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Lupian v. Joseph Cory Holdings

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 22, 2019

ALEJANDRO LUPIAN, JUAN LUPIAN, ISAIAS LUNA, JOSE REYES and EFRAIN LUCATERO, individual and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,


          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Approval of a Class Action Settlement, ECF No. [50-1] (“Motion”), filed on April 30, 2019. Defendant consents to the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is


         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background and Procedural Posture

         Defendant Joseph Cory Holdings LLC (“Cory” or ‘Defendant”) provides delivery services for various national furniture retailers in Illinois. ECF No. [1] ¶ 13. Plaintiffs Alejandro Lupian, Isaias Luna, Jose Reyes, and Efrain Lucatero (“Plaintiffs”) worked for Defendant as delivery truck drivers. Id. ¶ 13-14. Plaintiffs were paid a set wage, did not receive overtime, and had certain amounts deducted from their paychecks for insurance, unsatisfactory deliveries, and other expenses. Although Plaintiffs each signed a contract which stated that they were independent contractors, Plaintiffs allege that they should have been classified as employees under Illinois law and that the amounts Defendant deducted from their wages were impermissible.[1] Plaintiffs further allege that they worked more than forty hours a week but were not paid overtime in compliance with state law.

         Based on these facts Plaintiffs initially filed this action on August 25, 2016, alleging violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act (“IWPCA”), 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 115/9; the New Jersey Wage Payment Law, N.J. Stat. §§ 34:11-4.2, 24:11-4.4; and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, N.J. Stat. §§ 34:11-56a(4). Plaintiffs also asserted a count for unjust enrichment.

         Defendant's subsequently moved to dismiss, arguing that (1) the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”), 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c), preempts the state wage law claims; (2) Plaintiffs lack standing to bring the New Jersey law claims; and (3) Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim fails because a contract governs the relationship of the parties. ECF No. [8]. On March 7, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion to dismiss. ECF No. [36]. Specifically, the Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss with prejudice the New Jersey state law claims and the unjust enrichment claim based on contract and choice of law principles. Id. The Court further found IWPCA was not preempted by the FAAAA and denied Defendant's motion to dismiss that claim. Defendant moved the Court to certify an order for interlocutory appeal concerning the issue of whether the FAAAA preempts the IWPCA, which the Court granted. ECF No. [42]. The Third Circuit appeal ensued.

         On February 5, 2019, the mandate issued from the Third Circuit affirming this Court's preemption holding. ECF No. [48], Lupian v. Joseph Cory Holdings LLC, 905 F.3d 127 (3d Cir. 2018). The parties subsequently participated in mediation and reached a proposed class-wide settlement. Now they jointly move for certification of a settlement class. ECF No. [50].


         A class action may be certified if: (1) the class is so numerous that joinder is impracticable (“numerosity”); (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class (“commonality”); (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class (“typicality”); and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class (“adequacy”). In re Constar Int'l Inc. Sec. Litig., 585 F.3d 774, 780 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)).

         In addition to Rule 23(a), a plaintiff must also meet one of the requirements set forth in Rule 23(b). Id. Plaintiff's here seek certification of a settlement class under Rule 23(b)(3), which permits certification only if (1) questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over individual questions (“predominance”), and (2) a class action is the superior method for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy (“superiority”). Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3). To determine predominance and superiority, the Court considers: “(A) the class members' interests in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions; (B) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already begun by or against class members; (C) the desirability or undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum; and (D) the likely difficulties in managing a class action.” Amchem Prod., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 615-16 (1997).

         Each Rule 23 requirement must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. In re Blood Reagents Antitrust Litig., 783 F.3d 183, 187 (3d Cir. 2015). While the class certification analysis may “entail some overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying claim, ” the court considers merits questions only to the extent they are relevant to performing the “rigorous analysis” required to determine whether the Rule 23 prerequisites are met. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 351 (2011).

         The requirements of Rule 23 apply to both classes certified for trial and classes certified for settlement. Amchem, 521 U.S. at 615. In the case of a settlement class, the district court may consider the proposed settlement agreement in determining whether certification is appropriate. In re Prudential Ins. Co. Am. Sales Practice Litig., 148 F.3d 283, 308 (3d Cir. 1998). However, for settlement classes, Rule 23's manageability inquiries are somewhat diminished, while the analysis of the fairness to the class and protection of absentee members is equally rigorous. Id. (citing Amchem, 521 U.S. at 620).


         A. The Rule ...

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