Cooper et al v. Coil Chem LLC
ORDER denying 25 Plaintiffs Expedited Motion to Proceed With Discovery; denying as moot 26 Plaintiffs Ex Parte Motion to Expedite Motion to Proceed With Discovery. Signed by Honorable Timothy D. DeGiusti on 2/27/17. (ml)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
ALAN COOPER, individually
and on behalf of all others similarly
COIL CHEM, LLC,
Case No. CIV-16-473-D
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s Expedited Motion to Proceed With Discovery
[Doc. No. 25]. Plaintiff has also moved to expedite consideration of its motion
[Doc. No. 26]. Defendant has filed its responses in opposition [Doc. Nos. 27, 28].
The matter is fully briefed and at issue.
Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, brings
this collective action against Defendant, alleging Defendant failed to adequately
compensate them in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 201 et seq. Plaintiff seeks to recover unpaid overtime wages and other damages
under the FLSA and the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act, N.M. STAT. ANN. §§
50-4-1 et seq. On December 8, 2016, the Court granted in part Defendant’s motion
to dismiss and held Plaintiff’s proposed class definition was overbroad and
unworkable. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on December 29, 2016, and
Defendant answered on January 17, 2017.
Plaintiff’s motion states discovery has been unfairly delayed by Defendant’s
motion to dismiss, as well as the parties’ inability to promptly schedule their
discovery conference pursuant to Rule 26(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Plaintiff contends that immediate discovery is warranted because the
FLSA’s statute of limitations is not tolled upon the commencement of an action or
an order granting conditional certification, but continues to run on each
individual’s claim until they file written consent to join the action. According to
Plaintiff, as each day goes by, potential class members who have not received
notice of this action and submitted their written consent to join lose a portion of
The Court has broad discretion over the control of discovery. SEC v. Merrill
Scott & Assocs., Ltd., 600 F.3d 1262, 1271 (10th Cir. 2010). Under the
circumstances presented here, the Court finds that expedited discovery is
unwarranted. The Court is mindful of Plaintiff’s desire to preserve certain claims
and that key information may lie within Defendant’s custody and control.
However, the Court also has the discretion to equitably toll the statute of
limitations to prevent the injustice Plaintiff cites. “Equitable tolling is a doctrine
that permits courts to extend statutes of limitations on a case-by-case basis in order
to prevent inequity.” Stransky v. HealthONE of Denver, Inc., 868 F. Supp. 2d
1178, 1181 (D. Colo. 2012) (citing Truitt v. County of Wayne, 148 F.3d 644, 648
(6th Cir. 1998)). “Th[e] equitable tolling doctrine is read into every federal statute,
including the FLSA.” Id. (citing U.S. v. $57,960.00 in U.S. Currency, 58 F. Supp.
2d 660, 664 (D.S.C. 1999)). “Moreover, the decision to invoke equitable tolling in
a particular case lies exclusively within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Id.
(citing Truitt, 148 F.3d at 648).
As the court in Stransky noted, courts have equitably tolled the statute of
limitations in FLSA collective actions when doing so would be in the best interests
of justice. Id. (collecting cases). It also noted that “equitable tolling applies only
when a litigant’s failure to meet a legally-mandated deadline unavoidably arose
from circumstances beyond that litigant’s control.” Id. (citing Graham-Humphreys
v. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 560 (6th Cir. 2000)). In the
Court’s view, “allowing Opt-in Plaintiffs’ claims to diminish or expire due to
circumstances beyond their direct control would be particularly unjust” and
equitable tolling would be warranted. Id. at 1181-82. Moreover, in light of the fact
that Defendant had full knowledge this suit was brought as a collective action and
was fully aware of its scope of potential liability, Defendant would not be
prejudiced by such equitable tolling. Id. at 1182.
Thus, having considered the particular facts of this case, the Court finds that
the interests of justice are best served by tolling the statute of limitations for the
opt-in plaintiffs in this case. The statute of limitations will be equitably tolled from
January 24, 2017, the date Plaintiff served its first set of discovery requests to
Defendant. Compare Stransky, 868 F. Supp. 2d at 1182 (equitably tolling statute of
limitations from the date plaintiffs first requested an order requiring defendant to
provide the names and last known addresses of all individuals in the class, as well
as an order allowing notice of lawsuit to all putative members who had not joined
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Expedited Motion to Proceed With Discovery [Doc.
No. 25] is DENIED. Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Motion to Expedite Motion to Proceed
With Discovery [Doc. No. 26] is DENIED as moot. The FLSA statute of
limitations for the opt-in plaintiffs in this case, if any, will be equitably tolled from
January 24, 2017.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 27th day of February, 2017.
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