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Cody Baker, et al v. Masco Builder Cabinet Group

March 30, 2011

CODY BAKER, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MASCO BUILDER CABINET GROUP, INC., D/B/A MERILLAT INDUSTRIES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey L. VIKEN United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION

INTRODUCTION

Pending before the court is a motion for class certification filed by 146 named plaintiffs. (Docket 18). Defendant Masco Builder Cabinet Group, Inc., doing business as Merillat Industries, resists the motion. (Docket 66). Plaintiffs' motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies the motion.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A brief summary of plaintiffs' allegations and the procedural history of this suit is helpful to provide context to plaintiffs' motion. On or about September 21, 2009, plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against defendant in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court, Pennington County, South Dakota. (Docket 1, Exhibit A). On or about October 1, 2009, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in the circuit court. (Docket 1, Exhibit B). On October 14, 2009, defendant filed in federal court a notice of removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446 and provided notice of removal to plaintiffs and the circuit court. (Dockets 1 & 2). The basis for removal is diversity jurisdiction as defined in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (Docket 1). The 146 named plaintiffs*fn1 allegedly represent a class consisting of approximately 157 hourly and salaried employees of defendant's particle board manufacturing plant located in Rapid City, South Dakota. (Docket 1, Exhibit B at ¶¶ 4, 5).

On March 9, 2009, defendant, through its Director of Operations and Director of Labor Relations and Field Services, announced the closure of the Rapid City plant and allegedly offered an incentive to employees to continue working until the official closing date sometime in September of 2009. (Docket 48-1, Exhibit 2). On March 19, 2009, Tom Sollers, Director of Labor Relations and Field Services, issued a memorandum that stated, in part, as follows:

It has also been rumored that the Company will renege on the severance that has been announced. This is to inform you that this will absolutely not happen. We will pay severance as we have in all other plant closures in accordance with what has already been announced. If employees remain until released, they will receive the following: 1) one week of pay per years of service, minimum two weeks, and 2) a one time payment to help offset some of the Cobra premium costs. (Docket 48-1, Exhibit 12).

Plaintiffs allegedly continued working at the plant, accepting reduced hours and forgoing other employment opportunities. (Docket 1, Exhibit B at ¶ 8). On or about August 11, 2009, defendant allegedly announced it would not pay severance to its remaining employees. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiffs allegedly remained at the plant until the plant closed. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiffs brought suit for breach of contract. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 13. Plaintiffs allege they sustained damages because of the breach. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiffs further allege "[d]efendant's breach of its promise to pay severance wages was oppressive and/or malicious." Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiffs seek a judgment for severance pay with interest plus double the amount of wages due pursuant to SDCL § 60-11-07. Id. at p. 5.

On December 21, 2009, plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23. (Docket 18). The 146 named plaintiffs seek to be certified as representatives of a class comprised of 157 individuals. (Dockets 19 & 72). The court stayed the briefing schedule to allow the parties time to conduct discovery limited solely to class certification issues. (Dockets 21, 40, 47, 50, & 60). On November 16, 2010, upon completion of pre-certification discovery, defendant filed its opposition to plaintiffs' motion, arguing plaintiffs failed to satisfy the requirements for class certification. (Docket 66).

DISCUSSION

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 governs the orderly administration of class actions and, relevant to this discussion, establishes the requirements for class certification. In a class action, "[o]ne or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members[.]" Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). A court may certify a class action only if all of the following requirements are met:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;

(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;

(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or ...


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