Farmworkers seek is the certification a defendant class -- a group of new "parties" within the meaning of Rule 13 -- against which they may assert their counterclaims.
Under the fairly unique circumstances of this case, the Court is unwilling to hold -- absent stipulation by the Growers -- that the Farmworkers are entitled to the certification of this new class of Rule 13 "parties." The Court notes the current split of authority as to whether a single defendant may pose counterclaims against individual members of a certified plaintiff class. Compare Donson Stores, Inc. v. American Bakeries Co., 58 F.R.D. 485 (S.D.N.Y. 1973) (counterclaim refused against plaintiff class), with Nat'l Super Spuds, Inc. v. New York Mercantile Exchange, 75 F.R.D. 40 (S.D.N.Y. 1977) (counterclaim permitted). See also, Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1404, p.4 (1988 Supp.) (noting split); H. Newberg, Newberg on Class Actions § 4.34 (2d ed. 1985) (generally opposing counterclaims against plaintiff class); Steinman, The Party Status of Absent Plaintiff Class Members: Vulnerability to Counterclaims, 69 Geo. L.J. 1171 (1981) (proposing policy-based, case-specific analysis of whether plaintiff class members should be vulnerable to counterclaims). The ambiguity in this context centers upon whether plaintiff class members should be classified as "parties" within the meaning of Rule 13. This concern exists despite the fact that members of the plaintiff class have initiated suit and been certified as members of the class.
The facts of this case move one step beyond the problems that courts have encountered in evaluating counterclaims against a plaintiff class. Here, we have a class of defendant-intervenors who, having associated themselves with an ongoing lawsuit brought by several individual plaintiffs, seek relief under Rule 13 against a newly-created class of counterclaim defendants. In the Court's view, the concerns which counsel against permitting members of a plaintiff class to be subject to counterclaims -- concerns rooted in due process and the proper interpretation of Rule 13
-- are qualitatively enhanced under these circumstances, where the counterclaims, to afford the relief they seek, demand the simultaneous creation of a defendant class against whom they may be raised. Under these circumstances, the establishment of such a class of counterclaim defendants would push the language of Rule 13, as well as the policies underlying its limitation of counterclaims to "opposing parties,"
beyond the breaking point.
For this reason, the Court declines to expand the defendant class in this case beyond that agreed upon by the parties in their stipulation of April 4, 1988. The class certified shall include all 1985 members of the plaintiff associations who paid unlawful rates in 1985,
but it will not be expanded to include any members who made lawful payments in 1985 but unlawful payments in 1983. The Farmworkers' request for amendment of the Court's earlier judgment shall, on this point at least, be denied.
2. Prejudgment Interest
The Farmworkers have moved for prejudgment interest on the back pay awards for 1983 and 1985. The Court holds that prejudgment interest shall be awarded for both years.
As to 1985, the Court need only evaluate the adequacy of the interest accruing on the escrow account established pursuant to Judge Kiser's Order of December 17, 1985. Judge Kiser's Order directed the members of the plaintiff associations to deposit the difference between the lawful and unlawful rates for 1985 into an "interest-bearing" escrow account by January 1, 1986. The parties have not indicated what the interest rates applicable to the escrowed funds have been. For the period preceding the actual deposit, Judge Kiser ordered the growers to calculate interest at the equivalent of a 9% annual rate. Because interest has therefore been accruing on the 1985 back wages since they were unlawfully withheld, the only question is whether the rate of that interest is acceptable to this Court.
The Court finds the 9% annual rate imposed by Judge Kiser for the pre-deposit period to be adequate. Further, the Court finds that whatever rate of interest the escrowed funds have earned from January 1, 1986, to the present is adequate, so long as the net result for the period is the imposition of a rate not less than 9%. To the extent the escrowed funds have earned aggregate interest exceeding a 9% annual rate, the Farmworkers shall be entitled to the excess.
Different issues are presented with respect to 1983. Because equitable restitution provides the rationale for the Court's decision as to back wages for 1983, the issue of when interest begins to run on that award lies in the Court's equitable discretion. Notwithstanding this, the Growers argue, in essence, that the rule of this Circuit provides that interest on equitable restitution awards will not begin to run until a court actually holds that restitution is in order. The Growers cite the results of Bebchick v. Washington Metropolitan Transit Comm'n, 207 U.S. App. D.C. 161, 645 F.2d 1086, 1093 (D.C. Cir. 1981), and Democratic Central Committee v. Washington Metropolitan Transit Comm'n, 268 U.S. App. D.C. 406, 842 F.2d 402, 419 (D.C. Cir. 1988). In both cases, evaluating the question of interest on awards of equitable restitution, the Court of Appeals held that the date upon which liability became fixed provided the "logical date" from which interest should accrue. E.g., Democratic Central Committee, 842 F.2d at 419.
In Democratic Central Committee, however, the Court of Appeals also noted that, prior to the date of upon which liability became fixed, the parties were not aware of their misbehavior. Id. In the instant case, on the other hand, the very basis of this Court's holding as to 1983 was that the Growers' decisions to pay the unlawful rates were made in knowing violation of this Court's Order of September 8, 1983. See Frederick County Fruit Growers Ass'n, Inc. v. McLaughlin, 703 F. Supp. 1021, slip op. at 19-20 (1988). Under these circumstances, equity suggests that interest should begin to run on the delinquent 1983 back wages from the date those wages were improperly held. Contrary to the Growers' assertions, such a result would in no way be inconsistent with the holdings of Bebchick and Democratic Central Committee. As the Farmworkers request, the rate of interest applicable to the 1983 back wage awards shall be 9.4%.
3. Statutory Damage Awards Under the AWPA
The Farmworkers also ask that statutory damage awards be assessed under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act ("AWPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1821, et seq., against those Growers who paid unlawful rates in 1985.
They ask that each worker employed in 1985 by any member of the Grower class receive $ 500 in statutory damages.
The Court agrees with the Farmworkers that the prior award in this case -- the award of back wages under a contract theory -- does not preclude an award of damages under AWPA § 1854(c)(1). The Growers' position -- that the express language of § 1854(c)(1) precludes an award of both actual compensation and statutory damages for a violation of the AWPA -- ignores the fact that the Court based its initial award, not upon the AWPA, but upon the contract that existed between the Growers and the Farmworkers. Thus, even if a plaintiff were forced to elect between "actual compensation" or "statutory damages" in response to an AWPA violation, this Court has yet to award the Farmworkers any damages for a violation of the AWPA. At this point, the Court has simply awarded extrastatutory, contractual damages.
Further, an award of damages under § 1854(c)(1) lies in this Court's sound discretion, and may be fashioned with an eye toward AWPA's purposes, which are "to promote enforcement of the Act and thereby deter and correct the exploitive practices that have historically plagued the migrant farm labor market." Beliz v. McLeod & Sons Packing Co., 765 F.2d 1317, 1332 (5th Cir. 1985).
See also Maldonado v. Lucca, 636 F. Supp. 621, 624 (D.N.J. 1986) ("plaintiffs are entitled to damages for violations of [AWPA] in an amount sufficient to further its purposes"). It seems that "the legislative history of the Act and the decisions interpreting it make clear that the purpose of this civil remedy is not restricted to compensation of individual plaintiffs." Beliz at 1332. This being the case, the Court's award of contract damages for 1985 does not preclude an additional award of statutory damages under § 1854(c)(1) of the AWPA.
What has been said, however, does not mean that the Court must make such an award. As the Beliz court noted, a factor that the Court should consider in exercising its discretion is the extent to which a party's recovery on "closely related" claims provides complete compensation. Id. at 1333. See also Frenel v. The Freezeland Co., Inc., 87-278-A, slip op. at 8 (E.D. Va. Dec. 24, 1987). Here, in the Court's view, even if an AWPA violation were proved, the Growers' recovery on their contract claim for 1985 provides adequate compensation for the harms that have been established.
Moreover, the additional deterrent effect of an AWPA award, particularly when the size of the contract damages are considered, would appear to be marginal. The Court thus exercises its discretion against an award of statutory damages under the AWPA in light of the relief already awarded in this action.
4. Order Under Local Rule 215
The Farmworkers ask the Court, upon the authority of Local Rule 215, to direct the parties to confer for the purpose of discussing the Farmworkers' request for attorney's fees and costs. Local Rule 215 authorizes the Court, upon the entry of final judgment, to order the parties to "confer and and to attempt to reach agreement on fee issues." The Growers oppose this request, contending that the Farmworkers are not entitled to attorney's fees under the circumstances of this case.
Without deciding the Farmworkers' entitlement to attorney's fees at this point,
and noting that Rule 215 applies whenever a party "may" be entitled to such fees, the Court sees little harm in a meeting of the parties. A mutually agreeable resolution of the fee question, if one is possible, is far preferable to a resolution imposed by this Court. The parties are therefore directed to confer within 30 days of this Order. At that meeting, the parties are to discuss, in addition to attorney's fees, the Farmworkers' request for costs and such other cost-related items as may be outstanding. See Local Rule 14(f). The parties shall then report back to the Court at a status conference, to be held under Local Rule 215(a), at 10:00 a.m., April 25, 1989.
Date: March 20th, 1989