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FedEx Class Action Defense Cases–In re FedEx Ground: Indiana Federal Court Grants Class Action Certification Motions As To Certain State Labor Law Class Action Claims And Denies Class Action Treatment As To Five State Lawsuits

Labor Law Class Actions, Coordinated for Pretrial Purposes by Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, Warranted Class Action Treatment under Certain State Laws but failed to Satisfy Prerequisites for Class Action Treatment under Other State Laws Indiana Federal Court Holds

Numerous class action lawsuits were filed in various states against Federal Express alleging labor law violations in that FedEx allegedly failed to pay certain delivery drivers overtime and other wages; ultimately, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation coordinated the class actions for pretrial purposes in the Northern District of Indiana. In re FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., Employment Practices Litig., ___ F.3d ___ (N.D.Ind. July 27, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1 et seq.]. In October 2007 and March 2008, the district court resolved “the first of three wages” of class action certification motions involving putative class actions that had been filed in 28 states. Id., at 1 (and see Note, below). Plaintiffs in 14 of the remaining class actions, filed in at least 11 different states, moved the district court to certify their lawsuits as class actions (or as collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)), id., at 1-2. The district court explained that in considering whether to grant class action treatment with respect to the states at issue, “Analysis focuses primarily on whether the substantive law governing the motion allows resolution, without extrinsic evidence, of whether the Operating Agreement and policies applicable to the entire class create an employment relationship, and whether a would-be employer’s conduct can convert an employment relationship (as defined in the employment contract) into an independent contractor relationship.” Id., at 2.

Given the length of the district court’s opinion, and the detailed analysis involved in considering each state’s laws, we provide here only the court’s conclusions. First, the district court granted the motion by Arizona plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action, see In re FedEx, at 4-5. Second, the court denied the motion by Colorado plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action, id., at 7. Third, the court denied the motion by Connecticut plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action, id., at 9. Fourth, the court denied the motion by certain plaintiffs for conditional certification of a collective action under the FLSA, id., at 16. Fifth, the court granted the motion by Georgia plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action, id., at 24. Sixth, the court granted the motion by Louisiana plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action with respect to certain claims for relief, but denied the motion with respect to other claims for relief, id., at 39-40. Seventh, the court denied the motion by certain plaintiffs to certify as a class action their lawsuit under the Motor Carrier Safety Act, id., at 43-44. Eighth, the court granted the motion by Nevada plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action with respect to a statutory claim brought under Nev. Rev. Stat. Ch. 608, but otherwise denied the motion with respect to all other claims for relief, id., at 50. Ninth, the court granted the motion by North Carolina plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action, id., at 52. Tenth, the court granted the motion by Ohio plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action, id., at 56. Eleventh, the court granted the motion by Oregon plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action with respect to all claims for relief except for the rescission claim, id., at 67. Twelfth, the court denied the motion by Vermont plaintiffs to certify their lawsuit as a class action, id., at 78.

NOTE: The district court’s October 2007 and March 2008 orders “resolved motions for class certification for the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. These were the motions in the first three waves of such motions…. [¶] The parties made similar arguments in most of those first three waves of class certification motions. Most of the rulings turned on whether, under the law governing the claims of a particular class, the plaintiffs’ claims ultimately could be resolved on the basis of common evidence such as the drivers’ Operating Agreement with FedEx and commonly applicable FedEx policies. Critical in those decisions was whether a particular state’s law looked to the right to control as distinct from the actual exercise of control, and whether evidence unique to less than all drivers might affect the ultimate decision on whether a class of drivers were, under governing law, employees or individual contractors.” In re FedEx Ground, at 1-2.

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