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DRI Seeks Supreme Court Review in Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. v. Pena

  • Published October 18, 2017
    Modified July 09, 2020

Petition Involves Class Action Issues

CHICAGO ­– (October 18, 2017)— DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar has  filed an amicus brief with the  U.S. Supreme Court in support of the petitioner's request for a writ of certiorari in Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. v. Pena.  The petition asks the Court to decide whether a district court may rely on "proof" that does not comport with the Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure to certify a class action. The brief was filed through DRI’s Center for Law and Public Policy.

The underlying case involves a group of employees claiming meal- and rest-break violations under California labor law.  In an effort to show a common meal-break policy and demonstrate that damages could be calculated using common proof, plaintiffs’ counsel submitted a somewhat baffling, 9,000-page spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet lists and tallies thousands of alleged meal-break violations.  Although plaintiffs’ counsel claimed to have pulled these allegations from time records produced by the employer, no description of the underlying data or methodology—no authentication—accompanied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.

Over defense objection, the Eastern District of California considered and relied on the document to certify a wage and hour class action, stating unequivocally that "evidence presented in support of class certification need not be admissible at trial."  In an unpublished opinion, the Ninth Circuit affirmed this rule through a blanket adoption of the district court’s reasoning.

DRI's amicus brief argues that the Rules of Evidence apply during class certification by their own terms, as well as under the text of Rule 23.  The brief also points out that the Ninth Circuit's decision is at odds with the most recent Supreme Court precedent about class certification.  The brief further emphasizes the negative consequences to defense counsel and clients that will follow if the Court does not step in to correct the Ninth Circuit's error.

Amicus brief co-authors Scott Burnett Smith and Angela M. Schaefer of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (Huntsville, AL) and Michael R. Pennington of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (Birmingham, AL) are available for interview or expert comment through the above contact information. The complete text of the DRI brief can be found here.

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