United States District Court, D. New Mexico
GABRIEL ARMENDARIZ, ERIC DION COLEMAN, JACOB GOMEZ, TONY LOVATO, MATTHEW J. LUCERO, EDWARD R. MANZANARES, JOE MARTINEZ, CHRISTOPHER MAVIS, PHILIP TALACHY, FELIPE J. TRUJILLO, and JOSEPH VIGIL, on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
SANTA FE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, and MARK GALLEGOS, in his individual and official capacity, and Industrial Commercial Coatings, LLC, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO BIFURCATE DISCOVERY
Fashing United States Magistrate Judge
MATTER is before the Court on defendants Santa Fe County
Board of Commissioners and Mark Gallegos’s
(“County Defendants”) Motion to Bifurcate
Discovery, filed on October 25, 2017. Doc. 37. Plaintiffs
filed a response (Doc. 41), and County Defendants filed a
reply (Doc. 43). Having reviewed the parties’ filings
and the relevant law, the Court finds the motion is not well
taken and will deny it.
their motion, the County Defendants ask the Court to
bifurcate class certification and merits discovery. Doc. 37.
The County Defendants ask the Court to delay merits discovery
until after the Court rules on class certification.
Id. at 7–8. The County Defendants argue that
bifurcation will allow class certification to be decided at
“an early practicable time” as required by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(1)(A), will conserve
judicial resources, and will prevent needless and costly
discovery. Id. at 4–6. Plaintiffs oppose
bifurcating discovery, arguing that it would
“complicate and impede . . . resolution” by
creating needless delay, and resulting in “massive
duplication of discovery” efforts. Doc. 41 at 2, 4. For
the reasons outlined below, the Court agrees with plaintiffs.
consider the following factors in deciding whether to
bifurcate class certification and merits discovery:
(1) expediency, meaning whether bifurcated discovery will aid
the court in making a timely determination on the class
certification motion; (2) economy, meaning the potential
impact a grant or denial of certification would have upon the
pending litigation and whether the definition of the class
would help determine the limits of discovery on the merits;
and (3) severability, meaning whether class certification and
merits issues are closely enmeshed.
In re Groupon, Inc. Sec. Litig., 2014 WL 12746902,
at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 24, 2014) (citations omitted).
argue that bifurcating discovery will not result in a more
timely determination of the motion for class certification
because they “will need most of the merits discovery
for their class certification motion.” Doc. 41 at 5.
The County Defendants argue that merits discovery will
needlessly delay the motion on class certification. The Court
agrees that allowing class certification and merits discovery
to proceed simultaneously may slightly delay the motion and
ruling on class certification. However, as discussed below,
this factor is outweighed by economy and severability, which
support denial of the motion to bifurcate.
may proceed concurrently if bifurcating class discovery from
merits discovery would result in significant duplication of
effort and expense to the parties.” Manual for Complex
Litigation, Fourth, § 11.213. In addition, “[t]he
likelihood of the continuation of individual claims,
regardless of class certification, belies whatever time and
expense may be saved in the future through the narrowing of
discovery pursuant to the resolution of class certification
motions.” In re Plastics Additives Antitrust
Litig., 2004 WL 2743591, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 29, 2004).
Plaintiffs maintain that the claims of the individual named
plaintiffs will continue even if the motion for class
certification is denied. Doc. 41 at 7–8. The County
Defendants argue that plaintiffs’ claims may be
“significantly refined and defined” by the class
certification process, and urge the Court to delay merits
discovery. Doc. 43 at 6. The County Defendants, however, do
not explain how named plaintiffs’ claims are likely to
be narrowed. The Court agrees with plaintiffs that
bifurcation will result in discovery disputes and duplication
of discovery, “requiring multiple rounds of
interrogatories and requests for production to the same
parties, and multiple depositions of the same witnesses, in
each successive phase.” Doc. 41 at 4. Bifurcating
discovery will not significantly narrow or reduce merits
discovery, but will instead needlessly delay and complicate
the discovery process. This factor weighs strongly in favor
of denying the motion.
on the Manual [for Civil Litigation], courts have found that
bifurcation is inappropriate where discovery relating to
class certification is closely enmeshed with merits discovery
and in fact cannot be meaningfully developed without inquiry
into basic issues of litigation.” In re Semgroup
Energy Partners, L.P., Sec. Litig., No.
08-MD-1989-GKF-FHM, 2010 WL 5376262, at *2 (N.D. Okla. Dec.
21, 2010). Plaintiffs argue that this is such an enmeshed
case. Doc. 41 at 6. Specifically, plaintiffs argue that they
will need the following discovery for both class
certification and merits: “where each class member was
housed, at which times, what work was performed in those
areas at those times, and what efforts (if any) Defendants
took to protect putative class members.” Id.
at 6. The County Defendants admit that that merits and class
certification discovery overlap, but argue that the line is
not so blurred that the Court should deny bifurcating
discovery altogether. Doc. 43 at 3. The County Defendants
argue that merits discovery into plaintiff’s
negligence-based personal injury claims and Section 1983
claims has no bearing on class certification, and should be
delayed until after the Court rules on class certification.
Doc. 43 at 5. While merits discovery and class certification
discovery obviously do not completely overlap, the Court
finds that the issues are sufficiently enmeshed so as to make
concurrent merits and class certification discovery the most
efficient way to manage discovery in this case. For example,
class certification discovery will be required on whether the
entire proposed class was subjected to the chemicals and dust
that purportedly caused the representative parties’
injuries, what those injuries were and whether they share
common questions of fact, and whether the representative
parties’ injuries are typical of other inmates’
injuries. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). These issues
also relate to the merits of plaintiffs’ claims. Thus,
this factor weighs in favor of denying the motion.
some expediency may be lost by allowing concurrent merits and
class certification discovery, the Court finds that economy
and severability both favor this course of action. The Court
does not reach County Defendants request that the Court limit
precertification discovery to the named plaintiffs’
individual claims and whether the class should be certified,
as this issue was raised ...