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Depianti v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 13, 2016

GIOVANI DEPIANTI, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
JAN-PRO FRANCHISING INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          WOLF, D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In this case, eleven plaintiffs from various states alleged common law and state law claims against defendant Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc. ("JPI"). Now, however, only three plaintiffs remain-all from California (the "California plaintiffs"). These plaintiffs have filed a Motion to Sever and Transfer Out-of-State Claims ("PI. Mot."). For the reasons described below, this motion is being allowed.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         JPI is a Massachusetts corporation with headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia. It has trademarked the "Jan-Pro" name. JPI sits at the top of a three-tiered system of cleaning franchises. JPI sells the rights to use the Jan-Pro name to "regional master franchisees, " which are separate corporate entities from JPI. The regional master franchisees, in turn, sell the rights to use the Jan-Pro name to "unit franchisees, " who perform cleaning services for customers. The regional master franchisees also solicit business for the unit franchisees and manage the process of billing the customers. Regional master franchisees pay JPI a fee for each unit franchise they sell. They also remit to JPI a percentage of the revenue that they collect for the cleaning work performed by their unit franchisees.

         Unit franchisees may be individuals or corporations. The agreements between the regional master franchisees and each unit franchisee, like the agreements between JPI and each regional master franchisee, state that unit franchisees are independent contractors, not an agents or employees of the regional master franchisees. Every new unit franchisee is guaranteed, in its agreement with the regional master franchisee, a volume of cleaning accounts in the regional master franchisee's geographic region worth a specified amount of gross annual billing.

         B. Procedural History

         This action was filed on April 18, 2008. The original plaintiffs were individual unit franchisees from three states. The plaintiffs later filed an Amended Complaint, adding unit franchisees from four more states. In the Amended Complaint, the plaintiffs allege that they and others similarly situated were misled into entering into agreements that improperly classified them as independent contractors when, as a matter of law, they were employees. They also allege that the terms of the agreements they signed were inherently unfair, and that these terms were systematically breached. They assert claims of unfair and deceptive business practices (Count I); misclassification as independent contractors (Count II), along with related wage-law violations (Count III); misrepresentation (Count IV); quantum meruit (Count V); and unjust enrichment (Count VI).

         After the parties filed motions for summary judgment, the court decided to focus on the claims of Massachusetts plaintiff Giovani Depianti as, essentially, a test case. In the August 22, 2014 Memorandum and Order Concerning Summary Judgment, the court denied Depianti's motion for partial summary judgment, and granted summary judgment in favor of JPI on all but two claims. Depianti dismissed these remaining claims, while preserving the right to appeal on two of his other claims. See Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice of Plaintiff Giovanni Depianti's Remaining Claims. Most of the other plaintiffs have dismissed their claims as well. See Oct. 23, 2014 Joint Submission at 1.

         Only the three California plaintiffs remain: Gloria Roman, Juan Aguilar, and Gerald Vasquez. Id. They are all residents of California. They have filed a Motion to Sever and Transfer their claims to California, which JPI opposes.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Severance

         "On motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against a party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. District courts have "broad latitude" to sever claims. Acevedo-Garcia v. Monroig, 351 F.3d 547, 558 (1st Cir. 2003). "The decision to separate parties or claims is a case management determination peculiarly within the discretion of the trial court." Id. (internal quotation ...


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