Haworth v. New Prime, Inc.

Citation448 F.Supp.3d 1060
Decision Date23 March 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 6:19-03025-CV-RK
Parties Rocky L. HAWORTH, Plaintiff, v. NEW PRIME, INC., Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri

448 F.Supp.3d 1060

Rocky L. HAWORTH, Plaintiff,
NEW PRIME, INC., Defendant.

Case No. 6:19-03025-CV-RK

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division.

Signed March 23, 2020

448 F.Supp.3d 1063

Garrett Mark Hodes, Hodes Law Firm, LLC, Kansas City, MO, Hillary Schwab, Pro Hac Vice, Fair Work, P.C., Boston, MA, Virginia Irene Stevens Crimmins, Matthew Robert Crimmins, Crimmins Law Firm LLC, Independence, MO, for Plaintiff.

Amanda C. Machin, Pro Hac Vice, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Washington, DC, Kathleen M. Nemechek, Berkowitz Oliver LLP, Kansas City, MO, Michele L. Maryott, Pro Hac Vice, Irvine, CA, for Defendant.



Before the Court, in this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), are two motions: Defendant New Prime, Inc.'s ("Prime's") motion to stay the case (Doc. 61) and Plaintiff Rocky Haworth's motion to conditionally certify the case as a collective action (Doc. 45). For the reasons below, Prime's motion to stay is DENIED ; Plaintiff's request for conditional certification is GRANTED ; Plaintiff's request to approve the conditional certification notice attached to his motion is DENIED ; and the parties are ORDERED to meet and confer regarding a proper conditional certification notice.


Plaintiff alleges that Prime failed to pay him and other "B-seat" truck drivers the minimum wage in violation of the FLSA and state law. Prime's B-seat drivers are required to drive as a team with "A-seat" drivers for a certain number of miles before they can be promoted to become A-seat drivers. B-seat drivers are paid the greater of 14 cents per mile traveled by the truck or $700 a week. Plaintiff claims this violates the minimum wage because B-seat drivers are essentially on duty 24 hours a day, regardless of whether they are driving, doing other work, or in the rig's "sleeper berth."

Plaintiff's motion requests to certify a class of all employees who were B-seat drivers on or after October 2, 2015. Prime opposes the motion for conditional certification and also moves to stay this case pending resolution of another FLSA case filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Oliveira v. New Prime, Inc. , No. 1:15-cv-10603-PBS (D. Mass.). After full briefing, the Court heard oral arguments. (Docs. 46, 61, 62, 64, 74, 76, 80, 81, 83 (Minute Entry).) Both motions are now ready for decision.


I. Motion to Stay

Prime argues that this case should be stayed under the "first-to-file rule" because the plaintiffs in Oliveira make the same allegations as Plaintiff that B-seat drivers are being denied the minimum wage (among other claims), and Oliveira was filed first.

The Court begins with the premise that it has a "duty ... to adjudicate a controversy properly before it."

448 F.Supp.3d 1064

Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States , 424 U.S. 800, 813, 96 S.Ct. 1236, 47 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976) (citation omitted). The Court may stay a case "if it raises issues that substantially duplicate those raised by a case pending in another court." Ritchie Capital Mgmt., L.L.C. v. Jeffries , 653 F.3d 755, 763 n.3 (8th Cir. 2011). "[T]he general principle is to avoid duplicative litigation." Colorado River , 424 U.S. at 817, 96 S.Ct. 1236. "[A] carefully considered judgment taking into account both the obligation to exercise jurisdiction and the combination of factors counselling against that exercise is required." Id. at 818-19, 96 S.Ct. 1236. A stay is extraordinary relief, and the requesting party "must make out a clear case of hardship or inequity in being required to go forward." Landis v. N. Am. Co. , 299 U.S. 248, 255, 57 S.Ct. 163, 81 L.Ed. 153 (1936).

The first-to-file rule is part and parcel of the "doctrine of federal comity," which "permits a court to decline jurisdiction over an action when a complaint involving the same parties and issues has already been filed in another district." Orthmann v. Apple River Campground, Inc. , 765 F.2d 119, 121 (8th Cir. 1985). "The purpose of this rule is to promote efficient use of judicial resources." Id. "The rule is not intended to be rigid, mechanical, or inflexible, but should be applied in a manner serving sound judicial administration." Id. "The prevailing standard is that in the absence of compelling circumstances, the first-filed rule should apply." Nw. Airlines, Inc. v. Am. Airlines, Inc. , 989 F.2d 1002, 1005 (8th Cir. 1993) (quotation marks and citation omitted). However, the Court has discretion in applying this rule.1 Id.

The Court declines to apply the first-to-file rule here because duplicative costs might never be incurred. Conditional certification is a contested and pending question in Oliveira , and the judge in that case has stayed her ruling until March 31, 2020, pending a potential settlement. Oliveira , No. 1:15-cv-10603-PBS, Docs. 229, 230. Because the Oliveira case might never be conditionally certified, there might never be any duplicative judicial costs from the pendency of the two cases, aside from those already incurred.2

448 F.Supp.3d 1065

Furthermore, even if both this Court and the court in Oliveira grant conditional certification, Prime has failed to make out a clear case of hardship or inequity in being required to go forward with both cases. Plaintiff is now represented in this Court by one of Mr. Oliveira's lawyers. According to Plaintiff's counsel, discovery would be cross-noticed in both cases, and Prime has provided no reason to believe that discovery produced in one case cannot be used in the other. Although the Court can envision some overlapping costs between the two cases (for example, the cost of drafting two certification notices and minor differences in briefing between two courts), Prime has not shown that these costs would be substantial.

On the other hand, the potential prejudice to Plaintiff from a stay is apparent. Plaintiff has a right to proceed with his case in this Court in a timely fashion to prevent evidence from becoming stale. See Schucker , 2017 WL 3668847, at *4 ("Nothing in the FLSA requires a party with a claim under the FLSA to join an opt-in collective action [in another court] in order to vindicate his or her rights; regardless of the posture of the other pending cases, the individual plaintiffs here are entitled to vindicate their own rights in whatever forum they choose."). Furthermore, a stay pending Oliveira could be lengthy. Oliveira has already been delayed for several years by an interlocutory appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. Unlike in this case, the plaintiffs in Oliveira are currently seeking to certify a class under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which generally allows expanded access to interlocutory appeals. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f) ; Oliveira , No. 1:15-cv-10603-PBS, Doc. 198.

Prime argues that issuing two conditional certification notices might confuse potential plaintiffs. However, Prime does not articulate how this potential for confusion would result in any prejudice to Prime. Plaintiff's counsel conceded at oral argument that double recovery would not be allowed for any plaintiff. Moreover, the class notices can be tailored to minimize confusion. See Damassia v. Duane Reade, Inc. , 250 F.R.D. 152, 163 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) ("[T]he potential confusion to class members of receiving multiple notices is not a significant concern. Any possibility of confusion can be allayed through careful wording of the class notice, and any confusion that the dual notices may cause does not significantly undermine the superiority of a class action.") (quotation marks and citation omitted). For these reasons, the Court declines to stay this case pending Oliveira . The motion to stay will be denied.3

II. Motion for Conditional Certification

A. Legal Standard

The FLSA requires employers to pay most employees a regular hourly rate for up to 40 hours a week and overtime compensation at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate for hours worked in excess of 40. 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207(a)(1). The FLSA also provides a private right of action to recover damages for violations of its overtime provisions, including unpaid wages, plus an equal amount of liquidated damages for violations of §§ 206 and 207. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). An action may

448 F.Supp.3d 1066

be brought by an employee for himself or herself and on behalf of "other employees similarly situated." Id. In an FLSA collective action, plaintiffs must "opt in" to participate. Young v. Cerner Corp. , 503 F. Supp. 2d 1226, 1228-29 (W.D. Mo. 2007).

"A district court may certify a case as a collective action only if members of the class are ‘similarly situated’ or raise similar legal issues regarding coverage, exemption, or nonpayment of wages." Taylor v. Bear Communs. , LLC, No. 4:12-CV-01261-BCW, 2013 WL 3270971, at *2, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90352, at *4 (W.D. Mo....

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