United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
SABRINA A. BLUNDELL, on behalf of Herself and all others similarly situated, and ALICIA K. MORGAN, on behalf of Herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
HOME QUALITY CARE HOME HEALTH CARE, INC. d/b/a Bethany Home Health Services, BRADLEY P. LASSITER, and WYNDALL S. LANDERS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case has been referred to the undersigned United States
magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b) and a standing order of reference from United
States District Judge Sam A. Lindsay. See Dkt. No.
November 29, 2017, the Court determined that, in the interest
of justice and to appropriately control the Court's
docket, this case should be stayed until the automatic stay
as to Defendant Home Quality Care Home Health Care, Inc.,
d/b/a Bethany Home Health Services is lifted, either by
conclusion of the bankruptcy or an order from the bankruptcy
court granting relief from the automatic stay, and therefore
ordered that, because Plaintiffs Sabrina A. Blundell and
Alicia K. Morgan's claims against Defendant Home Quality
Care Home Health Care, Inc., d/b/a Bethany Home Health
Services are subject to 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)'s
automatic stay protections and, in an exercise of the
Court's sound discretion, the case should also be stayed
as to Plaintiffs Sabrina A. Blundell and Alicia K.
Morgan's claims against the non-debtor co-defendants
Bradley P. Lassiter and Wyndall S. Landers, subject to this
stay's being lifted upon the motion of any party once the
11 U.S.C. § 362 automatic stay is lifted - either by
conclusion of the bankruptcy or an order from the bankruptcy
court granting relief from the automatic stay - and all
pending, unexpired deadlines are terminated. See
Dkt. No. 40 (the “Order”).
have filed a Motion to Modify the Magistrate Judge's
Order Staying this Case. See Dkt. No. 41 (the
“Motion to Modify”). They ask the Court to
“modify the Order staying this lawsuit in order to: (a)
toll the statute of limitations under the federal Fair Labor
Standards Act (‘FLSA') as to all claims of all
absent collective action members against Defendant Home
Quality Care Home Health Care, Inc. d/b/a Bethany Home Health
Services (‘Bethany'), Bradley P. Lassiter
(‘Lassiter'), and Wyndall S. Landers
(‘Landers') (collectively ‘Defendants')
for a time period equaling the pendency of the subject
bankruptcy proceeding by Bethany; and (b) require Defendants
to maintain and preserve all data identified in 29 C.F.R.
§ 516.2 relative to Plaintiffs and the putative FLSA
collective action members in addition to the last known
mailing address, phone number(s), and e-mail address(es) for
each of the FLSA putative collective action members for the
time period of July 27, 2014 and forward, ”
id. at 1-2 (footnote omitted).
explain that “[t]he reason for this requested
modification is because, unlike Rule 23 class actions, the
FLSA limitations period is not tolled for absent collective
action members upon the filing of the lawsuit. Instead, the
limitations period for FLSA putative collective action
members continues to run until each such individual files a
consent to join the lawsuit as an opt-in plaintiff pursuant
to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)” and that,
“[a]ccordingly, as the Court has stayed this case
indefinitely as to all Defendants during the pendency of
Bethany's bankruptcy action, absent collective action
members will suffer irreparable harm as they will lose their
right to seek recovery of some or all damages from Landers
and/or Lassiter due to the running and/or expiration of their
FLSA statute of limitations once this lawsuit resumes.”
Id. at 2.
counsel “represents to the Court that he has found no
case law on point to the issue before this Court - whether
equitable tolling should be allowed in situations where the
district court stays a FLSA case against all defendants due
to bankruptcy proceedings of one of the defendants prior to
conditional certification and close of the notice
period” - and asserts that “[t]he absence of such
case law supports Plaintiffs' position that this is a
‘rare and exceptional' circumstance which warrants
equitable tolling of the FLSA limitations period for absent
collective action members.” Id. at 5.
According to Plaintiffs, “[a] review of the docket in
this case shows that Plaintiffs have acted
‘diligently' and that the delay in putative
collective action members being issued court-ordered notice
and the opportunity to opt-into this case is due to the
extraordinary circumstances of Bethany's bankruptcy
filing and this Court's ruling extending the bankruptcy
stay provisions to Lassiter and Landers, Defendants who are
not otherwise subject to the Section 362 bankruptcy stay
provision, ” and “a ‘strict
application' of the FLSA limitations period in this case
by not tolling the FLSA limitations period would result in
the type of ‘harsh' application of the limitations
period cautioned against by the Fifth Circuit.”
Id. at 5-6 (quoting Orozco v. Anamia's
Tex-Mex Inc., No. 3:15-cv-2800-L-BK, 2016 WL 6311237, at
*1 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 6, 2016), rec. adopted, 2016 WL
6277843 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 27, 2016); United States v.
Patterson, 211 F.3d 927, 931 (5th Cir. 2000)). Invoking
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(a) and 60(b)(6) in
support of their requests, Plaintiffs explain that they
“believe the Court did not intend to cut off the
ability of FLSA putative collective action members to assert
their claims for damages against Lassiter and Landers in
issuing its Order.” Id. at 8.
their second request, Plaintiffs assert that,
“[f]urthermore, unless Defendants are ordered to retain
and preserve the data requested herein, issuing notice to
putative collective action members and/or having access to
records relative to their damage calculations may be lost or
destroyed.” Id. at 2.
the Motion to Modify, “Plaintiffs, on behalf of
themselves and the putative collective action members, ask
that [the Court] modify the Order to toll the FLSA statute of
limitations and require Defendants to maintain and preserve
the requested data” and that, “[i]n the event the
Court declines to grant that relief, ... that the Court
modify the Order so as to permit the case to resume against
Lassiter and Landers while severing the claims against
Bethany.” Id. (footnote omitted).
and Landers respond that no extraordinary circumstances are
present to justify Rule 60(b)(6) relief, where “[n]o
change in facts or circumstances has occurred since the
briefing was completed with respect to the Briefs Regarding
Suggestion of Bankruptcy filed by Plaintiffs (Dkt. 35) and
Defendants (Dkt. 37)”; “[t]he fact that the
statute of limitations is running for individuals who are not
parties to the case has been true since the date Plaintiffs
decided to file their lawsuit, since Bethany filed a
suggestion of bankruptcy, and since the briefing referenced
above was completed”; and “Plaintiffs were not
concerned about the running of the statute of limitations at
that time.” Dkt. No. 43 at 1-2 (emphasis omitted).
“Defendants will agree to maintain any data in their
possession, custody, and control and do not oppose that
portion of Plaintiffs' Motion” to Modify.
Id. at 2.
reply that “Defendants' Response appears to advance
the argument that an order may only be modified under the
following limited circumstances: (1) mistake, (2) newly
discovered evidence, (3) fraud, (4) a void or satisfied
judgment or (5) any other reason that justifies relief after
a showing of extraordinary circumstances, ” but
Plaintiffs contend that “this Court has broad
discretion under Rule 60 to modify its order and may do so
either upon motion or sua sponte, with or without
notice.” Dkt. No. 44 at 1-2.
explain that they “hold a good-faith belief that, in
issuing its order, the Court did not intend to deny the FLSA
putative collective action members the ability to assert
their claims for damages against non-debtor defendants
Lassiter and Landers” and that, “[s]hould this be
the case, this Court would not be bound by the ‘limited
circumstances' suggested in Defendants'
Response” but, rather, “the plain language of
[Rule 60(a)] allows district courts to modify orders based on
oversights either ‘on motion or on its own, with or
without notice.'” Id. at 3-4 (quoting
also argue that, while Defendants further argue “that
(1) before an order may be modified under FRCP 60(b)(6),
there must be ‘a showing of extraordinary
circumstances' and (2) that ‘[n]o extraordinary
circumstances are present here, '”
“Plaintiffs specifically set forth in their Motion to
Modify the ‘rare and exceptional circumstances'