MARTINSBURG – After a discovery dispute, Dollar General Corp. is now arguing with class action attorneys over $720.

Stephanie N. Paulino filed a class action lawsuit against Dollar General in 2012, alleging the company violated the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act when it failed to pay her final wages within 72 hours of her termination.

On April 25, U.S. District Judge Gina Groh, of the Northern District of West Virginia, awarded attorneys fees to Paulino for fees incurred attempting to get Dollar General to disclose certain personnel records.

Paulino sought information on whether each former employee of the company’s West Virginia locations within the past five years was terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. Dollar General argued that information was outside the scope of discovery.

Magistrate Judge James Seibert ruled it was Dollar General’s disingenuous position that Plaintiff voluntarily terminated her position that led the court to grant the request” for the information, as well as related expenses.

“Defendants argue that there is a substantial body of case law supporting their position that discovery should be limited to the certification issue or the merits of Plaintiff’s claim – not to the merits of the putative class’s claim,” Groh wrote.

“Defendants attempt to place a limit on discovery. The court’s scheduling order clearly did not limit the scope of discovery and substantial case law also supports this court’s decision to allow both merits-based and certification-based discovery.”

Having been awarded expenses, David Hammer – of Hammer, Ferretti and Schiavoni – and Harry P. Waddell submitted affidavits that seek $400 an hour for their work during the discovery issue.

They both wrote that their regular hourly rate for work in class actions is $400.

“Defendant’s appeal was much more complex than a run-of-the-mill discovery dispute (as evidenced by the court’s comprehensive 29-page ruling),” both of the affidavits say.

Hammer filed his first on April 26 seeking $1,080 for 2.7 hours of work. Dollar General objected a week later, arguing he should only be paid $300 per hour - $810 total.

“(I)n light of the fact that Magistrate Judge Seibert has already concluded, without objection, that $300 is ‘more than a reasonable rate,’ there is no justification for increasing that rate for related matters,” Dollar General’s objection says.

The company is represented by Larry J. Rector of Steptoe & Johnson in Bridgeport and Joel S. Allen and Jason R. Elliott of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Dallas.

The objection was filed before Waddell’s affidavit, which seeks $400 an hour for 4.5 hours - $1,800 total. If the company files a similar objection, it would decrease the total amount to $1,350.

The original motion to compel was filed on Jan. 2. Groh granted a stay on Seibert’s order on Feb. 21 while she ruled on Dollar General’s objections.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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