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Roy v. Fedex Ground Package Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 22, 2018

JORDAN ROY, ANGEL SULLIVAN-BLAKE, and JUSTIN TRUMBULL, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FEDEX GROUND PACKAGE SYSTEM, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT FEDEX GROUND'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. NO. 15)

          KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         In this putative collective action, the plaintiffs, Jordan Roy (“Roy”), Angel Sullivan-Blake (“Sullivan-Blake”), and Justin Trumbull (“Trumbull”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), each assert a single claim against the defendant, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“Defendant” or “FedEx Ground”), for unpaid overtime pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) (Dkt. No. 1). Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) (Dkt. No. 15). For the following reasons, the court grants FedEx Ground's motion to dismiss as to Sullivan-Blake's claim, but denies it as to Roy's and Trumbull's claims.[1]

         II. Standard of Review

         “It is axiomatic that, ‘[t]o hear a case, a court must have personal jurisdiction over the parties, “that is, the power to require the parties to obey its decrees.”'” Hannon v. Beard, 524 F.3d 275, 279 (1st Cir. 2008) (alteration in original) (quoting Daynard v. Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, P.A., 290 F.3d 42, 50 (1st Cir. 2002)). When faced with a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), a plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the defendant is subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC v. Alpenrose Dairy, Inc., 825 F.3d 28, 34 (1st Cir. 2016) (citing Adelson v. Hananel, 510 F.3d 43, 48 (1st Cir. 2007)); Daynard, 290 F.3d at 50 (citing Foster-Miller, Inc. v. Babcock & Wilcox Canada, 46 F.3d 138, 145 (1st Cir. 1995); Boit v. Gar-Tec Prods., Inc., 967 F.2d 671, 674-75 (1st Cir. 1992)). While a “district court ‘may choose from among several methods for determining whether the plaintiff has met [its] burden, '” Phillips v. Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d 22, 26 (1st Cir. 2008) (alteration in original) (quoting Adelson, 510 F.3d at 48), when no evidentiary hearing is held, as in this case, the “prima facie” standard applies. United States v. Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 618 (1st Cir. 2001) (Swiss Am. Bank II) (citing United Elec. Radio & Mach. Workers of Am. v. 163 Pleasant St. Corp., 987 F.2d 39, 43 (1st Cir. 1993) (Pleasant St. II); Boit, 967 F.2d at 675). “Under the prima facie standard, the inquiry is whether the plaintiff has proffered evidence which, if credited, is sufficient to support findings of all facts essential to personal jurisdiction.” Phillips, 530 F.3d at 26 (citing Daynard, 290 F.3d at 51). “It is not enough for [a plaintiff] to ‘rely on unsupported allegations in [its] pleadings.'” A Corp. v. All Am. Plumbing, Inc., 812 F.3d 54, 58 (1st Cir. 2016) (second alteration in original) (quoting Platten v. HG Bermuda Exempted Ltd., 437 F.3d 118, 134 (1st Cir. 2006)). “Rather, [the plaintiff] must put forward ‘evidence of specific facts' to demonstrate that jurisdiction exists.” Id. (quoting Platten, 437 F.3d at 134). The court “must accept [the plaintiff's] properly documented evidentiary proffers as true and construe them in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff's] jurisdictional claim.”[2] Id. (citing Phillips, 530 F.3d at 26). Applying this standard to the instant case, the relevant facts are as follows.

         III. Facts

         FedEx Ground, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a business engaged in business and residential ground package delivery services. FedEx Ground provides ground service to 100% of the continental United States population. In 2016, FedEx Ground had revenues in excess of $16 billion.

         Plaintiffs Roy and Trumbull are both residents of Massachusetts, while Sullivan-Blake is a resident of Texas. FedEx Ground employed Plaintiffs as full-time delivery drivers through intermediary entities that FedEx Ground calls “independent service providers, ” or “ISPs.”[3] Roy worked for FedEx Ground from February 2015 to January 2017. Trumbull worked for FedEx Ground from late 2015 to February 2017. Sullivan-Blake began working for FedEx Ground in November 2015 and continues to do so.

         As delivery drivers for FedEx Ground, Plaintiffs had to report each morning to a FedEx Ground terminal to pick up the packages that they would be responsible for delivering that day. Roy and Trumbull both reported to a FedEx Ground terminal located in Chicopee, Massachusetts, while Sullivan-Blake reported at different periods to FedEx Ground terminals located in Webster, Sugar Land, and North Houston, Texas. Between thirty and sixty other delivery drivers reported to the Chicopee terminal each day. The Texas terminals are significantly larger, with at least 1, 000 other delivery drivers reporting each day.

         At each of the FedEx Ground terminals to which Plaintiffs reported, package handlers employed by FedEx Ground would set out the FedEx Ground packages that each driver was assigned to deliver that day. FedEx Ground required Plaintiffs to use a special scanner to scan each package as they loaded it onto their respective trucks. While loading packages in the mornings at the Chicopee facility, Trumbull observed a FedEx Ground manager regularly walk the floor to supervise his and the other delivery drivers' work to ensure that they were properly loading FedEx Ground packages and that they met FedEx Ground's uniform and appearance requirements. Some mornings, FedEx Ground packages that were assigned to a particular Plaintiff for delivery would be missing and could not be scanned. When this occurred, the Plaintiff in question was not permitted to leave the FedEx Ground terminal until a FedEx Ground manager either found the missing package or gave the Plaintiff permission to leave without it. FedEx Ground required Plaintiffs to scan each package upon delivery as well and to enter a code for each type of delivery. FedEx Ground required that certain packages only be delivered with the customer's signature. Roy and Trumbull frequently received calls from FedEx Ground managers while they were out making deliveries with changes to delivery instructions, such as to deliver a package to a different address. At times, a FedEx Ground manager would require Roy or Trumbull to return to the FedEx Ground terminal in Chicopee to pick up an extra package for delivery.

         Plaintiffs were eligible to receive overtime and regularly worked over forty hours per week delivering packages for FedEx Ground. Yet, Plaintiffs were not paid time-and-a-half their regular rate for those hours.

         IV. Analysis

         In a federal question case, “the constitutional limits of the court's personal jurisdiction are fixed, in the first instance, not by the Fourteenth Amendment but by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.” United Elec., Radio & Mach. Workers of Am. v. 163 Pleasant St. Corp., 960 F.2d 1080, 1085 (1st Cir. 1992) (Pleasant St. I) (citing Lorelei Corp. v. Cty. of Guadalupe, 940 F.2d 717, 719 (1st Cir. 1991); Whistler Corp. v. Solar Elecs., Inc., 684 F.Supp. 1126, 1128 (D. Mass. 1988)). “[U]nder the Fifth Amendment, a plaintiff need only show that the defendant has adequate contacts with the United States as a whole, rather than with a particular state.” Swiss Am. Bank II, 274 F.3d at 618 (citing Pleasant St. I, 960 F.2d at 1085). Because FedEx Ground is incorporated and maintains its principal place of business in the United States, it cannot be gainsaid that FedEx Ground has sufficient minimum contacts with the United States to satisfy the due process standard of the Fifth Amendment.

         The inquiry does not end there, however. “The next step is to determine whether the nationwide scope of personal jurisdiction in a federal question case is limited by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Pike v. Clinton Fishpacking, Inc., 143 F.Supp.2d 162, 166 (D. Mass. 2001). This is so because, “[b]efore a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a federal question case, there must be authorization for service of summons on the defendant.” Id. (citing Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., Ltd., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987)). See also Swiss Am. Bank II, 274 F.3d at 618 (noting that “the plaintiff must still ground its service of process in a federal statute or civil rule” (citing Pleasant St. I, 960 F.2d at 1085)). “In other words, though personal jurisdiction and service of process are distinguishable, they are inextricably intertwined, since service of process constitutes the vehicle by which the court obtains jurisdiction.” Pleasant St. I, 960 F.2d at 1085 (citing Lorelei, 940 F.2d at 719 n.1; cf. Robertson v. R.R. Labor Bd., 268 U.S. 619, 622 (1925) (a federal court cannot acquire personal jurisdiction over a defendant unless the defendant is properly served with process)).

         “Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1), service of process establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant ‘who is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located, ' or ‘when authorized by federal statute.'” Medici v. Lifespan Corp., 239 F.Supp.3d 355, 367 (D. Mass. 2017) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A), (C)). Accordingly, this court can only exercise jurisdiction over FedEx Ground if it would be subject to the jurisdiction of Massachusetts courts or if the federal statute conferring subject matter jurisdiction provides for nationwide service of process. Id. (citing Lorelei, 940 F.2d at 719-20 (discussing former language of Rule 4(e) and (f), which imposed the same limitations relevant here)). The FLSA does not authorize nationwide service of process.[4] Aviles v. Kunkle, 978 F.2d 201, 203-04 (5th Cir. 1992); Nicks v. Koch Meat Co., Inc., No. 16-cv-6446, 2016 WL 6277489, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 27, 2016); McCarthy v. Waxy's Keene, LLC, No. 16-cv-122-JD, 2016 WL 4250290, at *2 n.1 (D.N.H. Aug. 10, 2016); Senne v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp., 105 F.Supp.3d 981, 1014 (N.D. Cal. 2015); Blume v. Int'l Servs., Inc., No. 4:12 CV 165 DDN, 2012 WL 1957419, at *8 (E.D. Mo. May 31, 2012); Wang v. Schroeter, No. 11-10009-RWZ, 2011 WL 6148579, at *4 n.12 (D. Mass. Dec. 9, 2011); Kouba v. Renzenberger, Inc., No. CIV 10-159 TUC FRZ (GEE), 2010 WL 5342964, at *1 (D. Ariz. May 14, 2010); Langlois v. Déjà Vu, Inc., 984 F.Supp. 1327, 1333 (W.D. Wash. 1997); Astorga v. Connleaf, Inc., 962 F.Supp. 93, 95 (W.D. Tex. 1996). Accordingly, notwithstanding that this is a federal question case, the court must look to the law of Massachusetts to determine whether the court may assert jurisdiction over FedEx Ground. See Medici, 239 F.Supp.3d at 367 (citing Pleasant St. I, 960 F.2d at 1086); Pike, 143 F.Supp.2d at 166. See also Baskin-Robbins, 825 F.3d at 34 n.2 (noting that, for purposes of analyzing personal jurisdiction, through operation of Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A), the role of a federal court in a federal question case is the same as in a diversity case).

         “In Massachusetts, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a foreign defendant if such jurisdiction is authorized by state statute and its exercise does not offend the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Pike, 143 F.Supp.2d at 166 (citing Tatro v. Manor Care, Inc., 625 N.E.2d 549, 551 (Mass. 1994)). See also Pleasant St. I, 960 F.2d at 1086 (“[B]ecause state law is subject to Fourteenth Amendment limitations, the minimum contacts doctrine, while imposing no direct state-by-state constraint on a federal court in a federal question case, acts indirectly as a governing mechanism for the exercise of personal jurisdiction.” (citing Lorelei, 940 F.2d at 720)). The First Circuit has “sometimes treated the limits of Massachusetts's long-arm statute [Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3] as coextensive with those of the Due Process Clause, ” Copia Commc'ns, LLC v. AMResorts, L.P., 812 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2016) (citing Daynard, 290 F.3d at 52), and, therefore, has sidestepped the statutory inquiry and proceeded directly to the constitutional analysis. Daynard, 290 F.3d at 52. More recently, however, the court has “suggested that Massachusetts's long-arm statute might impose more restrictive limits on the exercise of personal jurisdiction than does the Constitution, ” thereby creating a “possible tension” in its precedent. Copia Commc'ns, 812 F.3d at 4 (citing Cossart v. United Excel Corp., 804 F.3d 13, 18-19 (1st Cir. 2015)). The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts resolved this tension in SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc., 85 N.E.3d 50 (Mass. 2017), declaring that the long-arm statute's reach is not coextensive with what due process allows. Id. at 56 n.9. Moreover, “[b]ecause the long-arm statute imposes specific constraints on the exercise of personal jurisdiction that are not coextensive with the parameters of due process, and in order to avoid unnecessary consideration of constitutional questions, a determination under the long-arm statute is to precede consideration of the constitutional question.” Id. at 52 (citing Morrill v. Tong, 453 N.E.2d 1221, 1230 (Mass. 1983)). Thus, following SCVNGR, to establish personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must first show that the Massachusetts long-arm statute grants jurisdiction, and then, if it does, that the exercise of jurisdiction under the statute is consistent with the Constitution. See Access Now, Inc. v. Otter Prods., LLC, 280 F.Supp.3d 287, 291 (D. Mass. 2017) (rejecting plaintiff's argument that the reach of the Massachusetts long-arm statute is coextensive with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and beginning the personal jurisdiction analysis by considering whether the requirements of the long-arm statute were satisfied). See also Bearse v. Main Street Invs., 170 F.Supp.2d 107, 113 (D. Mass. 2001) (“‘Where a plaintiff is clearly unable to establish jurisdiction as a matter of state law, it is the better practice to end the inquiry without addressing constitutional concerns.'” (quoting Noonan v. Winston Co., 902 F.Supp. 298, 306 n. 12 (D. Mass. 1995)); Boyd v. Ariz. State Bd. of Dental Examiners, Civ. A. No. 88-1560-MA, 1989 WL 37309, at *2 (D. Mass. Apr. 4, 1989) (“Only after it is determined that the long-arm statute is satisfied does a court consider whether the second obstacle has been overcome; that is, whether the plaintiffs have demonstrated that the exercise of personal jurisdiction is consistent with the basic constitutional requirement of due process.” (citing Ealing Corp. v. Harrods, Ltd., 790 F.2d 978, 983 (1st Cir. 1986); Gray v. O'Brien, 777 F.2d 864, 866-67 (1st Cir. 1985); Carlson Corp. v. Univ. of Vt., 402 N.E.2d 483, 485 (Mass. 1980); Good Hope Indus., Inc. v. Ryder Scott Co., 389 N.E.2d 76, 79 (Mass. 1979)). This is in keeping with the “‘long-standing principle of judicial restraint . . . that courts avoid reaching constitutional questions in advance of the necessity of deciding them.'” Sony BMG Music Entm't v. Tenenbaum, 660 F.3d 487, 511 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Lyng v. Nw. Indian Cemetery Protective Ass'n, 485 U.S. 439, 445 (1988)). See also SCVNGR, 85 N.E.3d at 56 (“[I]t is canonical that courts should, where possible, avoid unnecessary constitutional decisions.” (citing Commonwealth v. Guzman, 14 N.E.3d 946, 954 (Mass. 2014)). Thus, while neither Plaintiffs nor Defendant has addressed the applicability of the Massachusetts long-arm statute, the court must assess whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction meets the statutory requirements before reaching the constitutional dimension of the analysis.

         A. The Massachusetts Long-Arm Statute

         “The Massachusetts long-arm statute enumerates eight specific grounds on which a nonresident defendant may be subjected to personal jurisdiction by a court of the Commonwealth.” SCVNGR, 85 N.E.3d at 55 (citing Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3). Only three of those grounds bear any possible applicability to the facts presented. In relevant part, the Massachusetts long-arm statute provides that:

A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action in law or ...

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