Vaughn v. LA Fitness International: Shifting Costs to Seek Fairness in Discovery

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On August 16, 2012, United States District Judge Michael Baylson granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs’ motion to compel in Vaughn v. LA Fitness, a putative class action brought against LA Fitness International, LLC (“LA Fitness”) for breach of contract, violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act. Vaughn v. LA Fitness International, LLC, Civil Action No. 11-2644 (E.D. Pa. August 16, 2012). This decision was no ordinary ruling on a motion to compel, however, as the court granted plaintiffs’ request for additional discovery, but ordered plaintiffs to pay the internal costs specified by LA Fitness of searching for and providing the requested information. As noted by the court, this decision appears to be the first documented case specifically addressing the allocation of costs as part of a discovery dispute prior to class certification. Vaughn, August 16, 2012 Memorandum, 10.

In deciding to shift the costs of the relevant discovery to plaintiffs, Judge Baylson advised that “[d]iscovery need not be perfect, but discovery must be fair.” Id. at 4. Judge Baylson focused on the economic aspects of discovery in a putative class action, noting that “the concept of treating a civil action as a class action dramatically changes the strategies and economic considerations of the parties and their counsel.” Id. at 5. Indeed, a class action “dramatically increases the economic pressure on the defendant.” Id.

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