DECISION AND ORDER
RUDOLPH T. RANDA, District Judge.
This is a putative class action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. ("FCRA"). Cory Groshek alleges that Time Warner Cable, Inc. willfully violated the FCRA by procuring a consumer report for employment purposes without first providing a clear and conspicuous written disclosure in a document consisting solely of the disclosure. Groshek moved for class certification at the same time that he filed his complaint in accordance with the procedure set forth in Damasco v. Clearwire Corp., 662 F.3d 891, 896 (7th Cir. 2011) ("[t]he pendency of that motion protects a putative class from attempts to buy off the named plaintiffs").
Time Warner moves to dismiss for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, Time Warner's motion to dismiss is denied, and the motion for class certification will remain pending as a placeholder motion pursuant to the Damasco procedure. 662 F.3d at 896-97.
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the lawsuit. Szabo v. Bridgeport Machs., Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 675 (7th Cir. 2001). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "`state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 540, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible if the plaintiff "pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The Court accepts the allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Mallett v. Wis. Div. of Vocational Rehab., 130 F.3d 1245, 1248 (7th Cir. 1997).
Groshek applied for employment at Time Warner Cable in September of 2014. Groshek received an offer of employment conditioned upon his completion of thirty-plus pages of online documents, including multiple background screening disclosures and authorizations. Time Warner required Groshek to consent to three separate background disclosure/authorization forms, all of which included the following liability release:
Groshek contends that the foregoing release violates 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b)(2)(A), which provides that no person may procure a consumer report for employment purposes unless —
Time Warner argues that Groshek fails to state a claim because the release is a third-party release, not a release for Time Warner Cable. This is beside the point because, as the statute clearly states, the document with the disclosure must contain only the disclosure. It is undisputed that the disclosures at issue here are on documents that also contain the abovequoted release language.
Time Warner argues further that the release language is permissible because it actually draws attention to and enhances the disclosure. In support, Time Warner cites § 1681b(b)(2)(A)(ii), infra, which expressly permits the inclusion of a consumer authorization on the disclosure form, but this is the only item that can accompany the disclosure. Some courts have fudged on the clear statutory language, focusing on the so-called "effectiveness" of the disclosure, but the Court agrees with those courts that adhere to the language of the statute. See, e.g., Singleton v. Domino's Pizza, No. 11-1823, 2012 WL 245965, at *9 (D. Md. Jan. 25, 2012) ("both the statutory text and FTC advisory opinions indicate that an employer violates the FCRA by including a liability release in a disclosure documents"); Reardon v. ClosetMaid Corp., No. 2:08-cv-01730, 2013 WL 6231606, at *9 (W.D. Penn. Dec. 2, 2013) ("the Court agrees with the analysis in Singleton, given the rather direct statutory language at issue. ... [T]he release verbiage is still not an `authorization,' which is the only other provision the FCRA allows in a valid disclosure form").
Time Warner also asserts that Groshek cannot show that the violation was willful. Under the FCRA, a willful violation must be intentional or reckless, and "a company subject to FCRA does not act in reckless disregard of it unless the action is not only a violation under a reasonable reading of the statute's terms, but shows that the company ran a risk of violating the law substantially greater than the risk associated with a reading that was merely careless." Safeco Ins. Co. of Am. v. Burr, 551 U.S. 47, 69 (2007). Once again, the Court agrees with the plaintiff and those courts which maintain that the language of the statute is simple and straightforward. Time Warner acted recklessly by including extraneous information in the disclosure. See, e.g., Miller v. Quest Diagnostics, No. 2:14-cv-04278-SRB, 2015 WL 545506, at *2 (W.D. Mo. Jan. 28, 2015) ("Assertions that [defendant] was aware of the FCRA, but failed to comply with its requirements, are sufficient to support an allegation of willfulness and to avoid dismissal").
Finally, Time Warner argues that Groshek's pre-suit settlement demand demonstrates that he is an inadequate class representative:
Thus according to Time Warner, Groshek is inadequate because he attempted to sell out the putative class for his own financial gain. While this may have been his intent, an individual settlement with Groshek would not have compromised the claims of any putative class members. Groshek's settlement demand was submitted on his own behalf, but he is now represented by competent class counsel. Time Warner also argues that Groshek is inadequate because he could be charged with extortion. John Chisholm's caseload was recently lightened,
Finally, the Court notes that there are other ways for class action plaintiffs to protect themselves from the "buy-off" problem. "Before engaging in any settlement discussions, for example, counsel for potential class plaintiffs could require an agreement from defense counsel to defer the making of any actual offer of settlement until the conclusion of negotiations about the parameters of the offer to be extended or without the plaintiff's prior consent." Smith v. Specified Credit Assoc., Inc., No. 14 C 06496, 2015 WL 468871, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 30, 2015). The Court would like the parties to discuss this possibility so it can dispose of the Demasco motion before the end of September. Id. at *2, n.2 ("Similar agreements are often entered into by class litigants in cases pending in this district so that prophylactic Demasco class certification motions, which might otherwise remain pending for long periods before briefing and resolution, can be disposed of before they become reportable on semi-annual Civil Justice Reform Act reports").
1. Time Warner's motion for leave to file a sur-reply brief [ECF No. 21] is
2. Time Warner's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 13] is
3. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b), a telephonic scheduling conference is scheduled for
4. The purpose of the conference call is to establish a scheduling order which will limit the time: (a) to join other parties and to amend the pleadings; (b) to file motions; (c) to complete discovery;
5. The scheduling order may alow: (a) modify the timing for disclosure under Rules 26(a) and 26(e)(1) and of the extent of discovery to be permitted; (b) provide for the disclosure or discovery of electronically stored information; (c) include any agreements the parties reach for asserting claims of privilege or protection as trial preparation material after information is produced; (d) the date or dates for conferences before trial, a final pretrial conference, and trial; and (e) any other matters appropriate in the circumstances of the case;
6. The time limitations set forth in the scheduling order may only be modified for good cause and with the Court's consent. Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4);
7. The parties should be prepared to discuss the matters listed in Civil Local Rule 16(a)(1). Please refer to Attachment A. Special attention should also be given to Rule 26(f)(1), which requires the parties to conduct a settlement/discovery conference at least twenty-one (21) days prior to the initial scheduling conference described above. The Rule 26(f) conference may be conducted by telephone. Rules 26(f)(2) and (3) mandate that the parties, within fourteen (14) days of their conference: (a) file a written report outlining the proposed discovery plan they have developed at their Rule 26(f) conference; and (b) make the required initial disclosures under Rule 26(a) regarding witnesses and documents. In addition to the matters specified in Rules 26(f)(2) and (3), the Court requests that the proposed discovery plan submitted by the parties include one or two sentences stating the nature of the case;
8. The written report must include the telephone numbers where the parties can be reached for this call;
9. The parties should also, as directed, discuss alternatives to the pendency of the Demasco placeholder motion. The written report should outline the parties' respective positions on this issue;
10. In addition, Judge Randa is participating in the Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program and has adopted the
(a) Preliminary Pretrial Conferences.
CONSIDERATION OF ISSUES CONCERNING ELECTRONICALLY STORED INFORMATION ("ESI")
Experience teaches that unless conducted with careful planning and a spirit of cooperation, discovery of ESI can result in an unnecessarily high level of conflict, expense and delay in resolving cases on the merits. That is why the Court has endorsed The Sedona Conference® Cooperation Proclamation dated July 2008.
To further advance the goal of having parties conduct discovery of ESI in a cooperative and costeffective manner, this Court has adopted the Standing Order Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information. At the Rule 26(f) planning conference, the parties shall address the issues discussed in the Standing Order, including but not limited to those set forth in Section 2.01(a)(1)-(5). In the report of the planning conference, the parties shall set forth:
(a) Whether they anticipate discovery of ESI in the case;
(b) What agreements they have reached regarding discovery of ESI; and
(c) What areas of disagreement they have with regard to discovery of ESI.
After reviewing the report of the planning conference and discussing the matter with the parties, the Court will determine whether the Standing Order should apply in this case.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
This Court is participating in the Pilot Program initiated by the Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Committee. Parties and counsel in the Pilot Program with civil cases pending in this Court shall familiarize themselves with, and comport themselves consistent with, that committee's Principles Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information. For more information about the Pilot Program please see the web site of The Seventh Circuit Bar Association, www.7thcircuitbar.org. If any party believes that there is good cause why a particular case should be exempted, in whole or in part, from the Principles Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information, then that party may raise such reason with the Court.
Principle 1.01 (Purpose)
The purpose of these Principles is to assist courts in the administration of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1, to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every civil case, and to promote, whenever possible, the early resolution of disputes regarding the discovery of electronically stored information ("ESI") without Court intervention. Understanding of the feasibility, reasonableness, costs, and benefits of various aspects of electronic discovery will inevitably evolve as judges, attorneys and parties to litigation gain more experience with ESI and as technology advances.
Principle 1.02 (Cooperation)
An attorney's zealous representation of a client is not compromised by conducting discovery in a cooperative manner. The failure of counsel or the parties to litigation to cooperate in facilitating and reasonably limiting discovery requests and responses raises litigation costs and contributes to the risk of sanctions.
Principle 1.03 (Discovery Proportionality)
The proportionality standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C) should be applied in each case when formulating a discovery plan. To further the application of the proportionality standard in discovery, requests for production of ESI and related responses should be reasonably targeted, clear, and as specific as practicable.
Early Case Assessment Principles
Principle 2.01 (Duty to Meet and Confer on Discovery and to Identify Disputes for Early Resolution)
(a) Prior to the initial status conference with the Court, counsel shall meet and discuss the application of the discovery process set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and these Principles to their specific case. Among the issues to be discussed are:
(b) Disputes regarding ESI that counsel for the parties are unable to resolve shall be presented to the Court at the initial status conference, Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 16(b) Scheduling Conference, or as soon as possible thereafter.
(c) The attorneys for each party shall review and understand how their client's data is stored and retrieved before the meet and confer discussions in order to determine what issues must be addressed during the meet and confer discussions.
(d) If the Court determines that any counsel or party in a case has failed to cooperate and participate in good faith in the meet and confer process or is impeding the purpose of these Principles, the Court may require additional discussions prior to the commencement of discovery, and may impose sanctions, if appropriate.
Principle 2.02 (E-Discovery Liaison(s))
In most cases, the meet and confer process will be aided by participation of an e-discovery liaison(s) as defined in this Principle. In the event of a dispute concerning the preservation or production of ESI, each party shall designate an individual(s) to act as e-discovery liaison(s) for purposes of meeting, conferring, and attending court hearings on the subject. Regardless of whether the e-discovery liaison(s) is an attorney (in-house or outside counsel), a third party consultant, or an employee of the party, the e-discovery liaison(s) must:
(a) be prepared to participate in e-discovery dispute resolution;
(b) be knowledgeable about the party's e-discovery efforts;
(c) be, or have reasonable access to those who are, familiar with the party's electronic systems and capabilities in order to explain those systems and answer relevant questions; and
(d) be, or have reasonable access to those who are, knowledgeable about the technical aspects of e-discovery, including electronic document storage, organization, and format issues, and relevant information retrieval technology, including search methodology.
Principle 2.03 (Preservation Requests and Orders)
(a) Appropriate preservation requests and preservation orders further the goals of these Principles. Vague and overly broad preservation requests do not further the goals of these Principles and are therefore disfavored. Vague and overly broad preservation orders should not be sought or entered. The information sought to be preserved through the use of a preservation letter request or order should be reasonable in scope and mindful of the factors set forth in Rule 26(b)(2)(C).
(b) To the extent counsel or a party requests preservation of ESI through the use of a preservation letter, such requests should attempt to ensure the preservation of relevant and discoverable information and to facilitate cooperation between requesting and receiving counsel and parties by transmitting specific and useful information. Examples of such specific and useful information include, but are not limited to:
(c) If the recipient of a preservation request chooses to respond, that response should provide the requesting counsel or party with useful information regarding the preservation efforts undertaken by the responding party. Examples of such useful and specific information include, but are not limited to, information that:
(d) Nothing in these Principles shall be construed as requiring the sending of a preservation request or requiring the sending of a response to such a request.
Principle 2.04 (Scope of Preservation)
(a) Every party to litigation and its counsel are responsible for taking reasonable and proportionate steps to preserve relevant and discoverable ESI within its possession, custody or control. Determining which steps are reasonable and proportionate in particular litigation is a fact specific inquiry that will vary from case to case. The parties and counsel should address preservation issues at the outset of a case, and should continue to address them as the case progresses and their understanding of the issues and the facts improves.
(b) Discovery concerning the preservation and collection efforts of another party may be appropriate but, if used unadvisedly, can also contribute to the unnecessary expense and delay and may inappropriately implicate work product and attorney-client privileged matter. Accordingly, prior to initiating such discovery a party shall confer with the party from whom the information is sought concerning: (I) the specific need for such discovery, including its relevance to issues likely to arise in the litigation; and (ii) the suitability of alternative means for obtaining the information. Nothing herein exempts deponents on merits issues from answering questions concerning the preservation and collection of their documents, ESI, and tangible things.
(c) The parties and counsel should come to the meet and confer conference prepared to discuss the claims and defenses in the case including specific issues, time frame, potential damages, and targeted discovery that each anticipates requesting. In addition, the parties and counsel should be prepared to discuss reasonably foreseeable preservation issues that relate directly to the information that the other party is seeking. The parties and counsel need not raise every conceivable issue that may arise concerning their preservation efforts; however, the identification of any such preservation issues should be specific.
(d) The following categories of ESI generally are not discoverable in most cases, and if any party intends to request the preservation or production of these categories, then that intention should be discussed at the meet and confer or as soon thereafter as practicable:
(e) If there is a dispute concerning the scope of a party's preservation efforts, the parties or their counsel must meet and confer and fully explain their reasons for believing that additional efforts are, or are not, reasonable and proportionate, pursuant to Rule 26(b)(2)(C). If the parties are unable to resolve a preservation issue, then the issue should be raised promptly with the Court.
Principle 2.05 (Identification of Electronically Stored Information)
(a) At the Rule 26(f) conference or as soon thereafter as possible, counsel or the parties shall discuss potential methodologies for identifying ESI for production.
(b) Topics for discussion may include, but are not limited to, any plans to:
Principle 2.06 (Production Format)
(a) At the Rule 26(f) conference, counsel and the parties should make a good faith effort to agree on the format(s) for production of ESI (whether native or some other reasonably usable form). If counsel or the parties are unable to resolve a production format issue, then the issue should be raised promptly with the Court.
(b) The parties should confer on whether ESI stored in a database or a database management system can be produced by querying the database for discoverable information, resulting in a report or a reasonably usable and exportable electronic file for review by the requesting counsel or party.
(c) ESI and other tangible or hard copy documents that are not text-searchable need not be made text-searchable.
(d) Generally, the requesting party is responsible for the incremental cost of creating its copy of requested information. Counsel or the parties are encouraged to discuss cost sharing for optical character recognition (OCR) or other upgrades of paper documents or non-text-searchable electronic images that may be contemplated by each party.
Principle 3.01 (Judicial Expectations of Counsel)
Because discovery of ESI is being sought more frequently in civil litigation and the production and review of ESI can involve greater expense than discovery of paper documents, it is in the interest of justice that all judges, counsel and parties to litigation become familiar with the fundamentals of discovery of ESI. It is expected by the judges adopting these Principles that all counsel will have done the following in connection with each litigation matter in which they file an appearance:
Principle 3.02 (Duty of Continuing Education)
Judges, attorneys and parties to litigation should continue to educate themselves on electronic discovery by consulting applicable case law, pertinent statutes, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, The Sedona Conference® publications relating to electronic discovery