRANTED. II. Plaintiffs' Motion for a Protective Order Plaintiffs have filed a motion fer protective order to limit the discovery directed towards tte FLSA opt-in plaintiffs. for Protective Order opt-ins who are However, plaintiffs concede that any [319J.J joined (P:s.' Mot.. as full parties to the action (PIs . ¢ appropriately subject co reasonable individual discovery. Reply in Supp. of Joinder [318] at 11.) are As a result of the Court's decision on plaintiffs' m6tion fer joinder, plaintiffs' motion for a protective order is thus DENIED. The Court urges the parties, as they move forward with discovery, to make a serious attempt to resolve any dispCltes that may arise over the defin! tion of "reasonable" individual discovery. Plaintiffs have in the past resisted defendant's discovery efforts based on their indigency and the fact that plaintiffs are dispersed throughout Mexico. While the Court acknowledges the difficu:ty of conducting discovery under these conditions, plaintiffs' residency and financial status do not justify denying defendant the full range 9 of discovery to which it is entitled under Rule 26. now that the opt-ins have been joined as fu~l the Court will not be inclined ::0 them plaintiffs from diScovery, unless Par::icu:arly, parties to ::he action, grant any fu::ure motions to shield Can articulate specific objections to particular discovery requests, and can sno\ol "Chat those requests are im,proper ur.der Rule 26. III. The Parties' Joint Motion for an Extension of Discovery In their joint motion, the parties propose tnat tne discovery deadline be exter.ded to 120 days from the date on the pending plaintiffs' motions appeaJ. and the Eleventh 0:: this CO'elrt's ruling Circuit's The Court GRANTS this motion. decision on The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Court's class certification ruling or. December 3, 2009. Accordingly, the Court extends discovery to 120 days from the date of this Order. Plaintiffs should disclose experts 60 days before the close of discovery. Defendant should disclose experts days before the close of discovery. ~5 Disposi"Cive motions and any decertification moticns must be filed within 3C days after the close of discovery. Plaintiffs recently filed a motion for a scheduling conference. (Not. for Scheduling Conference [374].J The Court presumes that this Order will resolve all of the issues raised in that motion. 10 GONCLUSION Fo~ for fo~egoing ~easons, the Leave to plaintiffs' File their Motion for the Court GRANTS plaintiffs' Motion Third Joinder Amended [295j, Complaint [294], GRANTS DENIES as moot plaintiffs' Motion to Intervene [302], DENIES plai:1tiffs' Motion for Protective Order [319], [368], GRANTS Complete DENIES as moot defendants' the parties' Discovery [369], Discove~y Motion to Stay Joint !:Cotion for Extension of Time to and plaintiffs' DENIES Notion for a Scheduling Conference [374]. Discovery -will conclude on Friday, Apri.l 9, 2010. should disclose their experts by Monday, February should disclose D~spositive its experts by Tuesday, a, Plaintiffs Defendant 2010. February 23, 2010. motions and any motions for decertification are due on Monday, May 10, 2010. SO ORDERED, this ---;--tL day of December, 2009. / JUDGE 11