Federal Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero struck a blow to MLB when he reversed course on his earlier decision and recertified a minor league collective and class action against MLB.

In July 2016, the court decertified the minor league collective and class action in Senne, et al. v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp., et al., No. 14-CV-00608-JCS. However, on August 4, 2016, the Court granted in part the plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration, giving them the opportunity to narrow the class definitions and address the court’s concerns expressed in its July decision.

The previously proposed class included “All persons who under a Minor League Uniform Player contract, work or worked for MLB or any MLB franchise as a minor league baseball player within the relevant state at any time.” The court found too many individualized issues to certify the class.

The new classes approved by the court include a Fair Labor Standards Act collective consisting of minor league players participating in the California league, spring training, instructional league, or extended spring training on or after February 7, 2011. The court also recertified a California class consisting of minor league players who participated in the California league on or after February 7, 2010.

In reversing course, Judge Spero stated,

“The Court now reaches a different conclusion and finds that the classes have been narrowed sufficiently that any individualized issues that arise in connection with the representative evidence offered by Plaintiffs will not predominate over common issues.”

In its previous decision, the court took issue with the plaintiffs including winter conditioning activities as part of the class definition. The court found that players are given wide latitude in their winter conditioning workouts, giving rise to too many individualized issues. By excluding these winter activities under the new class definition, the focus is on team activities and conditioning, rather than individualized winter programs of each player. The court also relied on the fact that “many of the individualized inquiries cited by Defendants go to damages and not liability, and therefore do not present an impediment to class certification.”

The court ordered the parties to file a proposed schedule of the case by April 28, 2017. Ultimately, MLB may be forced to take this issue to trial. We will monitor the case and provide updates. Please contact Jackson Lewis with any questions.

 

 

 

 

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.