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Mendis v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

February 7, 2017

BALAPUWADUGE MENDIS, MICHAEL FEOLA, ANDREA ARBAUGH, and EDWARD ASH, on their own and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO CERTIFY CLASS

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for class certification (Dkt. No. 51). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Balapuwaduge Mendis, Michael Feola, Andrea Arbaugh, and Edward Ash are current and former truck drivers for Defendant Schneider. (Dkt. No. 114 at 1, 2.) Plaintiffs are Washington residents with commercial driver's licenses issued by the State of Washington. (Id. at 3; Dkt. No. 51 at 12.) Schneider is a truckload company that services customers throughout the United States. (Dkt. No. 114 at 1.) Schneider maintains a drop lot in Sumner, Washington, where drivers may park their equipment. (Dkt. No. 95 at 9.) Plaintiffs allege that Schneider has engaged in a common scheme of wage and hour violations against its driver employees. (Dkt. No. 114 at 2.) Specifically, “[t]his scheme has included failing to pay driver employees for all hours worked, making unlawful [wage] deductions . . ., failing to [issue] itemized wage statements, and failing to pay driver employees for the rest breaks to which they are entitled” in violation of Washington law. (Id.) Plaintiffs now seek certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and move for an order certifying the following proposed class:

All current and former employees of Schneider National Carriers, Inc. who, at any time from December 30, 2011 through the date of final disposition, worked as drivers for the company while residing in the state of Washington.

(Dkt. No. 51 at 10.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard for Class Certification

         A party seeking to litigate a claim as a class representative must affirmatively satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and the requirements of at least one of the categories under Rule 23(b). Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 345 (2011); Mazza v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 666 F.3d 581, 588 (9th Cir. 2012). In determining whether the plaintiffs have carried this burden, the Court must conduct a “rigorous analysis.” General Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982). This inquiry may “entail some overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying claim[, ]” though the Court considers the merits only to the extent that they overlap with the requirements of Rule 23 and allow the Court to determine the certification issue on an informed basis. Ellis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 657 F.3d 970, 981 (9th Cir. 2011). The ultimate decision to certify a class is within the Court's discretion. Vinole v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 571 F.3d 935, 944 (9th Cir. 2009).

         B. Rule 23(a) Requirements

         Rule 23(a) requires that one or more members of a class may sue as a representative plaintiff only if (1) the class is so numerous that joinder is impracticable; (2) there are common questions of law or fact to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of representative parties are typical of those of the class; and (4) the representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the absent class members. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a); Mazza, 666 F.3d at 588 (Rule 23(a) requires “numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation”). Schneider contests certification on commonality, typicality, and adequacy grounds. (Dkt. No. 95 at 18-23.) Because a rigorous analysis is required regardless of a defendant's opposition, the Court addresses each requirement independently.

         1. Numerosity

         Rule 23(a)'s first requirement is satisfied when the proposed class is sufficiently numerous to make joinder of all members impracticable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1). The numerosity requirement requires the examination of the specific facts of each case, though “in general, courts find the numerosity requirement satisfied when a class includes at least 40 members.” Rannis v. Recchia, 380 Fed. App'x 646, 651 (9th Cir. 2010) (unpublished); see also Troy v. Kehe Food Distributors, Inc., 276 F.R.D. 642, 652 (W.D. Wash. 2011) (certifying a class of forty-three to fifty-four workers). Here, the putative class contains between 150 and 890 members. (Dkt. No. 114 at 4; Dkt. No. 51 at 25.) Schneider does not dispute numerosity. (Dkt. No. 95 at 18.) The Court finds that the numerosity requirement is met.

         2. Commonality

         Under Rule 23(a)(2)'s commonality requirement, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the “class members' claims ‘depend upon a common contention' such that ‘determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each claim in one stroke.'” Mazza, 666 F.3d at 588 (quoting Dukes, 564 U.S. at 350). The key inquiry is not whether the plaintiffs have raised common questions, but whether “class treatment will ‘generate common answers apt to drive the resolution of the litigation.'” Abdullah v. U.S. Sec. Assocs., Inc., 731 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2551) (emphasis in original). Every question of law or fact need not be common to the class. Rather, all Rule 23(a)(2) requires is “a single significant question of law or fact.” Id. (quotation omitted); see Meyer v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., 707 F.3d 1036, 1041-42 (9th Cir. 2012). The existence of “shared legal issues with divergent factual predicates is sufficient, as is a common core of salient facts coupled with disparate legal remedies within the class.” Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1019 (9th Cir. 1998) (amended).

         “[C]laims by workers that their employers have unlawfully denied them wages to which they were legally entitled have repeatedly been held to meet the prerequisites for class certification[], ” including commonality. Ramos v. SimplexGrinnell LP, 796 F.Supp.2d 346, 359-60 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (gathering cases and noting that numerous courts have found wage claims are perhaps “the most perfect questions for class treatment”). Plaintiffs argue that their claims present numerous common factual and legal issues, including whether, under Washington law:

• Schneider is obligated to compensate class members for rest breaks;
• Schneider's per diem program results in a deduction from the wages of class members who are enrolled in the program to the benefit of Schneider;
• Schneider's fuel card program results in deductions from the wages of class members who use those cards to the benefit of Schneider;
• Schneider obtains a benefit from the wage deductions it takes from class members to pay for safety equipment drivers are required to purchase as ...

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