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Georigi v. Recon Automotive Remanufacturers

May 7, 2009

ROBERT GEORIGI, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RECON AUTOMOTIVE REMANUFACTURERS, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs Robert Georigi, Sopheap Pen, Willie Roberson, Thoeun Rueun, and Thomas Drye move this court, pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to certify the following class:

All employees of Recon Automotive Remanufacturers ("Recon") who were terminated without cause as part of, or as a result of, plant shutdowns and/or mass layoffs that took place between February 1, 2007, and August 31, 2007, at Recon's plant in southwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and who were not given sixty (60) days prior notice of termination.

For the reasons stated below, the court grants Plaintiffs' motion.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiffs Robert Georigi, Sopheap Pen, Willie Roberson, Thoeun Rueun, and Thomas Drye filed their Class Action Complaint against Defendant Recon Automotive Remanufacturers ("Recon") on December 28, 2007. Plaintiffs claim that Recon violated the Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification Act ("the WARN Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 2101, et seq., and Philadelphia Code §§ 9-1501 - 9-1504. Recon failed to respond to the Complaint. On April 9, 2009, the Clerk of Court entered a default by Recon. On September 3, 2008, the Honorable William H. Yohn, Jr., who then presided over this matter, ordered Plaintiffs to file a Motion for Default Judgment by September 23, 2008. Plaintiffs filed a "Motion for Entry of Default Judgment" on September 23, 2008. Plaintiffs' Motion sought damages on behalf of the class and the individual plaintiffs. On September 27, 2008, Judge Yohn dismissed as moot Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default Judgment and he ordered Plaintiffs to serve the Complaint and a motion seeking class certification upon the Defendant. On November 14, 2009, the case was reassigned to this court. On December 12, 2008, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Class Certification and for Appointment of Class Counsel. Recon did not respond.

II. Background

Plaintiffs were employees of Recon at its engine reconditioning factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ("the Philadelphia Plant"). (Compl. ¶¶ 4-9.) As of February 1, 2007, Recon employed approximately 150 persons at the Philadelphia Plant. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Between February 1, 2007, and August 31, 2007, Recon informed each of these employees, individually and in writing, that he or she was being terminated immediately because of Recon's lack of work. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-9.) Recon failed to provide Plaintiffs with 60 days of notice, warning, and benefits required by the WARN Act and the Philadelphia Code.

The WARN Act "obligates certain employers to give workers . . . 60 days' notice before a plant closing or mass layoff. If an employer fails to give the notice, the employees may sue for backpay for each day of the violation." United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 751 v. Brown Group, Inc., 517 U.S. 544, 545-546 (1996); 29 U.S.C. §§ 2102 & 2104. Employers who violate the WARN Act are also liable for benefits under certain employee benefit plans and for the cost of certain medical expenses incurred during the employment loss. 29 U.S.C. § 2104(a)(1). Similarly, Sections 9-1501 - 9-1504 of the Philadelphia Code, titled "Notification of Intention to Close or Relocate Operations," obligates employers within the City of Philadelphia to give workers 60 days' notice before a closing or relocation of operations.

Plaintiffs seek the following relief for themselves and for the proposed class: (1) unpaid wages, salaries, bonuses, accrued holiday pay, accrued vacation pay, and pension and/or 401(k) retirement plan contributions for 60 working days; (2) the health and medical insurance and other fringe benefits under ERISA that they would have received for a period of 60 working days after the dates of their respective terminations from employment; and (3) any medical expenses incurred during such period that would have been covered and paid by Recon's employee benefit plan had that coverage continued for that period (4) attorneys' fees and costs; and (5) interest on the amounts owed. (Compl. 16.)

III. Discussion

Plaintiffs seek to certify a class comprised of the former employees of Recon's Philadelphia Plant who were terminated between February 1, 2007, and August 31, 2007, and who were not provided with 60 days prior notice of termination as required by WARN and the Philadelphia Code. To prevail on a motion for class certification, a plaintiff first must satisfy all of the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a), which are (1) numerosity: the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) commonality: there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) typicality: the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) adequacy: the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a); In re Hydrogen Peroxide Antitrust Litig., 552 F.3d 305, 309 n.6 (3d Cir. 2008). If all four requirements of Rule 23(a) are satisfied, a plaintiff next must satisfy the requirements of one of the subsections of Rule 23(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b); In re Hydrogen Peroxide, 552 F.3d at 309 n.6. Here, 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 be "superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3); Amchem Prods. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 615 (1997). "[T]he decision to certify a class calls for findings by the court, not merely a 'threshold showing' by a party, that each requirement of Rule 23 is met." In re Hydrogen Peroxide, 552 F.3d at 307. "Factual determinations supporting Rule 23 findings must be made by a preponderance of the evidence," and "the court must resolve all factual or legal disputes relevant to class certification, even if they overlap with the merits." Id.

A. Rule 23(a) ...


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