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Trollinger v. Tyson Foods

December 3, 2007

BIRDA TROLLINGER, VIRGINIA BRAVO, KELLY KESSINGER, IDOYNIA MCCOY, REGINA LEE, PATRICIA MIMS, LORI WINDHAM AND ALEXANDER HOWLETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TYSON FOODS, INC., JOHN TYSON, ARCHIBALD SCHAFFER III, RICHARD BOND, KENNETH KIMBRO, GREG LEE, KAREN PERCIVAL, AHRAZUE WILT AND TIM MCCOY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion to Approve Class Notice (Court File No. 350), Defendants' Response (Court File No. 370), Plaintiffs' Reply (Court File No. 372), Defendants' Motion for a More Definite Class Definition (Court File No. 225), Plaintiffs' Response (Court File No. 243), and Defendants' Reply (Court File No. 353). Those filings concern the related issues of the proper scope of the class definition and the appropriate language for the class notice.

Also before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Distribution of Class Notice (Court File No. 337), and Defendants' Response (Court File No. 362).

After reviewing the parties' submissions, this Court will GRANT in part and will DENY in part Plaintiff's Motion to Approve Class Notice (Court File No. 350), and will GRANT in part and will DENY in part Defendants' Motion for a More Definite Class Definition (Court File No. 225). Also, the Court will DENY Defendants' Motion to Reconsider Class Certification.*fn1 The Court will APPROVE the class notice language provided as Appendix A to the accompanying Order.

The Court will DENY Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Distribution of Class Notice (Court File No. 337). The Court will DENY Defendants' Motion to Impose Sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 against Plaintiffs for alleged baseless accusations in bad faith (Court File No. 362).*fn2

I. ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT

Plaintiffs Birda Trollinger et al. ("Plaintiffs") and Defendants Tyson Foods, Inc., et al. ("Defendants") disagree as to eight primary issues involving class definition, class notice language, and the financial responsibility for distribution of the class notice, as follows:

A. Plaintiffs seek recovery for wage suppression from April 2, 1998 to the present (Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, Court File No. 115). What is the appropriate date on which to close the class to new Tyson employees?*fn3

B. Should the places at which the potential class members worked be classified as "complexes" or "plants"? "Plants" refer only to the "chicken processing plants," whereas "complexes" include the plants and buildings separate from the production operation, including feed mills, hatcheries, and other buildings and operations.*fn4

C. Some of the potential class members may not be able to read or converse in English. How should the class notice address this issue?*fn5

D. Should the definition of the class include a description of the claim?*fn6

E. Are the methods and proof by which Plaintiffs identify legally-authorized workers, and thus eligible class members, sufficient for the purposes of class definition and notice?*fn7

F. Should Defendants be compelled to distribute class notice to their current employees?*fn8

G. Should Defendants be responsible for the costs of distributing class notice to their former employees at the chicken processing plants they no longer own in Ashland and Gadsden, Alabama?*fn9

H. Should this Court impose sanctions pursuit to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 against Plaintiffs for submitting allegedly baseless claims?*fn10

The parties agree it is appropriate for Plaintiffs' counsel to post the class notice and other relevant court documents on its website, for the benefit of class members and potential class members (Defendants' Response to the Motion to Approve Class Notice, Court File No. 370, p. 4; Plaintiffs' Reply to Approve Class Notice, Court File No. 372, p. 4, n. 5). Courts have recognized the value of the internet in disseminating information to class members. See Manual for Complex Litigation (Fourth) § 21.311 (2006) (Thomson/West (2006), pp. 385-86). The Court GRANTS Defendants' motion,*fn11 to which Plaintiffs have consented (Court File Nos. 370, p. 4; 372, p. 4, n. 5), and requires Plaintiffs' counsel to provide class notice via its website, as provided for in this Court's class notice (attached as Appendix A).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Class Membership will be closed on the date of the accompanying Court Order.

Plaintiffs seek recovery for wage suppression from April 2, 1998 to the present, as the alleged racketeering activities are on-going (Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, Court File No. 115, ΒΆ 59). For practical purposes, Plaintiffs suggest the class closes on the date notice is sent (Plaintiffs' Response to the Motion for a More Definite Class Definition, Court File No. 243, p. 4). Defendants seek to close the class as of October 10, 2006, when ...


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