Tuesday, October 02, 2007

S.D.N.Y. Holds Plaintiffs Meet Requirements for Class Certification Under Rule 23(b)(2) in Gender Discrimination Suit

Per Velez v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. , --- F.R.D. ----, 2007 WL 2197800 (S.D.N.Y., July 31, 2007) (NO. 04 CIV 9194 GEL):

Certification under Rule 23(b)(2) is appropriate where "(1) the positive weight or value to the plaintiffs of the injunctive or declaratory relief sought is predominant even though compensatory or punitive damages are also claimed, and (2) class treatment would be efficient and manageable, thereby achieving an appreciable measure of judicial economy." Robinson, 267 F.3d at 164 (internal alteration, citation and quotation marks omitted). When a case involves claims for both injunctive relief and non-incidental monetary damages, courts must assess "the relative importance of the remedies sought, given all of the facts and circumstances of the case." Id., quoting Hoffman, 191 F.R.D. at 536.

Although the assessment of whether injunctive or declaratory relief predominates will require an ad hoc balancing that will vary from case to case, before allowing (b)(2) certification a district court should, at a minimum, satisfy itself of the following: (1) even in the absence of a possible monetary recovery, reasonable plaintiffs would bring the suit to obtain the injunctive or declaratory relief sought; and (2) the injunctive or declaratory relief sought would be both reasonably necessary and appropriate were the plaintiffs to succeed on the merits. Insignificant or sham requests for injunctive relief should not provide cover for (b)(2) certification of claims that are brought essentially for monetary recovery. Id.

In this case, there can be little question that reasonable plaintiffs would sue to obtain the injunctive relief sought. The central goal of this lawsuit is to alter practices at NPC that plaintiffs believe are discriminatory. If plaintiffs prevail on the merits, that injunctive relief will be appropriate and reasonably necessary, because it would serve little purpose to award money damages for discrimination without addressing the institutional structure that perpetuates it. Defendants are alleged to have acted on grounds generally applicable to the class, and "[p]laintiffs seek to reform defendants' practices to provide for equitable employment opportunities and compensation for women." Hnot I, 228 F.R.D. at 486.

Defendants' argument against class certification is that plaintiffs have "fail[ed] to show the existence of any class-wide discriminatory practice in need of injunctive relief." (D. Mem. 50 .) Plaintiff have not yet been asked to prove any such thing. This is a class certification motion, not a trial, and if plaintiffs fail to prove the existence of class-wide discriminatory practices, no injunctive relief will be awarded. For now, the court need only determine whether such relief would be appropriate and necessary "were the plaintiffs to succeed on the merits," Robinson, 267 F.3d at 14, and it clearly would be.

Thus, the requirements of Rule 23(b)(2) are satisfied and the class will be certified under that provision. Because the Court finds that plaintiffs meet the requirements of Rule 23(b)(2), it is unnecessary at this point to determine whether class certification under Rule 23(b)(3) would also be warranted. See Hnot I at 486. Additionally, Title VII civil rights cases may be divided into liability and remedial phases. Id. Therefore, the issue of whether plaintiffs meet the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3) is deferred until after the liability phase of this action.


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