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Morris v. Moon Ridge Foods, LLC

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

September 4, 2019

DAWN MORRIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MOON RIDGE FOODS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          STEPHEN R. BOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification (Doc. #39). Following a review of the parties' joint Stipulation Regarding Class Certification (Doc. #53), and for the reasons stated below, the Court determines class certification is appropriate, and the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         On June 7, 2019, Plaintiff Dawn Morris and the putative class members filed their First Amended Class Action Complaint (“Complaint”), alleging Defendants violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (“WARN Act”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2109, by failing to give Plaintiffs at least sixty days advance written notice before terminating their employment. (Doc. #34, p. 1). Plaintiffs request back pay and benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq., “for sixty (60) working days following” the termination of their employment, as provided under the WARN Act. (Doc. #34, p. 14). Plaintiff sought class certification under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b)(3) and “the specific statutory provision contemplating class treatment of claims under” the WARN Act. (Doc. #39, p. 1) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 23; 29 U.S.C. § 2104(a)(5)). On September 3, 2019, the parties filed a Stipulation Regarding Class Certification (Doc. #53), the terms of which are discussed below.

         II. Legal Standard

         “The WARN Act contemplates class-action adjudication.” Day v. Celadon Trucking Servs., Inc., 827 F.3d 817, 833 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 2104(a)(5) (“A person seeking to enforce such liability . . . may sue either for such person or for other persons similarly situated, or both, in any district court of the United States”)). Class certification is governed by Rule 23, and a proposed class must satisfy all four prerequisites of Rule 23(a) and at least one of the provisions of Rule 23(b). Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 569 U.S. 27, 32 (2013); Blades v. Monsanto Co., 400 F.3d 562, 568-69 (8th Cir. 2005). Rule 23(a) requires the proponent of a class action to show: 1) “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members 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 absent class members” (adequacy). District courts must engage in a “rigorous analysis” to determine whether “the prerequisites of Rule 23(a) have been satisfied.” Gen. Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982).

         If the Rule 23(a) prerequisites have been met, a class action may be maintained only if at least one Rule 23(b) provision is satisfied. Here, Plaintiff argues a class action is appropriate under Rule 23(b)(3). Rule 23(b)(3) permits a class action where “the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3). For classes certified under Rule 23(b)(3), “the court must direct to class members the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances . . . ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(2)(B).

         III. Discussion

         Upon review of the parties' joint Stipulation Regarding Class Certification and Proposed Class Notice, the Court finds the requirements of Rule 23(a) and 23(b)(3) are satisfied, as well as the notice requirements of Rule 23(c)(2)(B). The Court certifies a class comprised of the following members:

All former employees who worked at or reported to the facility located at 5305 Highway H Pleasant Hope, MO 65725 (the “Facility”) until they were laid off, furloughed and/or terminated, without cause on their part, on or about January 11, 2018, within thirty (30) days before that date or in the sixty (60) days thereafter, as part of, or as the reasonably expected consequence of, the mass layoff and/or plant closing occurring on or about January 11 and 12, 2018, and who do not file a timely request to opt-out of the class.

         A. Rule 23(a) Requirements

         The Court has conducted a rigorous analysis of the proposed class and finds that it satisfies the Rule 23(a) requirements of numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy.

         Numerosity is satisfied since the proposed class is comprised of the Plaintiff and more than 200 other similarly-situated employees. The number of possible claimants makes joinder of the proposed members impracticable, and a class action is an appropriate mechanism to expediently resolve of all the Class Members' claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1).

         Commonality under Rule 23(a)(2) is also satisfied because there are questions of law or fact common to every member of the class. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 388, 349 (2011). The common issues presented include: whether Defendants are part of a “single employer” sharing in WARN Act liability; whether Defendants' actions triggered the sixty-day notice requirement; whether statutory exceptions to the notice requirement apply; and whether Defendants failed to provide notice as required. Any differences in the issues affecting Class Members' circumstances (for example, their rates of pay and levels of benefits under the WARN Act on the date of their layoff), do not ...


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