William Rushing, a resident and citizen of the State of Kentucky, brought a putative class action in the Northern District of California under California Law for alleged misrepresentations regarding the advertised thread count on bedding he purchased. Prior to any ruling on class certification, the district court determined that Kentucky Law governed Rushing’s claims and precluded him from brining a class action. Rushing then sought, and the district court allowed, discovery into all California customers who purchased bedding products of the relevant type over the previous several years. Williams-Sonoma’s request for leave to file a motion for reconsideration was denied, and the company sought mandamus from the U.S. Ninth Circuit.
Granting mandamus, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiff’s attempt to distinguish the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Oppenheimer Fund v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 350–353 (1978). First, the Court of Appeal pointed out that the “subject matter” reference in the version of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 that existed at the time of the Oppenheimer decision had been eliminated and the matter sought must now be “relevant to any party’s claim or defense”. In addition, the Court noted more generally that the amendments to Rule 26 were intended to restrict, not broaden, the scope of discovery.
Moreover, Oppenheimer dealt with a case where class certification had already been granted. Far from providing a favorable distinction, the Court of Appeals ruled, “this case is a step removed from that – here counsel is without a lead plaintiff for the class issues that counsel wishes to pursue…. It follows that the request here is less relevant than the request in Oppenheimer.”
In re Williams-Sonoma, 947 F.3d 535 (9th Cir. 2020).