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Fleischman v. Albany Medical Center

July 28, 2008

WENDY FLEISCHMAN AND CINDY CULLEN, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALBANY MEDICAL CENTER; ELLIS HOSPITAL; NORTHEAST HEALTH; SETON HEALTH SYSTEM; ST. PETER'S HEALTH CARE SERVICES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Wendy Fleischman and Cindy Cullen ("Plaintiffs") brought the instant action pursuant to the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, claiming a conspiracy to suppress wages. Presently before the Court is the motion for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

II. FACTS

Plaintiffs are currently employed as nurses at St. Peter's Hospital and Capital Region Orthopedic Group. They claim that the Defendants have conspired with one another to depress the wages of Registered Nurses employed by them. The complaint alleges that there was an agreement among Defendants to regularly exchange compensation information concerning Registered Nurses, that this information exchange had the effect of reducing competition among Defendants in the market for Registered Nurses ("RNs"), and that this reduction of competition depressed wages for RNs below competitive levels beginning prior to June 2002 and continuing through March 2, 2007.

Plaintiffs now seek certification of a class of approximately 2,300 RNs working in hospitals in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area ("Albany MSA"). The proposed Class is defined as:

All persons employed by any defendant or co-conspirator to work in a hospital in the Albany MSA as an RN at any time from June 20, 2002 until the present.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"In determining the propriety of a class action, the question is not whether the plaintiff or plaintiffs have stated a cause of action or will prevail on the merits, but rather whether the requirements of Rule 23 are met." Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 177-178 (1974). More precisely, a court considering a class certification motion "must look somewhere between the pleading and the fruit of discovery. . . [E]nough must be laid bare to let the judge survey the factual scene on a kind of sketchy relief map, leaving for later view the myriad of details that cover the terrain." Sirota v. Solitron Devices, Inc., 673 F.2d 566, 571-572 (2d Cir. 1982) (quoting Professional Adjusting Sys. of America, Inc. v. General Adjustment Bureau, Inc., 64 F.R.D. 35, 38 (S.D.N.Y. 1974)).

The Second Circuit has recently elaborated as follows:

(1) a district judge may certify a class only after making determinations that each of the Rule 23 requirements has been met; (2) such determinations can be made only if the judge resolves factual disputes relevant to each Rule 23 requirement and finds that whatever underlying facts are relevant to a particular Rule 23 requirement have been established and is persuaded to rule, based on the relevant facts and the applicable legal standard, that the requirement is met; (3) the obligation to make such determinations is not lessened by overlap between a Rule 23 requirement and a merits issue, even a merits issue that is identical with a Rule 23 requirement; (4) in making such determinations, a district judge should not assess any aspect of the merits unrelated to a Rule 23 requirement; and (5) a district judge has ample discretion to circumscribe both the extent of discovery concerning Rule 23 requirements and the extent of a hearing to determine whether such requirements are met in order to assure that a class certification motion does not become a pretext for a partial trial of the merits.

In re Initial Pub. Offerings Sec. Litig., 471 F.3d 24, 41 (2d Cir. 2006).

IV. DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs seeking class certification under Rule 23(a) must first establish that (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable ("numerosity" requirement); (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class ("commonality" requirement); (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class ("typicality" requirement); and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class ("adequacy" requirement). Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a); see alsoIn re Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litig., 280 F.3d 124, 132-133 (2d Cir. 2001). Should plaintiffs meet this burden, they must also prove that their suit is sustainable as a Rule 23(b)(3) class action. Id. at 133. As is applicable to this case, a class action may be maintained "if Rule 23(a) is satisfied and if the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class member predominate over any questions affecting only individuals members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy. . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3).

I. Whether the Proposed Class Satisfies All Rule 23(a) Requirements

The burden of proving all Rule 23(a) elements rests with Plaintiffs. Gen. Tel. Co. v. Falcon, 4 ...


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