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Swede v. Wood-Mode, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 12, 2019

WILLIAM SWEDE, CURTIS TREGO, and TINA CLAPPER, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
WOOD-MODE, INC., ROBERT L. GRONLUND, and ROBERT BROOKS GRONLUND, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs William Swede, Curtis Trego, and Tina Clapper purport to bring this suit on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated alleging violations of the federal WARN Act[1] and Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law[2](WPCL) arising out of a factory closure on May 13, 2019. Plaintiffs move for class certification.

         I. Jurisdiction

         Prior to the issue of class certification, I first examine whether this Court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law WPCL claim is appropriate.[3]A district court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction when a state-law claim shares a “common nucleus of operative fact” with the claims that support the district court's original jurisdiction.[4]

         However, “[i]t has consistently been recognized that pendent jurisdiction is a doctrine of discretion, not of plaintiff's right.”[5] 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) grants district courts discretion to decline supplemental jurisdiction in four circumstances:

(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.

         A court may find substantial predomination “in terms of proof, of the scope of the issues raised, or of the comprehensiveness of the remedy sought.”[6]

         The common nucleus shared by the WPCL and WARN Act claims is the May 13, 2019 factory closure, which is sufficient to support supplemental jurisdiction under § 1367(a). That said, the inquiries differ in important ways. The WPCL, which courts have considered to be parallel to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, centers on Wood-Mode's leave policies, the class members' entitlement to payment for vacation and floater days accrued pre-termination, and whether the class members were paid.[7] The WARN Act claim, on the other hand, examines the notice that the employees were given prior to the factory closing and whether exceptions to the WARN Act apply.[8] Both inquiries arise from the factory closing, but the WPCL analysis would require proof of different policies as well as individualized damages calculations not implicated by the WARN Act.

         As a result of the differing proof and scope of the inquiries, I find that the WPCL inquiry would predominate over the WARN Act's. It is better suited to be tried in the state courts of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs will not be unduly prejudiced because their claims may be heard there and the statute of limitations has not yet expired.[9] For these reasons, I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' WPCL claim pursuant to § 1367(c)(2).

         II. Rule 23

         Although Defendants indicate in their papers that they take no position on whether certification of a class on the WARN Act claim only is proper, [10] this Court has an independent duty to ensure that the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 are satisfied.[11] Rule 23(a) requires the class to satisfy four prerequisites: numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. Then, the class must satisfy one of the requirements of Rule 23(b). Plaintiffs argue that this class satisfies Rule 23(b)(3), which requires “that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.”[12]

         The class here is sufficiently numerous. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit “typically has approved classes numbering 40 or more.”[13] The proposed class well ...


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