Class Action Defense Cases—In re Family Dollar Stores: Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Grants Plaintiffs’ Motion To Centralize Class Action Litigation But Transfers Class Actions To Western District Of North Carolina
By Michael J. Hassen
Over Objection of Defense Attorneys, Judicial Panel Grants Plaintiffs’ Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, but Agrees with Defendant that Class Actions should be Centralized in Western District of North Carolina
Nine class action lawsuits were filed against Family Dollar Stores alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); specifically, the class action complaints alleged that under the FLSA defendant’s store managers are entitled to overtime pay. In re Family Dollar Stores, Inc., Wage & Hour Employment Prac. Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. April 8, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1]. Six of the class actions were pending in the Western District of North Carolina; the three other class actions were pending in Florida, Tennessee and Texas. Id. Plaintiffs’ lawyers in five of the North Carolina class actions filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the Northern District of Alabama; plaintiffs in the other class actions supported the motion. Id. Defense attorneys opposed pretrial coordination, and alternatively argued that the class action lawsuits should be transferred to the Western District of North Carolina. Id. The Judicial Panel noted that five additional, related class action complaints had been filed against Family Dollar Stores in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and that it would treat these class actions as tag-along cases. Id., n.1. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, id. But the Panel rejected Alabama as a transferee court. Rather, the Judicial Panel agreed with defense attorneys to centralize the litigation in the Western District of North Carolina because “(1) six of the nine actions are already underway there, and (2) Family Dollar Stores, Inc., is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and witnesses and documents will likely be found there.” Id., at 1-2.