Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request, Over Plaintiffs’ Objection, for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 and but Rejects Defense Request to Transfer Class Actions to District of Kansas
Two class action lawsuits were filed against Wells Fargo, one in California and one in Kansas, alleging labor law violations based on the company’s alleged failure to pay overtime to its loan processors. In re Wells Fargo Loan Processor Overtime Pay Litig., 493 F.Supp.2d 1380, 2007 WL 1853954, *1 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2007). Defense attorneys for common defendant Wells Fargo Home Mortgage filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the District of Kansas. Plaintiffs’ objected to pretrial coordination, and argued alternatively that if the motion was granted then the Northern District of California was the appropriate transferee court. Even though there were only two class action lawsuits pending, the Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class actions, finding that “Centralization under Section 1407 is necessary in order to eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Id. The Panel selected the Northern District of California as the appropriate transferee court because “i) a somewhat related multidistrict litigation docket, In re Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Overtime Pay Litigation (MDL-1770), is already pending there; and ii) the action in this district is the broader of the two before the Panel.” Id.
NOTE: The case illustrates that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation looks solely to the issue of whether the request falls within the mandate of 28 U.S.C. § 1407, and is not influenced by the mere number of cases pending.