Class certification denial in New Jersey Rite Aid case reversed

Posted on: May 11th, 2012 by Steve Larson

In a March 27, 2012 per curiam decision, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, reversed a trial court order denying class certification in the complaint captioned Jennifer Hearn, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff-Appellant v. Rite Aid Corporation, and Rite Aid of New Jersey, Defendants-Respondents, Case No. A-2009-10T1 (N.J. Sup.Ct.).

The plaintiff represented a purported class of assistant store managers (ASMs) employed at Rite Aid pharmacies since May 4, 2006.  The complaint, filed in 2006, alleges violations of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.  Plaintiff moved for class certification in May 2010.

“Because the record demonstrates the presence of common issues of fact and law, the trial judge erred in permitting the inevitable minor differences in each ASM’s work experiences to override the efficient disposition of the larger common issues through class certification,” the Appellate Court held.  “Moreover, the judge disregarded the policy favoring the class action device, particularly in instances where class members likely do not have sufficient financial resources to pursue their claims on an individual basis against a defendant possessing superior resources.”

Moreover, stating that the existence of contradictions does not warrant disregarding a witness’ entire certification, the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court order denying Rite Aid’s motion to strike certifications.

The matter is remanded for further consideration of whether the class certification should be amended to include former managers of Brooks/Eckerd, an entity purchased by Rite Aid in 2007.