July 26, 2016
J. CURRAN, Associate Justice.
Rice is a delivery driver for Commonwealth Medical Carriers,
a courier service that provides delivery services for the
defendant Partners Pharmacy Services, LLC. He seeks to
certify and represent a class of similarly-situated drivers
who deliver Partners' products to customers across the
Commonwealth. He asserts that, although he and other drivers
signed employment agreements which classified them as "
independent contractors, " they are, in reality,
employees of Partners and are therefore entitled to
compensation for travel expenses, overtime pay, and other
benefits from Partners under our state wage and hour laws,
G.L.c. 149, and our independent contractor law, G.L.c. 149,
counters that neither Mr. Rice nor his putative class are
Partners employees, and argues that the state laws which form
the basis of the plaintiff's complaint are preempted by
federal law, specifically, the Federal Aviation
Administration Act, or " FAAA." It is on this basis
that Partners has filed a motion for summary judgment. Mr.
Rice counters that the FAAA is inapplicable to Partners.
After a careful review of the parties' voluminous
submissions on the preemption issue, the Court must agree
that Mr. Rice's claims are indeed preempted, and
therefore orders that Partners' motion for summary
judgment be ALLOWED.
provides " institutional pharmacy services" to
customers throughout the Commonwealth. These services
include, primarily, the distribution of pharmacy supplies and
medications to rest homes, nursing homes, and assisted living
facilities. It provides these services through a network of
related limited liability companies in Connecticut, Florida,
Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania,
Texas, Virginia, and Massachusetts.
component of Partners' customer service model is the
delivery of the pharmaceutical products it sells directly to
its consumers. Direct delivery is the sole manner in which
products are provided to customers. These delivery services
are a significant component of the pricing for Partners'
services and the products it sells. To provide these
services, Partners contracts with independent courier
companies such as Commonwealth Medical Carriers, which, in
turn, hire individual drivers such as Mr. Rice (and members
of his proposed class) to transport and deliver Partners'
products. These drivers typically use their own vehicles to
deliver the products, and are classified as independent
does not reimburse drivers like Mr. Rice for any costs
associated with the maintenance or insurance of their
personal vehicles, the cost of fuel, mileage, or any other
associated incidental costs.
complains that its product pricing, services, and delivery
routes would all be significantly impacted if it were
required to directly employ delivery drivers and classify
them as employees. It contends that these added costs would
substantially affect its profitability, pricing, as well as
the routes and services it provides to customers. Although
these financial concerns are of paramount concern to
Partners, they must also be considered to a lesser, but
nevertheless certain extent by the Court, because of the
preemption law defense invoked by Partners.
Partners is entitled to summary judgment if it can
demonstrate that there are no genuine issues of material fact
and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Mass.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Cassesso v. Commissioner of
Corr., 390 Mass. 419, 422, 456 N.E.2d 1123 (1983).
Partners, as the moving party, carries the burden of
affirmatively demonstrating the absence of a triable issue,
and may satisfy its burden either by submitting affirmative
evidence that negates an essential element of the
plaintiff's case, or by demonstrating that the plaintiff
has no reasonable expectation of proving an essential element
of his case at trial. Flesner v. Technical Commc'n
Corp., 410 Mass. 805, 809, 575 N.E.2d 1107 (1991). If
Partners meets this burden, Mr. Rice is obligated to set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial if he wishes to survive summary judgment.
O'Brion, Russell & Co. v. LeMay, 370 Mass. 243,
245, 346 N.E.2d 861 (1976). He may not rest on his pleadings
and mere assertions of disputed facts. LaLonde v.
Eissner, 405 Mass. 207, 209, 539 N.E.2d 538 (1989). The
Court, as it must, reviews the evidence in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, as the nonmoving party, but does
not weigh evidence, assess credibility, or find facts.
Community Nat'l Bank v. Dawes, 369 Mass. 550,
553, 340 N.E.2d 877 (1976).
action is appropriately decided on Partners' motion for
summary judgment where the essential facts set out above are
not in dispute, and where the disagreements among the parties
concern only legal questions.