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Sandoval v. Serco, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 29, 2019

MAR'BELLA SANDOVAL, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SERCO, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JO A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On May 10, 2019, this Court granted Plaintiff's Opposed Motion for Conditional Class Certification and Notice to Putative Class Members in part and conditionally certified a class of:

SERCO HOURLY EMPLOYEES WHO WORKED IN THE FOUR LOCATIONS THAT PROCESSED AFFORDABLE CARE ACT APPLICATIONS, SUCH AS THE GENERAL CLERK 2s, GENERAL CLERK 3s, LINGUISTS, PRODUCTION CONTROL CLERK, AND QUALITY CONTROL CLERK AND THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE PAID BY THE HOUR AND MUST TURN IN THE HOURS OVER THE DELTEK SYSTEM.

(Doc. No. 73). The Court ordered the parties to submit a joint agreed upon notice and consent form no later than July 15, 2019.[1] In the event the parties could not agree, the Court ordered Plaintiff to submit her proposed class notice and Defendant to submit its objections thereto for the Court's consideration. (Id.). The Court is in receipt of Plaintiff's Proposed Notice and Consent Form (Doc. Nos. 78, 78-1); Defendant's Objections to Plaintiff's Proposed Notice (Doc. Nos. 79, 79-1); and Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Objections (Doc. No. 80).

         As a general matter, the Court notes that the purpose of the notice form is to inform potential class members about the existence of the lawsuit and allow them to evaluate whether or not they wish to join it. Perrin v. Papa John's Int'l, Inc., No. 4:09CV01335 AGF, 2011 WL 4815246, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 11, 2011) (citing Littlefield v. Dealer Warranty Servs ., LLC, 679 F.Supp.2d at 1014, 1018 (E.D. Mo. 2010)). “[D]istrict courts have discretion, in appropriate cases, to implement 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) ... by facilitating notice to potential plaintiffs.” Id. (quoting Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 169 (1989)). In addition, “... trial court involvement in the notice process is inevitable in cases with numerous plaintiffs where written consent is required by statute....” Id. (quoting Hoffmann, 493 U.S. at 171). However, a court should not alter a plaintiff's proposed notice “unless certain changes are necessary.” Id. (quoting Littlefield, 679 F.Supp.2d at 1018).

         A. Form of Plaintiff's Proposed Notice

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that both parties have included the following language on the first page of their proposed notices:

         Deadline to File Consent Form:___, 2019.

         The parties identify this date in a footnote as “three years back from the date the Court enters an order approving this Notice.” To the extent the parties are addressing the statute of limitations for the putative class claims, this has already been addressed in the section of the Notice concerning eligibility to join this lawsuit (“You are eligible to join this lawsuit if … You were employed by Serco in one of the four locations that processed Affordable Care Act applications at any time from three years prior to when you join the lawsuit to the present … “). As such, the footnote is unnecessary and potentially confusing to recipients of the notice. If, however, the parties are seeking to highlight the deadline for joining this lawsuit (as discussed below, the Court has approved a 60 day notice period to return the consent forms), the Court will permit it with the following change:

         Deadline to File Consent Form: October 18, 2019.

         This date is 60 days after the dissemination date of August 19, 2019.

         1. Case caption

         Serco first objects to the case caption used as a heading on the first page of the notice, arguing that it creates the impression of judicial endorsement of the case. Plaintiff responds that use of the official case caption is appropriate because it advises putative class members of an official communication from the Court as opposed to a solicitation or advertisement.

         While the case caption can appropriately appear in the notice, courts have found that placing the court name in the heading is improper because it may be misconstrued as judicial support for the plaintiffs' litigation. Chapman v. Hy-Vee, Inc., No. 10-CV-6128-W-HFS, 2012 WL 1067736, at *3 (W.D. Mo. Mar. 29, 2012) (citing Martinez v. Cargill Meat Solutions,265 F.R.D. 490, 499 (D. Neb. 2009)); see also Fontenot v. McNeil Indus., Inc., No. 4:17CV3113, 2018 WL 5724863, at *3 (D. Neb. Sept. 19, 2018), report and recommendation adopted, No. 4:17CV3113, 2018 WL 5724043, at *3 (D. Neb. Nov. 1, 2018). For this reason, the Court agrees with Serco that the notice should not include the heading with the Court's name and will require Plaintiff to remove the heading “United States District Court Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division” from her proposed Notice. Plaintiff notes this Court recently approved ...


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