SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge Monday refused to dismiss an amended putative class action in a labor dispute between Minor League ballplayers and Major League Baseball.
The original lawsuit , filed in February 2014 by lead plaintiff Aaron Senne, claimed Major League Baseball underpays its Minor Leaguers. It claimed that typical Minor League wages of $7,500 or less violated minimum wage laws. Senne played for the Miami Marlins organization from 2010 to 2013.
He sued three Major League clubs, Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig, and eventually added all 30 Major League teams as defendants.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero dismissed eight of the teams in May for lack of personal jurisdiction, leaving 22 teams as defendants.
The remaining teams – which include Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees – said the lawsuit should be dismissed for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. They said, “The plaintiffs’ reliance on the possible claims of unnamed class members is improper and insufficient to establish standing.”
They argued the plaintiffs should not be allowed to further amend their complaint because they have already received several opportunities to do so, and another amendment would be “futile.”
Spero refused to dismiss, saying, “a more difficult question is presented here,” as the named plaintiffs “seek to represent the interests of unnamed class members on the basis of similarity where the claims are asserted against different defendants.”
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated actual injury by alleging that one of the franchise defendants failed to pay them at all for some work and also failed to pay them required overtime,” Spero wrote in the 28-page order.
“The court declines to consider this question because it finds that at a minimum, it is appropriate to address whether there is standing to assert the claims that are challenged by the franchise defendants after class certification, at which point it may be possible to avoid these difficult constitutional issues.”
Citing precedent, Spero said that since the proposed class representatives seek to represent unnamed plaintiffs who were allegedly exploited by the MLB teams, “it is appropriate to defer the question of standing until after class certification.”
He said the teams’ contention that they would be “extraordinarily burdened” by deferring the question was “unpersuasive,” and he rejected the teams’ argument that the deferral is a “transparent attempt by plaintiffs to find additional minor league players who do have standing.”
“While this may be true, the court finds that there is nothing improper about such an attempt,” Spero wrote.
Spero deferred the question of whether the plaintiffs failed to state a claim, as the teams argued, until after class certification.
“Here, the sufficiency of plaintiffs’ state law claims will depend upon whether the classes proposed by plaintiffs are certified and the scope of the claims the classes are permitted to assert,” he wrote.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Warshaw declined to comment. He is with Pearson Simon, of Sherman Oaks.
The defendants could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
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