Labor Law Class Action Plaintiff’s need for Contact Information of Potential Class Members to Discover Evidence in Support of Class Action Certification Motion Outweighed Privacy Rights of Absent Class Members thus Warranting an Order Compelling Disclosure of such Information California Federal Court Holds
Plaintiff, a pharmaceutical representative, filed a class action complaint against employer Eli Lilly alleging misclassification and failure to pay overtime, and failure to provide meal breaks, in violation of California’s state labor laws. Putnam v. Eli Lilly & Co., 508 F.Supp.2d 812, 812 (C.D. Cal. 2007). During precertification discovery, plaintiff moved the district court for an order compelling defendant to disclose the contact information of putative members of the class action, or alternatively for “the issuance of a pre-certification notice to potential class members,” id. The district court granted the motion.
As part of the discovery propounded by plaintiff in advance of seeking class action certification, defendant was requested to produce the “names, addresses and telephone numbers” of all 348 pharmaceutical representatives that had worked for Eli Lilly during the class period. Putnam, at 812-13. The defense agreed to serve notice of the class action to 24 class members, but refused to provide contact information for the employees, id., at 813. Plaintiff moved for an order compelling production, arguing that the information sought was necessary to “fully investigate the case and gather evidence for presentation at the certification hearing,” id. Defense attorneys countered that (1) the “overwhelming majority” of the employees at issue were irrelevant for class action certification purposes because they “worked outside of plaintiff’s sales division and in different positions than plaintiff.” Id. The district court recognized disagreement among federal courts on this issue, but concluded that the information should be produced because it may lead to evidence of value to plaintiff’s class action certification motion. Id., at 813-14.
With respect to defense arguments concerning the privacy rights of the employees at issue, the district court held that plaintiff’s need for the information sought outweighed the privacy rights of the individuals. Putnam, at 814. The district court expressed a willingness to enter a protective order covering the contact information, but only upon a showing of good cause. Id., at 814-15.