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Rittmann v. Amazon.com, Inc.

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

March 22, 2017

BERNADEAN RITTMANN, FREDDIE CARROLL, JULIA WEHMEYER, and RAEF LAWSON, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
AMAZON.COM INC., and AMAZON LOGISTICS, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for stay of class and collective action proceedings (Dkt. No. 71). 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 in this case are individuals who work or have worked as delivery drivers for Defendants Amazon.com, Inc. or Amazon Logistics, Inc. (“Amazon”), who contracted directly with Amazon and were classified by Amazon as independent contractors. (Dkt. No. 33 at 1.) At the heart of Plaintiffs' complaint is the allegation that Amazon has misclassified them as independent contractors, when they are actually employees, and therefore Amazon has violated several wage and hour statutes. (Dkt. No. 33 at 5.) Of the tens of thousands of putative class members, all but approximately 165 drivers agreed to individual arbitration as set forth in the Amazon Flex Independent Contractor Terms of Service (TOS). (Dkt. No. 36 at 3-6; Dkt. No. 37-2 at 6; Dkt. No. 49 at ¶ 15.)

         Three weeks after filing their complaint, Plaintiffs filed a motion to issue notice. (Dkt. No. 20.) Amazon opposed the motion to issue notice because the vast majority of drivers had agreed to arbitrate. (Dkt. No. 47 at 21-23.) Recently, this Court issued an order granting Amazon's motion to dismiss, (Dkt. No. 36), dismissing without prejudice seven of Plaintiffs' eight claims.[1] (Dkt. No. 76.) As part of that order, the Court temporarily stayed Plaintiffs' motion to issue notice, (Dkt. No. 20), until such a time that the claims and issues are more definite. (Dkt. No. 76 at 7.) Prior to this Court's order, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on the question of:

Whether an agreement that requires an employer and an employee to resolve employment-related disputes through individual arbitration, and waive class and collective proceedings, is enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, notwithstanding the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.

Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis (U.S. Jan. 13, 2017) (No. 16-285);[2] (Dkt. No. 71 at 5). Defendant now brings a motion to stay all class and collective action proceedings pending the United States Supreme Court's decision in Epic. (Id.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         A district court has broad discretion to stay proceedings, incidental to the inherent power to control its own docket. Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997) (citing Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)). This power includes staying an action “pending resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon the case.” Mediterranean Enters., Inc. v. Ssangyong Corp., 708 F.2d 1458, 1465 (9th Cir. 1983). “The party requesting a stay bears the burden of showing that the circumstances justify an exercise of that discretion.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433-34 (2009). In determining whether to grant a stay pending the result of independent proceedings, courts consider three factors: (1) the orderly course of justice “measured in terms of the simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law which could be expected to result from a stay, ” (2) the hardship or inequity that a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and (3) the possible “damage” that may result from granting a stay. Kwan v. Clearwire Corp., 2011 WL 1213176, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 29, 2011) (quoting CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962)); Lennartson v. Papa Murphy's Holdings, Inc., 2016 WL 51747, at *5 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 5, 2016) (same).

         B. Analysis

         Amazon argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Epic will greatly simplify the case as it will determine whether the putative class consists of approximately 165 members or tens of thousands. (Dkt. No. 71 at 5-6.) Further, Amazon argues that if notice issues and the case moves forward, extensive and costly discovery and litigation activity will follow, which may then be rendered moot by the Supreme Court's decision. (Dkt. No. 71 at 12.) Finally, Amazon maintains that Plaintiffs will not suffer hardship as a result of the stay. (Dkt. No. 74 at 2-3.)

         Plaintiffs oppose a stay, reasoning that (1) the Supreme Court's decision in Epic is irrelevant because the drivers are exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) under the transportation worker exception, (2) by the time the Supreme Court issues a decision, the statute of limitations will have run for some drivers who have not received notice and opted in, [3] and (3) if notice is not sent now, and the Supreme Court's decision in Epic indicates that the majority of the putative class members must submit their claims to arbitration, they will never learn of their potential causes of action. (Dkt. No. 73 at 6, 11-12.)

         1. ...


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