• April 19, 2010

Ameriprise brought a motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment against the putative employment discrimination class action (based on race) brought by Rosalind Brown.  The grounds for Ameriprise’s motion were multiple.  It prevailed on one ground as to one aspect of the case (failure to exhaust administrative remedy as to the disparate impact claim) but U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kyle, Sr. (D. Minn.) denied judgment in Ameriprise’s favor on other grounds — ruling that the motion as to these issues was premature pre-discovery.  One cannot blame Ameriprise for jumping the gun,  It is understandable that a corporate litigant wants to avoid, if even remotely possible, the potentially stratospherically high costs of discovery.  Moreover, Ameriprise’s bases for seeking judgment — the statute of limitations would bar some putative class member claims, many putative class members signed releases of their claims already, many have entered into arbitration agreements — seem discernable if not “decidable” on an early record.

On the other hand, Judge Kyle has recognized that there are theoretical rebuttals to these affirmative defenses — rebuttals that might be buttressed by discovery, and, on that basis, he has tossed the case to U.S. Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel to deal with Ameriprise’s alternative request for a rational discovery plan to minimize expense and prioritize discovery.

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