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Belgada v. Hy's Livery Service, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 14, 2019

MEHDI BELGADA, HORMOZ AKHUNDZADEH, and ADANIEL DZIEKAN, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
HY'S LIVERY SERVICE, INC., ROBERT LEVINE, MATTHEW LEVINE, and SHELLEY LEVINE, Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL AND CROSS-MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On January 18, 2019, Mehdi Belgada, Hormoz Akhundzadeh, and Adaniel Dziekan (“Plaintiffs”) moved to voluntarily dismiss their Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims against Hy's Livery Service, Inc., Robert Levine, Matthew Levine, and Shelley Levine (“Defendants”) with prejudice. Plaintiffs' Motion for Voluntary Dismissal, dated Jan. 18, 2019 (“Pls.' Mot.”), ECF No. 108. Plaintiffs also moved for the Court to dismiss the remaining state law claims against Defendants without prejudice, for want of jurisdiction, if the FLSA claims are dismissed. Id.

         On January 23, 2019, Defendants opposed the motion and cross-moved for attorney's fees. Defendants' Memorandum in Opposition to Pls.' Mot. and Cross-Motion For Attorney's Fees, dated Jan. 23, 2019 (“Defs.' Opp.), ECF Nos. 111-12.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the motion for voluntary dismissal and DISMISSES with prejudice Plaintiffs' FLSA claims, DISMISSES without prejudice the remaining state law claims for want of jurisdiction, and DENIES the motion for attorney's fees.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On January 31, 2018, Mr. Belgada, Mr. Akhundzadeh, and Mr. Dziekan, currently or formerly employed by Defendants, sued Defendants, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act (“CMWA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-58 et seq.[1] Complaint, dated Jan. 31, 2018 (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs alleged, inter alia, that Defendants required them to work through their meal breaks but nevertheless deducted this time from their wages. Id. ¶¶ 28-33. Plaintiffs allege that this practice resulted in unpaid overtime wages under the FLSA and the CMWA. Id. ¶¶ 35-36, 52-53.

         On April 13, 2018, Defendants answered the Complaint, alleging multiple affirmative defenses, including (1) that Plaintiffs are “workers exempt from coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act”; and (2) that their claims “are barred or should be reduced, in whole or in part, by exclusions, exceptions, credits, recoupment or offsets permissible under the FLSA or CWA.” Answer, dated Apr. 13, 2018, ECF No. 25, at 7.

         The parties subsequently embarked on several contentious months of discovery for which they sought the Court's intervention. See, e.g., ECF Nos. 46-49, 53-54, 56, 59-66. Discovery was originally scheduled to close on December 21, 2018. Scheduling Order, dated Apr. 27, 2018, ECF No. 31.

         On October 15, 2018, Plaintiffs moved for conditional certification of an opt-in collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Motion for Conditional Certification, dated Oct. 15, 2018, ECF No. 66. On November 5, 2018, Defendants opposed conditional certification. Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Conditional Certification, dated Nov. 5, 2018, ECF No. 70.

         On November 6, 2018, the Court scheduled a hearing on the motion for conditional certification. Notice of E-Filed Calendar, dated Nov. 6, 2018, ECF No. 71.

         On November 15, 2018, Plaintiffs moved for class certification under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure with respect to their Connecticut Minimum Wage Act claims. Motion to Certify Class, dated Nov. 15, 2018, ECF No. 73.

         On November 27, 2018, Defendants moved for summary judgment, Motion for Summary Judgment, dated Nov. 27, 2018 (“Mot. Summ. J.”), ECF No. 78, and raised a threshold legal issue with respect to Plaintiffs' federal claims. Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Mot. Summ. J., dated Nov. 27, 2018 (“Defs.' Summ. J. Mem.”), ECF No. 80, at 6-7.

         Specifically, Defendants sought summary judgment on Plaintiffs' federal claims, regardless of any further discovery, because of the Second Circuit's recent decision, Munoz-Gonzalez v. D.L.C. Limousine Serv., 904 F.3d 208 (2d Cir. 2018), suggesting that Defendants operate a “taxicab” business exempt from overtime claims under the FLSA. See Munoz-Gonzalez, 904 F.3d at 214 (holding, as a matter of first impression, that the plain meaning of “taxicab” in 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(17) is “(1) a chauffeured passenger vehicle; (2) available for hire by individual members of the general public; (3) that has no fixed schedule, fixed route, or fixed termini.”); Defs.' Summ. J. Mem. at 6 (“Defendants are under no obligation to pay Plaintiffs overtime because they are exempt pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(17) . . . . just as in Munoz-Gonzalez, the Hy's vehicles have no fixed schedule, route, or termini. Accordingly, the taxicab exemption applies to Plaintiffs.”).

         On December 6, 2018, Defendants opposed Rule 23 class certification. Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Certify Class, dated Dec. 6, 2018, ECF No. 88.

         On December 11, 2018, the Court held a telephonic status conference to address several then-pending discovery disputes, as well as the timing of the Court's consideration of the outstanding motions. Minute Entry, dated Dec. 11, 2018, ECF No. 91.

         On December 14, 2018, consistent with its inherent authority to manage its docket with a view toward the efficient and expedient resolution of cases, the Court limited further discovery to the taxicab exemption issue and whether the Second Circuit's decision in Munoz-Gonzalez applied to Plaintiffs' claims. Ruling and Order on Discovery Disputes and Pre-Trial Schedule, dated Dec. 14, 2018, ECF No. 92, at 3-5. The Court also decided to address the motion for summary judgment as to the FLSA claims, and set a hearing on the motion for February 11, 2019. Id. at 5.

         The Court's Order noted that, if it granted summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiffs' federal clams, “then the remaining state law claims may no longer be appropriate for this Court's review.” Id. at 3 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1368(c) (“The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) [claims that form part of the same case or controversy as the claims within the court's original jurisdiction] if . . . (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.”); Catzin v. Thank You & Good Luck Corp., 899 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 2018) (“Under this prong, in a great many cases, the evaluation will usually result in the dismissal of the state-law claims.”) (citing Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988)).

         On January 8, 2019, Defendants moved for a discovery conference as to the scope of a planned Rule 30(b)(6) deposition scheduled on January 11, 2018, as Plaintiffs disputed whether the scope was limited to the taxicab exemption issue. Motion for Discovery Conference, dated Jan. 8, 2019, ECF No. 99.

         On January 10, 2019, the Court held that discovery conference, and clarified that discovery was indeed limited to the taxicab exemption issue under the terms of the Court's December 14, 2018 Order. Minute Entry, dated Jan. 10, 2019, ECF No. 102.

         Later that day, Plaintiffs moved to extend the briefing schedule for their response to Defendants' summary judgment motion. Motion for Briefing Schedule, dated Jan. 10, 2019, ECF No. 104.

         On January 11, 2019, Defendants opposed that motion. Memorandum in Opposition, ...


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