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Britts v. Stevens Van Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

February 27, 2017

STANFORD BRITTS, et al., Plaintiffs,



         This matter is before the Court on the Named Plaintiff's Motion For Class Certification Under Rule 23(B)(2), and Motion for Class Certification Under Rule 23(B)(3). (ECF #59, 78). Defendant opposes both motions. (ECF #65, 94). Plaintiff filed Reply briefs in support of both his motions, and Defendant filed a Sur-Reply in defense of its opposition to the request under Rule 23(B)(2). (ECf #72, 86, 97). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motions are DENIED.


         The Named Plaintiff, Steven Britts, brought this action on behalf of himself and other owner-operator truckers who entered into written independent contractor lease agreements with Defendant, Stevens Van Lines (“Stevens”). The Complaint seeks damages, as well as declaratory, injunctive, and equitable relief for alleged violations of the Truth in Leasing regulations set forth under 49 U.S.C. § 14704 and 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(j). (ECF #1). Stevens filed a counterclaim against Britts (directly and through his lawyers) alleging tortious interference with business relationships, defamation, and violations of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practice Act. (ECF #29).

         On January 27, 2017, this Court granted Partial Summary Judgment to Stevens, dismissing Counts Two and Three of the Complaint. In addition, the Court granted Summary Judgment to Plaintiff on Stevens' counterclaims. The only remaining claim, therefore, is Plaintiff's claim under Count One of the Complaint, which alleges that Steven failed to disclose required information in the written lease, in violation of the TIL regulations .


         A. Standard of Review

         The plaintiff bears the burden of proof in arguing that a potential class should be certified. General Tel. Co. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. at 161; Senter v. Gen. Motors Corp., 532 F.2d 511, 522 (6th Cir. 1976). “The class determination generally involves considerations that are ‘enmeshed in the factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff's cause of action.'” Coopers & Lybrand, 437 U.S. at 469 (quoting Mercantile Nat'l Bank at Dallas v. Langdeau, 371 U.S. 555, 558 (1963)). While the pleadings may be enough to determine “whether the interests of the absent parties are fairly encompassed within the named plaintiff's claim . . . sometimes it may be necessary for the court to probe behind the pleadings” before deciding the issue of certification. Falcon, 457 U.S. at 160. Thus, it is appropriate for the Court to look not only to the pleadings but also to additional exhibits and information submitted by the parties in deciding the motion for certification.

         A court must perform a “rigorous analysis” of the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 in deciding whether to certify a class. Falcon, 457 U.S. at 147; accord Stout v. J.D. Byrider, 47 F.3d 709, 716 (6th Cir. 2000). Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure includes four prerequisites to maintaining a class action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a). Members of a class

[M]ay sue . . . as representative parties on behalf of all only if (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). Thus, the named representatives may only be certified as a class under Rule 23 if the representatives meet the requirements of numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. Assuming the requirements of Rule 23(a) are met, the class action may be maintained only if it also meets the requirements of one of the subsections of Rule 23(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b).

Under Rule 23(b), An action may be maintained as a class action if . . . (3) the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). Defendant argues that the Named Plaintiff, Steven Britts, does not adequately represent the class with regard to injunctive and declaratory relief requested under the Rule 23(b)(2) certification request, and that individualized questions of fact predominate over issues that are common ...

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