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Ruffin v. Exel Direct Inc.

September 29, 2009

DANIEL J. RUFFIN AND STEVEN BAKER, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF A CLASS OF SIMILARLY SITUATED PERSONS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EXEL DIRECT, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Court

Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM, OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the court on the motion of Defendant Exel Direct Inc. ("Exel") to dismiss Counts III, IV, VI, and VII of Plaintiffs' Complaint in their entirety as well as to dismiss portions of the three other counts. Exel also brings a motion to strike the class definition. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to strike and dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Exel is a corporation whose business consists of providing delivery services on behalf of retailers. Compl. ¶ 19. Plaintiffs Danny J. Ruffin ("Ruffin") and Steven Baker ("Baker") (collectively "Plaintiffs") performed work as drivers under contracts they had with Exel. Plaintiffs allege that they were improperly classified by Exel as independent contractors when they were actually Exel employees. Plaintiffs purport to bring this action on behalf of themselves and "[a]ll individuals who worked for Defendant Exel Direct Inc. in Illinois from March 20,1999 through the present (the "Class Period") as delivery drivers, and who were classified by Exel Direct Inc. as 'independent contractors' and thereby deprived of various protections under Illinois law." See id. ¶ 7.

Plaintiffs allege that Exel required its drivers to sign an "Independent Truckman's Agreement," which characterized the relationship between the drivers and Exel as independent contractor and contractor, when the relationship was actually that of employer and employee. Plaintiffs have filed a seven count Complaint against Exel based on diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs bring claims for violations of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, unjust enrichment, and promissory estoppel. Plaintiffs also seek declaratory and injunctive relief and an accounting. Defendants have moved to dismiss Count III (Unjust Enrichment), Count IV ( Accounting), Count VI (Declaratory Relief), and Count VII (Injunctive Relief) and have moved to strike certain allegations from the Complaint.

DISCUSSION

Dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) is proper where no set of facts alleged would entitle a plaintiff to relief. Szumny v. American Gen. Fin., Inc., 246 F.3d. 1065, 1067 (7th Cir. 2001). In order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual material, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ____, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1940 (2009)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1940 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Additionally, a complaint must describe the claim with sufficient detail as to "give the defendants fair notice of what the.claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing the required elements of standing. Disability Rights Wis., Inc. v. Walworth County Bd. of Supervisors, 522 F.3d 796, 800 (7th Cir. 2008). A motion to dismiss for lack of standing is properly characterized as a Rule 12(b)(1) motion. See Perkins v. Neal, No. 07 C 841, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77819, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 19, 2007).

A motion to strike pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f), the "court may order stricken from any pleading . . . any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). "The purpose behind Rule 12(f) is to exclude irrelevant material from pending litigation." Murphy v. Capital One Bank, No. 08 C 801, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73609, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 18, 2008).

I. Count III-Unjust Enrichment

Plaintiffs' Complaint centers around one primary allegation-that Exel improperly classified Plaintiffs as independent contractors rather than as employees. In Count III, Plaintiffs allege Exel has been unjustly enriched by this alleged improper classification because it has failed to reimburse the drivers for work-related expenditures while denying those same drivers "wages, holiday pay, overtime pay, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance, and contributions to Exel Direct retirement plans." Compl. ¶ 49. These allegations relate directly to the terms and conditions of the parties' relationship.

It is well established under Illinois law that "[w]hen two parties' relationship is governed by contract, they may not bring a claim of unjust enrichment unless the claim falls outside the contract." Utility Audit, Inc. v. Horace Mann Serv. Corp., 383 F.3d 683, 688-89 (7th Cir. 2004); see also Prima Tek II, L.L.C. v. Klerk's Plastic Indus., B.V., 525 F.3d 533, 541 (7th Cir. 2008) ("damages for unjust enrichment are not awardable when . . . there is a contract between the parties on the subject in dispute"). Plaintiffs' repeated allegation that a contract -- namely, the Independent Truckman's Agreement -- governed the terms and conditions of their relationship with Exel is fatal to their claim for unjust enrichment. See Compl. ¶¶ 8, 27, 28, 31.

As Plaintiffs have alleged that the Independent Truckman's Agreement governed the terms and conditions of their relationship with Exel, they cannot state a claim for unjust enrichment, and Plaintiffs concede as much in their brief. Therefore, Count III of Plaintiffs' Complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim. See Nepomoceno v. Knights of Columbus, No. 96 C 4789, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1366 (N.D. Ill. Feb 8, ...


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