United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
Dhananjay Patel, Safdar Hussain, Vatsal Chokshi, Dhaval Patel and Niral Patel, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
7-Eleven, Inc., Mary Cadigan and Andrew Brothers, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NATHANIEL M. GORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a putative class action brought by Dhananjay Patel, Safdar
Hussain, Vatsal Chokshi, Dhaval Patel and Niral Patel
(collectively “plaintiffs”) on behalf of
individuals who have acquired franchises from 7-Eleven, Inc.
(“7-Eleven”) in the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. Plaintiffs allege that 7-Eleven and two
7-Eleven market managers, Mary Cadigan and Andrew Brothers
(collectively “the individual defendants”), 1)
misclassified its franchisee convenience store workers in
Massachusetts as independent contractors instead of employees
in violation of the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law,
M.G.L. c. 149 § 148B, 2) violated the Massachusetts Wage
Act, M.G.L. c. 149 § 148 and 3) violated the
Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law, M.G.L. c. 151 §§ 1,
before the Court are plaintiffs' motion to remand,
7-Eleven's motion to dismiss, the individual
defendants' motion to dismiss and plaintiffs'
emergency motion to enjoin defendant from obtaining releases
from putative class members.
named plaintiffs are residents of Massachusetts who acquired
7-Eleven franchises and work as store managers and
convenience store clerks in Massachusetts. They also bring
claims on behalf of all other individuals who have acquired
7-Eleven franchises and performed services as store managers
and convenience store clerks in Massachusetts.
is a Texas corporation with its principal place of business
in Texas. The company is a convenience store chain that
utilizes a franchise model. Plaintiffs allege that 7-Eleven
dictates how franchisees do their jobs, including
requirements with respect to uniforms, specific training and
monitoring the workplace remotely through the use of in-store
cameras. 7-Eleven also determines store hours, controls the
payroll system and requires that franchisees make daily
monetary deposits into an account that it controls.
to plaintiffs, they perform services exclusively for
7-Eleven, are misclassified as independent contractors
instead of employees and therefore have been deprived of
benefits to which employees are entitled under Massachusetts
law, including a minimum wage and protection from improper
wage deductions. Plaintiffs allege that Mary Cadigan and
Andrew Brothers, two 7-Eleven market managers who reside in
Massachusetts, “exercised extensive control over the
filed their statutory claims with the Office of the Attorney
General and received a right to sue letter, as required by
M.G.L. c. 149 § 50. Thereafter they filed this action in
Massachusetts Superior Court for Middlesex County and
Defendants promptly removed the case to this Court.
15, 2018, 7-Eleven distributed 2019 franchise renewal
contracts to all Massachusetts franchisees, including
franchisees who do not have agreements expiring in 2019. On
page 208 of that 641-page document, the contract contains a
“Release of claims and termination” section that
requires renewing franchisees to release their claims in this
case. On June 29, 2018, plaintiffs filed an emergency motion
seeking to enjoin 7-Eleven from soliciting those releases.
Motion to remand
assert that removal was improper because the individual
defendants defeat diversity jurisdiction and the “local
controversy” exception to the Class Action Fairness Act
(“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4), applies
such that no federal question jurisdiction exists. Defendants
respond that the individual plaintiffs are “nothing
more than middle managers” who were fraudulently joined
to destroy diversity jurisdiction and that the conduct of the
individual defendants is too insignificant to evoke
CAFA's local controversy exception.
case removed from state court shall be remanded if at
“any time before final judgment it appears that the
district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c). The removal statute is to be strictly
construed and defendants have the burden of demonstrating the
existence of federal jurisdiction. Danca v.
Private Health Care Sys., Inc., 185 F.3d 1, 4 (1st
States district courts possess jurisdiction over all civil
actions between “citizens of different States”
where the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a)(1). Unless expressly prohibited by federal
statute, defendants may remove
any civil action brought in a State court of which the
district courts of the United States have original
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), so long as no properly joined
defendant “is a citizen of the State in which such
action is brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2).
the doctrine of fraudulent joinder, a plaintiff is precluded
from destroying diversity by joining a makeweight,
non-diverse defendant. See Universal Truck & Equip.
Co. v. Southworth-Milton, Inc., 765 F.3d 103, 108 (1st
Cir. 2014). A party has been fraudulently joined if there is
no reasonable possibility that the state's highest court
would find the complaint states a cause of action upon which
relief may be granted against the non-diverse defendant.
complaint is evaluated “on the basis of the allegations
in the complaint at the time of removal.”
Moniz v. Bayer A.G., 447 F.Supp.2d
31, 36 (D. Mass. 2006) (citing Pullman Co.
v. Jenkins, 305 U.S. 534, 537 (1939)).
complaint contains insufficient factual allegations against
defendants Cadigan and Brothers to state a claim for relief.
The complaint states that “7-Eleven imposes a litany of
rules” and that “7-Eleven controls the entire
payroll system at the stores.” Plaintiffs allege that
they have been injured “[b]ecause of their
misclassification by 7-Eleven as independent
contractors.” The entirety of the allegations against
the individual defendants, on the other hand, are as follows:
Defendant Marry Carrigan (sic) is a resident Scituate,
Massachusetts, where she has worked as a market manager for
7-Eleven. She has exercised extensive control over the
Defendant Andrew Brothers is a resident of Plainville,
Massachusetts, where he has worked as a market manager for
7-Eleven. He has exercised extensive ...