FSLA Class Action Defense Cases—In re Enterprise: Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Grants Plaintiff Motion To Centralize Class Action Litigation But Selects Western District Of Pennsylvania As Transferee Court

Nov 13, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Judicial Panel Grants Plaintiff Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, Over Objection of Common Class Action Defendants, but Transfers Class Actions to Western District of Pennsylvania

Seven class actions – two in the Northern District of Illinois, and one each in the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, the Northern District of Georgia, the Southern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania, – were filed against various Enterprise Rent-A-Car entities alleging labor law violations. In re Enterprise Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Employment Prac. Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. June 10, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1]. According to the allegations under the class actions, “defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by misclassifying their assistant managers as salaried and thus not entitled to overtime.” Id. Attorneys for plaintiffs in one of the Illinois class actions filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the Northern District of Illinois, where their class action was pending. Id. “With the exception of plaintiff in the Western District of Pennsylvania action, who urges that the Panel select that district as transferee district, all responding plaintiffs support selection of the Northern District of Illinois. Responding defendants Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co., Inc., and its affiliates, however, oppose centralization, and, if the Panel orders centralization over their objections, ask that the Eastern District of Missouri be selected as transferee district.” Id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, rejecting defendants’ claims that the various class actions presented individual issues. The Panel explained:

In opposing centralization, defendants argue, inter alia, that the actions do not share factual issues, because individual Enterprise subsidiaries – unique to each state – employed the assistant branch managers and were responsible for classifying them as exempt and ensuring compliance with the FLSA. We are not persuaded by this argument, however, because the record indicates that the involvement vel non of Missouri-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co., Inc., in overseeing its subsidiaries and, in particular, setting policies affecting the employment of assistant managers is, in fact, an open question common to the actions in the litigation. On this and any other common issues, centralization under Section 1407 has the benefit of placing all actions in this docket before a single judge who can structure pretrial proceedings to consider all parties’ legitimate discovery needs, while ensuring that common parties and witnesses are not subjected to discovery demands that duplicate activity that has already occurred or is occurring in other actions.

Id., at 1-2. The Judicial Panel rejected the Northern District of Illinois, however, even though it enjoyed wide support, deciding instead that the Western District of Pennsylvania as the appropriate transferee court because “[t]he first-filed action is pending there, and that action is measurably more advanced than either [class action in Illinois],” id., at 2. Accordingly, the Panel transferred all class actions pending outside of Pennsylvania to that district. Id.

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