Senne v. Kan. City Royals Baseball Corp., Case No. 14-cv-00608-JCS

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtJOSEPH C. SPERO Chief Magistrate Judge
PartiesAARON SENNE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. KANSAS CITY ROYALS BASEBALL CORP., et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberC/w C-14-3289 JCS,Case No. 14-cv-00608-JCS
Decision Date21 July 2016

AARON SENNE, et al., Plaintiffs,

Case No. 14-cv-00608-JCS
C/w C-14-3289 JCS


July 21, 2016


Re: Docket Nos. 495, 496, 632


In this putative class action, Plaintiffs are minor league baseball players who assert claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., and the wage and hour laws of various states, against Major League Baseball ("MLB"), Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, and many of the franchises that are MLB members. Presently before the Court are the following motions: 1) Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification ("Rule 23 Motion"); 2) Defendants' Motion to Decertify the Fair Labor Standards Act Collective ("Motion to Decertify"); and 3) Motion to Exclude Plaintiffs' Expert Declarations and Testimony of J. Michael Dennis, Ph.D and Brian Kriegler, Ph.D Filed in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification ("Motion to Exclude"). The Court held a hearing on the Motions on July 8, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES the Rule 23 Motion, GRANTS the FLSA Decertification Motion, and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Motion to Exclude.1

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On February 7, 2014, Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle filed the initial complaint in this action against MLB, Commissioner Selig and three MLB franchises.2 See Docket No. 1. Subsequently, they amended their complaint to name all 30 MLB franchises as Defendants. Docket Nos. 19, 57. Additional Plaintiffs also joined the action. Id. On October 10, 2014, the Court consolidated Case No. C-14-3289 with this action and appointed Korein Tillery, LLC and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP as Interim Co-Lead Counsel over the actions. Docket No. 236.

On May 20, 2015, Plaintiffs filed the Second Consolidated Amended Complaint for Violations of Federal and State Wage and Hours Laws ("SCAC"), which is the operative complaint in this action. See Docket No. 382. On the same date, the undersigned ruled on challenges to personal jurisdiction by eleven MLB Clubs ("the Personal Jurisdiction Defendants"). See Order re Motions to Dismiss and Motions to Transfer, Docket No. 379 ("Personal Jurisdiction Order"). The Court found that the activities of three of the Clubs - the New York Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers - were sufficient to establish the existence of personal jurisdiction over them in California and dismissed the remaining eight Personal Jurisdiction Defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. In particular, the Court dismissed the following Clubs for lack of jurisdiction: 1) the Atlanta Braves; 2) the Chicago White Sox; 3) the Tampa Bay Rays; 4) the Washington Nationals; 5) the Philadelphia Phillies; 6) the Boston Red Sox; 7) the Baltimore Orioles; and 8) the Cleveland Indians.3

The Court conditionally certified Plaintiffs' proposed collective under the FLSA on October 20, 2015, defining the collective as follows:

All minor league baseball players employed by MLB or any MLB franchise under the Minor League Uniform Player Contract who worked or work as minor league players at any time since February 7, 2011, but who had no service time in the major leagues at the

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time of performing work as a minor leaguer.

Docket No. 446. Subsequently, notice was sent to the minor league players allowing them to opt in to the collective by February 11, 2016. According to Plaintiffs, over 2,200 minor leaguers opted into the FLSA collective by the deadline. See Docket No. 500 (Simon Decl.) ¶ 12.

Plaintiffs now ask the Court to certify their state law wage and hour claims under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In particular, they seek to certify classes under the laws of Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Oregon of all persons who under a Minor League Uniform Player Contract, work or worked for MLB or any MLB franchise as a minor league baseball player within the relevant state at any time during the statutory period for each state. Rule 23 Class Certification Motion at i.

Defendants, in turn, ask the Court to decertify the FLSA collective on the grounds that the Plaintiffs are not similarly situated and the defenses Defendants plan to assert will require too many individualized inquiries to allow for class treatment of Plaintiffs' claims. Defendants also ask the Court to exclude the expert declarations and testimony of Drs. J. Michael Dennis and Brian Kriegler under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.


A. The Rule 23 Motion

1. Plaintiffs' Motion

a. Proposed Class Definitions and Representatives

Plaintiffs ask the Court to certify eight classes (collectively, "the State Classes") to pursue claims under the laws of California, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Oregon. Notice of Motion and Motion at i. Plaintiffs propose that each class consist of:

All persons who under a Minor League Uniform Player Contract, work or worked for MLB or any MLB franchise as a minor league baseball player within the relevant state at any time [during the statutory period for each state]. Excluded from the class are those players who had service time on a major league player contract at the time of performing work as a minor leaguer.

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Id.4 Plaintiffs also propose a waiting time subclass for the California class defined as follows:

The California Class shall include a waiting time subclass for alleged penalties under California Labor Code § 203 for the withholding of wages after employment ceases. It will consist of the class representatives and members of the California Class whose employment relationship with a Defendant has ceased or will cease since February 7, 2010.

Proposed Order at 1.

Plaintiffs propose that the following named Plaintiffs be appointed as class representatives:

California Class: Aaron Meade, Oliver Odle, Kyle Woodruff, Kyle Nicholson, Brandon Henderson, Craig Bennigson, Ryan Kiel, Jake Kahaulelio, Justin Murray, Dustin Pease, Mitch Hilligoss, Joseph Newby, Joel Weeks, Matt Daly, Kris Watts, Nick Giarraputo, David Quinowski, Brandon Pinckney, Lauren Gagnier, and Grant Duff.

Florida Class: Ryan Khoury, Brandon Henderson, Ryan Kiel, Jake Kahaulelio, Jon Gaston, Tim Pahuta, Matt Daly, Aaron Senne, Brad Stone, Mitch Hilligoss, Jake Opitz, Ryan Hutson, Les Smith, Matt Frevert, Roberto Ortiz, Brett Newsome, Kris Watts, Nick Giarraputo, David Quinowski, Brandon Pinckney, Lauren Gagnier, Jeff Nadeau, Grant Duff, and Aaron Dott.

Arizona Class: Aaron Meade, Jon Gaston, Oliver Odle, Kyle Woodruff, Craig Bennigson, Matt Lawson, Ryan Kiel, Justin Murray, Dustin Pease, Michael Liberto, Jake Opitz, Joseph Newby, Mitch Hilligoss, Kris Watts, Roberto Ortiz, Daniel Britt, Joel Weeks, Gaspar Santiago, David Quinowski, and Nick Giarraputo.

North Carolina Class: Craig Bennigson and Aaron Senne.

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New York Class: Ryan Khoury, Jon Gaston, Matt Daly, Aaron Senne, Kris Watts, Nick Giarraputo, and Aaron Dott.

Pennsylvania Class: Tim Pahuta, Kris Watts, and Lauren Gagnier.

Maryland Class: Roberto Ortiz and Brett Newsome.

Oregon Class: Joel Weeks, Gaspar Santiago, and David Quinowski.

Proposed Order at 2-3.

b. Factual Background

According to Plaintiffs, they will be able to prove both liability and damages on a classwide basis because MLB and its franchises have implemented uniform contracts, policies and Major League rules "to ensure similar conditions of employment" and the legal issues in the case can be "distilled to a few common issues." Rule 23 Motion at 2, 11. In support of Plaintiffs' contention that they are subject to uniform contracts, policies and rules, they point to the following evidence:

• Recruiting, Drafting and Hiring Under the Major League Rules ("MLRs"): According to Plaintiffs, the MLRs "govern the recruitment, drafting, hiring, pay, and employment of minor leaguers and the structure of the entire minor league system." Motion at 2. Plaintiffs cite to MLR 4, entitled "First Year Player Draft," which "governs the process that MLB franchises must follow when hiring amateur players as minor leaguers." Id. at 3 (citing Declaration of Garrett R. Broshuis in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification ("Broshuis Rule 23 Motion Decl."), Ex. B (MLRs)). They also point to MLR 3(b)(2), which requires that all minor leaguers sign a Uniform Player Contract ("UPC") in order to "preserve morale among Minor League Players and produce the similarity of conditions necessary for keen competition." Id. The form UPC is attached to the MLRs as Attachment 3; Plaintiffs note that under MLR 3 the "MLB franchises cannot deviate from the form UPC" and contend that the evidence shows that the franchises do, in fact, use this form UPC when employing minor leaguers. Id. at 3 (citing Broshuis Rule 23 Motion Decl., Ex. B (MLRs) and D (sample UPCs for all of the MLB franchises)). Plaintiffs note that under MLR 3(b)(2), the initial term of the UPC for all minor leaguers is seven championship seasons and that a minor leaguer cannot work for another franchise until that term expires or he is released or traded. Id. (citing Broshuis Rule 23 Motion Decl., Ex. B (MLRs)). Plaintiffs also point to MLR 56(g), providing that the "MLB franchises - not the minor league affiliates - determine where to assign the players to work and select the coaches and managers that oversee the players." Id. Finally, Plaintiffs cite to MLR 57, which "establishes rules governing the minor league playing schedule and for minor league travel during the championship season." Id.

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• Pay Practices under the

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