Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

PDX North, Inc. v. Wirths

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 26, 2018

PDX NORTH, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
HAROLD J. WIRTHS, Defendant. SLS DELIVERY SERVICES INC., Movant,
v.
HAROLD J. WIRTHS, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HONORABLE TONIANNE J. BONGIOVANNI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is proposed Intervenor SLS Delivery Services Inc.'s (“SLS”) motion to intervene as a plaintiff in this matter. (Docket Entry No. 39). Defendant Harold J. Wirths (“Defendant”), sued in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development of the State of New Jersey (“NJDOL”), opposes SLS's motion. Plaintiff PDX North, Inc. (“Plaintiff” or “PDX”), has taken no position with respect to SLS's motion to intervene. The Court has fully reviewed and considered all arguments made in support of and in opposition to SLS's motion. The Court considers SLS's motion to intervene without argument pursuant to L.Civ.R. 78.1(b). For the reasons stated below, SLS's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed its Complaint in this matter on September 22, 2015, seeking to “declare void and permanently enjoin the enforcement of N.J.S.A. § 43:21-19(i)(6), the New Jersey Independent Contractor Statute (the ‘NJ Independent Contractor Statute'), against PDX, ” claiming that enforcement of the N.J. Independent Contractor Statute against Plaintiff would violate the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“the “FAAAA”). (Pl. Cmplt. ¶1). Through its Complaint, Plaintiff also sought to “declare void N.J.S.A. § 43:21-19(i)(7)(X), an exemption to the N.J. Independent Contractor Statute for certain commercial truck drivers, ” also claiming that this exemption (the “NJ Commercial Truck Drivers Exemption”) violated the FAAAA. (Id. ¶2). In lieu of answering Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant moved to dismiss same on October 30, 2015. (Docket Entry No. 12). Plaintiff opposed Defendant's motion and also cross moved for summary judgment on January 5, 2016. (Docket Entry No. 16). The District Court denied both parties' motions on May 31, 2016 and directed the parties to submit a proposed schedule. (Docket Entry Nos. 22 & 23).

         On June 14, 2016, the Court entered its initial Scheduling Order. (Docket Entry No. 24). According to same, written discovery demands would be served by July 29, 2016, fact depositions would take place by December 31, 2016, expert discovery would be complete by August 18, 2017, and dispositive motions would be filed by October 16, 2017. (Id.) It became apparent to the Court that these dates would need to be adjusted when, during a telephone conference held on December 19, 2016, the parties represented that Plaintiff had not yet produced any documents because the parties needed to work out a confidentiality order. As a result, the Court directed the parties to submit a confidentiality order by December 23, 2016 and indicated that a revised schedule would thereafter be entered. (See Text Minute Entry of 12/19/2016). Shortly after receiving and entering the parties' Stipulated Confidentiality Order (Docket Entry No. 30), the Court directed the parties to submit a proposed revised schedule. (Docket Entry No. 31). In light of the fact that the parties could not agree on a discovery schedule, the Court set a telephone conference to discuss same, but also directed the parties to continue with document/interrogatory discovery. (Docket Entry No. 32). As discussed during the telephone conference held on March 30, 2017, the Court entered a schedule on March 31, 2017 requiring Plaintiff to conduct depositions of fact witnesses necessary for the production of its expert report by June 30, 2017. (Docket Entry No. 33). The Court also set September 29, 2017 as the deadline for Plaintiff's production of its expert report and October 20, 2017 as the date by which Defendant would advise what depositions were necessary for him to challenge Plaintiff's expert report and/or produce its expert report. (Id.)

         At the parties' request, on September 13, 2017, the Court again extended the schedule in this matter, postponing all remaining deadlines by 30 days. (Docket Entry No. 34). A subsequent extension occurred on November 15, 2017, when the Court, in part to afford Defendant time to transition the case to new counsel, extended the fact discovery end date to February 28, 2018, set a telephone conference for February 5, 2018 and indicated that the remaining schedule would be set at the time of the conference. (Docket Entry No. 36). Shortly after the last extension was granted, SLS filed the instant motion to intervene. In light of said motion, on February 2, 2018, the Court stayed the discovery deadlines, though It also directed the current parties to continue with document/interrogatory discovery. (Docket Entry No. 48). To date, it is the Court's understanding that no depositions have taken place, though substantial paper discovery has been exchanged and Plaintiff has produced two expert reports.

         SLS filed the instant motion seeking permission to intervene in this matter pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. (“Rule”) 24(b). SLS argues that permissive intervention is appropriate because, “[t]he questions of law or fact raised by proposed plaintiff SLS's complaint are in common with those raised by PDX.” (SLS Br. at 2; Docket Entry No. 40). In this regard, SLS notes that like Plaintiff, it is a motor carrier. (Id.) SLS also notes that, as with Plaintiff, NJDOL has initiated an audit of SLS to review SLS's use of independent contractors as drivers. Further, SLS argues that it has sufficient grounds to believe that NJDOL will determine that “all drivers are deemed as employees and should be treated as such.” (Id.) SLS contends that “there are three criteria for permissive intervention: (1) the motion must be timely, (2) the main action must have a question of fact or law in common, and (3) the movant must have an independent ground for federal jurisdiction[, ]” and that it has met all three criteria. (Id. at 4).

         With respect to timeliness, SLS contends that the Court examines three factors: (1) “‘[h]ow far the proceedings have gone when the movant seeks to intervene, (2) [the] prejudice which resultant delay might cause to other parties, and (3) the reason for the delay.'” (Id. at 5 (quoting In re Fine Paper Antitrust Litig., 695 F.2d 494, 500 (3d Cir. 1982) (citation omitted))). SLS claims that these factors support its request to intervene, arguing that “no proceedings of substance or dispositive nature have occurred” and surmising that since discovery has not ended and “Defendant has recently requested additional time for the transition of the case to new counsel . . . there would be no prejudice to the parties if SLS is permitted to intervene in this litigation as a plaintiff.” (Id.) SLS also points out that it only received the NJDOL's notice informing it of the NJDOL's audit in October 2017, less than two months prior to it filing its motion. Thus, SLS argues it did not delay in seeking permission to intervene.

         Further, SLS argues that permissive intervention is appropriate because through its proposed Complaint, SLS seeks to raise the same causes of action as Plaintiff and, as such, its proposed Complaint involves common questions of law with Plaintiff's. SLS additionally argues that there are common questions of fact between its proposed Complaint and Plaintiff's Complaint. Specifically, SLS contends that both it and Plaintiff are motor carriers and both have been targeted by the NDOL for audits for a “determination of the same issue involving the classification of their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors.” (Id. at 6).

         Finally, SLS claims that it has an independent ground for federal jurisdiction, noting that its “causes of action are not based on state law grounds or diversity jurisdiction.” (Id. at 8). As a result, SLS argues that here, there are no concerns that SLS is trying to use permissive intervention to improperly enlarge the jurisdiction of this Court. Consequently, SLS argues that its motion should be granted.

         Defendant, however, argues that SLS's motion should be denied because it is untimely and will prejudice Defendant. Defendant also claims that SLS's motion should be denied because SLS's interests are adequately represented by Plaintiff. With respect to timeliness, Defendant points to the same three factors as SLS. Defendant, however, argues that the first two - (1) the stage of the litigation; and (2) the prejudice that delay may cause the parties - “weigh in defendant's favor.” (Def. Opp'n Br. at 5-6; Docket Entry No. 46). With respect to the stage of these proceedings, Defendant argues that substantial fact discovery has been exchanged, with “tens of thousands of pages of paper discovery” being produced, one round of dispositive motions has already been decided, and “[t]he parties are in the process of finalizing expert discovery.” (Id. at 6-7). Thus, Defendant argues that this matter is quite advanced.

         Further, in addition to being advanced, Defendant argues that it would be prejudiced by SLS's addition to this matter.[1] In this regard, Defendant claims that the introduction of SLS as a party would “require the expenditure of significant resources and the exchange of even more paper and expert discovery.” (Id. at 6). Defendant argues that “[i]t would be inequitable and would otherwise delay this matter to expand and complicate the litigation by adding an additional plaintiff at a time when the sole issue before the court is more than adequately represented by PDX and its expert(s).” (Id. at 7). Defendant further argues against permitting SLS to intervene, claiming that because the NJDOL has not actually assessed SLS, “the parties' ability to proceed to trial would be delayed by virtue of the fact that only attempts to conduct an audit investigation have been initiated.” (Id.) In light of the foregoing, Defendant argues that the relevant factors militate against allowing SLS to intervene.

         Moreover, Defendant argues that SLS's request for permissive intervention should be denied because regardless of the aforementioned factors, permissive intervention is “still within the court's discretion” and the Court should exercise this discretion against intervention when, as here, the proposed intervenor will not add anything to the litigation and its interests are already adequately represented in the litigation. Specifically, Defendant claims that it is SLS's burden to demonstrate that its interests are not already represented and SLS has failed to do so. (Id. at 8-9). In this regard, Defendant argues that “SLS makes no attempt to hide that its claims are identical to PDX's; no substantive facts, evidence or arguments have been offered to distinguish its position from PDX's; and there are no additional rights asserted that must be protected.” (Id. at 10). As a result, Defendant argues that SLS's interests are adequately represented by Plaintiff and, consequently, SLS's motion should be denied.

         In reply, SLS argues that Defendant's conclusory arguments about prejudice should be discounted as Defendant has not provided any details or specifics as to how or why it would be prejudiced by SLS's intervention. Indeed, SLS claims that while Defendant has noted that the parties have exchanged tens of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.