Tina Kalajian v. Rite Aid Corporation et al

Filing 20

ORDER GRANTING JOINT MOTION TO STAY CASE 17 by Judge Otis D. Wright, II. the Court GRANTS the parties' Motion, and STAYS this case in its entirety until September 7, 2018. The Court ORDERS the parties to file joint status reports as to the progress of Beardsall, explaining to the Court the need to maintain the stay in this action every 60 days, until such time as the Beardsall matter concludes, or a stay no longer serves the interests of justice. (lom)

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O 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 United States District Court Central District of California 9 10 11 12 TINA KALAJIAN, individually and on 13 behalf of a class of similarly situated 14 individuals, Case No. 2:17-cv-06777-ODW-AGR MOTION TO STAY CASE [17] Plaintiff, 15 16 ORDER GRANTING JOINT v. 17 RITE AID CORPORATION, a 18 Delaware Corporation, and DOES 1 19 through 100, inclusive, 20 21 Defendants. I. INTRODUCTION 22 Tina Kalajian (“Plaintiff”), on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, 23 filed a suit against Rite Aid Corporation (“Defendant”) on September 14, 2017, for 24 improperly advertising, marketing, and selling an “aloe vera gel” without a detectable 25 level of aloe vera. (Compl. ¶ 20, ECF No. 1.) Another case is currently pending in 26 the Northern District of Illinois and involves similar issues. See Beardsall v. CVS 27 Pharmacy, Inc., No. 1:16-cv-06103 (N.D. Ill. June 10, 2016). The parties jointly 28 request to stay this action in its entirety for six months in order to allow the Beardsall 1 court to rule on class certification and the Beardsall parties to complete fact and 2 expert discovery. 3 GRANTS the parties’ Joint Motion to Stay this litigation for all purposes until six (6) 4 months from the date of this order. 1 (Mot. Stay 3, ECF No 17.) For the following reasons, the Court II. 5 FACTUAL BACKGROUND 6 Plaintiff alleges, on behalf of a class, that Rite Aid Renewal After Sun Gel 7 purports and advertises itself as containing aloe vera, but independent laboratory tests 8 show Defendant’s product contains no actual aloe vera. (Compl. ¶¶ 2–3.) Plaintiff 9 alleges claims for Breach of Express Warranty; Violations of the Consumers Legal 10 Remedies Act; Violations of the False Advertising Act; and Unlawful, Unfair and 11 Fraudulent Business Acts and Practices. (Id. ¶¶ 56–89); see Cal. Comm. Code § 12 2313; Cal. Civ. Code § 1750 et seq.; Cal. Bus. & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq.; 13 17500, et seq. 14 Beardsall is a class action against CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Walgreen Co., Target 15 Corp., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Fruit of the Earth, Inc. (Declaration of Andrew J. 16 Peterson (“Peterson Decl.”), Ex. A ¶¶ 45–49, ECF No. 17-2.) Like Rite Aid here, the 17 retailer defendants in the Beardsall action are also alleged to have sold aloe vera 18 products that do not have a detectable amount of aloe vera. (Id. ¶¶ 3–7.) 19 In both actions, the plaintiffs rely on independent laboratory testing that 20 revealed an absence of acemannan, the key compound in aloe vera. (Id. ¶ 102; 21 Compl. ¶ 22, 24.) The parties here contend that the discovery conducted in Beardsall, 22 especially the expert opinions gathered, will affect the outcome of this litigation, 23 which they maintain involves complex scientific issues. (Mot. Stay 1.) The Beardsall 24 court has ordered that class certification, Daubert, and dispositive motions be filed 25 with the court by May 11, 2018. (Beardsall Min. Order, No. 1:16-cv-06103, ECF No. 26 1 27 28 After considering the papers filed in connection with the Motion, the Court deemed the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15. Furthermore, since the parties request this stay jointly, there is no opposition for the Court to consider. 2 1 143.) In contrast, Defendant has not yet filed a response to the initial complaint in this 2 case. 3 Recognizing that the Beardsall action is further progressed and addresses many 4 of the same “complex scientific issues present in the instant action,” the parties jointly 5 move the Court to stay this action for six months. (Joint Mot. 4, ECF No. 17.) III. 6 LEGAL STANDARD “The power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power in every court to 7 8 control the disposition of the cases on its docket with economy of time and effort for 9 itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. North Am. Co., 29 U.S. 248, 254 10 (1936). The Court exercises its discretion in making such determinations, weighing 11 competing interests, and seeking to maintain an even balance. See id. at 254–55. This 12 exercise of discretion includes an ability to stay a case “pending resolution of 13 independent proceedings which bear upon the case.” Leyva v. Certified Grocers of 14 Cal., Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979). “This rule applies whether the separate 15 proceedings are judicial, administrative, or arbitral in character, and does not require 16 that the issues in such proceedings are necessarily controlling of the action before the 17 court.” Id. at 863–64. IV. 18 DISCUSSION 19 To determine whether a stay should be granted, the Court considers (1) the 20 possible damage resulting from a stay; (2) the hardship or inequity which a party may 21 suffer if required to go forward; and (3) the orderly course of justice, as measured by 22 whether the stay will simplify or complicate issues, proof, and questions of law. 23 Pamintuan v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., No. 16-CV-00254-HSG, 2016 WL 4319844, 24 at *1 (N.D. Cal. July 14, 2016) (quoting CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th 25 Cir. 1962)). In this case, the balance of interests supports staying the proceeding since 26 all three of these factors weigh in favor of granting a stay. 27 A. Potential Damage Caused by Stay 28 3 1 To determine any potential damage the stay could cause, the Court considers 2 whether the delay would cause harm to the merits of the claim or any loss of evidence. 3 Wilson v. Frito-Lay N. Am., Inc., No. 12-CV-1586 SC, 2015 WL 4451424, at *2 (N.D. 4 Cal. July 20, 2015). Neither party foresees any risk of prejudice in the instant action. 5 (Joint Mot. 6.) Plaintiff alleges no concerns regarding loss of witnesses, and there is 6 no indication of any other potentially lost evidence, given the short, six-month stay. 7 Rather, the Beardsall case may lead to additional scientific opinion that could 8 streamline this case, saving time and money for all involved. (Id.) Thus, this factor 9 weighs in favor of granting a stay. 10 B. Potential Hardship of Going Forward 11 Courts also evaluate the hardship that would exist if the stay is not granted— 12 namely, whether a denial of the stay would lead to poor use of judicial resources or 13 unnecessarily duplicative discovery efforts. See Tawnsuara Grp., LLC v. Maximum 14 Human Performance, LLC, No. CV 12-07189 SJO (AGRx), 2013 WL 12138687, at 15 *3 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 3, 2013). Much of the discovery in the Beardsall case is equivalent 16 to the discovery and expert opinion necessary in this case. (See Joint Mot. 6.) Both 17 center on products claiming to feature “aloe vera”-based ingredients, and both require 18 additional research to determine whether: 1) aloe vera is actually present in the 19 product; and 2) this finding impacts the product market. (See id. ¶¶ 28–31; Beardsall 20 Second Amended Complaint (“Beardsall SAC”) ¶¶ 100–13, No. 1:16-cv-06103, ECF 21 No. 90.) Moreover, this case requires consideration of issues closely related to those 22 in the Beardsall litigation with regard to both liability and remedies. (See Joint Mot. 23 5.) To consider these as novel issues when they are already being considered by the 24 Beardsall court would be an ineffective use of time and resources. Thus, this factor 25 also supports a stay. 26 C. Orderly Course of Justice 27 The third and final factor also weighs heavily in favor of granting a stay. A stay 28 should be granted where it supports the interest of justice by “prevent[ing] 4 1 unnecessary complication.” Coker v. Dowd, No. 2:13-cv-0994-JCM-NJK, 2013 WL 2 12216682, at *1 (D. Nev. July 8, 2013). Resolution of proceedings in a case that 3 provides “clear guidance largely…on point to help . . . simplify complex issues of law 4 and adequate proof” is precisely the type for which stay should be granted. Wilson, 5 2015 WL 4451424, at *2. 6 The parties jointly assert that “[s]taying this case would promote the orderly 7 course of justice by helping to simplify complex scientific issues in the action.” (Joint 8 Mot. 5, ECF No. 17.) Allowing for Beardsall to further progress would inform and 9 streamline this litigation by reference to the rulings, arguments, and scientific analyses 10 from that action. (Joint Mot. 5.) Both cases center on the level of acemannan, aloe 11 vera’s definitive compound, in the products at issue. (Compl. ¶ 22; Peterson Decl., 12 Ex. A ¶ 102, ECF No. 17-2.) Because the Beardsall action has further progressed and 13 will likely address issues of class certification, summary judgment, and expert 14 testimony within the next six months, the findings and decisions reached in Beardsall 15 will be informative to the parties here. 16 beneficial context for the scientific issues to be addressed and help to avoid the 17 potential of duplicative or moot litigation. (Id.) Accordingly, this factor also weighs 18 heavily in favor of granting the stay. 19 /// 20 /// 21 /// 22 /// 23 /// 24 /// 25 /// 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// (Joint Mot. 5–6.) 5 This would provide 1 /// 2 /// 3 /// V. 4 5 CONCLUSION Having read and reviewed the parties’ Motion to Stay (ECF No. 17), and 6 finding good cause therefore, the Court GRANTS the parties’ Motion, and STAYS 7 this case in its entirety until September 7, 2018. The Court ORDERS the parties to 8 file joint status reports as to the progress of Beardsall, explaining to the Court the 9 need to maintain the stay in this action every 60 days, until such time as the Beardsall 10 matter concludes, or a stay no longer serves the interests of justice. 11 12 IT IS SO ORDERED. 13 14 March 7, 2018 15 16 17 ____________________________________ OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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