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Poddar v. State Bank of India

June 14, 2006

SHRIKUMAR PODDAR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PLAN ADMINISTRATOR AND TRUSTEE; MAYURIKA PODDAR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE; VAISHNAVA CENTER FOR ENLIGHTENMENT, INC., D.B.A. INTERNATIONAL SERVICE SOCIETY; AND INDIA FOUNDATION, INC. ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STATE BANK OF INDIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cedarbaum, J.

OPINION

Plaintiffs move to certify a worldwide class of "all holders of Series II India Development Bonds issued by State Bank of India who timely and properly filed their applications for redemption on or before December 15, 1996 but did not receive payment of the maturity proceeds on or before February 15, 1997." Notice of Motion at 1. Defendant opposes class certification and moves for an order requiring plaintiffs and their counsel to post a bond in the amount of $350,000. For the reasons that follow, plaintiffs' motion is granted as modified, and defendant's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

This action arises out of plaintiffs' redemption of bonds that were issued by defendant on February 15, 1992. Defendant issued the bonds only to non-resident Indians and redeemed the bonds in dollars or in pounds sterling for those bondholders still residing outside of India at the time of redemption. Plaintiffs allege that defendant breached the terms of the bonds by failing to give plaintiffs the amounts due under the bonds on the maturity date, February 15, 1997. Defendant contends that on February 15 and 16, 1997, it dispatched bond redemption warrants to those bondholders who timely and properly filed redemption applications. On those dates, defendant mailed 3,017 redemption warrants to addresses within the United States and mailed over 22,000 warrants to addresses outside the United States. After February 16, 1997, defendant mailed additional redemption warrants to bondholders whose redemption applications were timely, but "improperly" submitted. The redemption warrants of bondholders whose applications required additional signature verification, or whose applications contained missing information or other errors, were mailed after February 16. Only one of the named plaintiffs in this action, Mayurika Poddar, received her warrants on February 19, 1997. The other named plaintiffs received their redemption warrants on March 12, 1997. Plaintiffs allege that they were damaged by defendant's breach of the bond terms because they were deprived of the use of money they invested in the bonds during the period from February 15, 1997 until they received payment from defendant.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion for Class Certification

The threshold requirements for class certification are listed in Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). Rule 23(a) provides:

One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all only if (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

If the requirements of Rule 23(a) are satisfied, plaintiffs must also show that the action is "maintainable" under Rule 23(b). Plaintiffs seek certification under Rule 23(b)(3), which requires that "the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." To prevail on their motion for class certification, plaintiffs must make "some showing" that the proposed class comports with Rule 23. Fogarazzao v. Lehman Bros., Inc., 232 F.R.D. 176, 179 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)(citing Caridad v. Metro-North Commuter R.R., 191 F.3d 283, 292 (2d Cir. 1999)).

A. Numerosity

Rule 23(a)(1) requires that "the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable." According to defendant's records, defendant mailed 3,017 bond redemption warrants to addresses within the United States on February 15 and 16, 1997. Therefore, even if the class is limited to those bondholders residing in the United States at the time of redemption whose warrants were mailed on or before February 16, the putative class has a minimum of over three thousand members. This large number of class members makes joinder of all members impracticable.

B. Commonality & Superiority

To satisfy the Rule 23 commonality requirements, plaintiffs must show that "there are questions of law or fact common to the class," and that these common questions "predominate" over individual questions. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(2), 23(b)(3). Plaintiffs must also show that a class action is "superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3).

Plaintiffs argue that all class members' claims relate to a single, continuous course of conduct by defendant, such that the relevant proof of defendant's liability will not vary among class members. Plaintiffs also contend that the resolution of the core legal question in this case -- whether defendant is liable for failure to make payment to bondholders on or before February 15, 1997 -- will affect the claims of each class member in the same way. Defendant responds that the Rule 23(b)(3) predominance requirement is not met here because individual questions will predominate in the determination of each class member's damages. In addition, defendant argues that the determination of its liability to those bondholders whose warrants were mailed after February 16, because of alleged defects in the bondholders' redemption applications, is not subject to class-wide determination. Defendant contends that, to determine its liability to these bondholders, the court will need to review each allegedly defective ...


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