Judicial Panel Grants Request, Unopposed by Defense, for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, Rejecting Objection by one Group of Plaintiffs, and Concurs with Request to Transfer Class Actions to District of New Jersey
Four putative class action lawsuits were filed (two in California, one in New Jersey and one in Washington) against various Vonage entities challenging defendants’ marketing and sales practices with respect to its internet telephone services, including its “one free month” trial period. In re Vonage Marketing & Sales Practices Litig., 505 F.Supp.2d 1375, 1376 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2007). Plaintiff’s lawyer in the New Jersey class action 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 that district, and defense attorneys for the common defendants supported the motion, id. Plaintiff’s lawyer in the Southern District of California class action voiced the sole opposition to the motion, arguing that centralization was unnecessary and inappropriate because the class actions “do not present significant overlapping issues of fact.” Id. The Judicial Panel disagreed, explaining irrespective of any differences between the class actions, “they raise common factual questions concerning Vonage’s marketing and sales practices with respect to its internet telephone services” and pretrial coordination “has the salutary effect of placing all actions in this docket before a single judge who can formulate a pretrial program that: (1) allows discovery with respect to any non-common issues to proceed concurrently with discovery on common issues [citation]; and (2) ensures that pretrial proceedings will be conducted in a streamlined manner leading to the just and expeditious resolution of all actions to the overall benefit of the parties and the judiciary.” Id. Accordingly, the Panel granted the motion to centralize the class actions.
The Judicial Panel further agreed that the District of New Jersey was the appropriate transferee court because Vonage is headquartered there and because the federal judge “already presides over another MDL docket involving Vonage.” In re Vonage, at *1. Accordingly, the Judicial Panel transferred the class actions to the District of New Jersey, id., at *2.