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Farmer v. DirectSat USA

January 28, 2010

GERALD FARMER, POMPEY HICKS, AND ANTWON WILLIAMS, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DIRECTSAT USA, LLC, A/K/A UNITEK USA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is named Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Complaint to Include Additional Defendants ("Motion"). For the reasons below, Plaintiffs' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Defendant DirectSat USA, LLC a/k/a Unitek, LLC ("DirectSat") formerly employed Plaintiffs as service technicians and paid them an hourly wage for installing and servicing residential satellite dishes in Illinois. (R. 1-1, Complaint, Ex. A to Notice of Removal, ¶¶ 8-11.) Plaintiffs allege that DirectSat failed to pay its technicians for all work performed, including overtime wages, in violation of Illinois wage and hour laws. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 17. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that DirectSat required them to perform certain tasks, such as completing paperwork, and encouraged them to work overtime without recording that time. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiffs also allege that DirectSat instructed its technicians to record less time than they actually worked. Id. at ¶ 13. Based on these allegations, Plaintiffs brought claims in Illinois state court under state law on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated for violations of Illinois wage and overtime requirements (Count I), unjust enrichment (Count II), quantum meruit (Count III), and breach of implied contract (Count IV). Id. at ¶¶ 28-49. The named Plaintiffs also assert individual claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") (Count V). Id. at ¶¶ 51-57. DirectSat removed the case to federal court based on class action diversity and federal question jurisdiction.

In its Motion and Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs seek to add Unitek USA, LLC ("Unitek"), and six individual defendants who are corporate officers of DirectSat and Unitek as defendants in this action: (i) Elizabeth Downey, Chief Administrative Officer and former Director of Human Resources of Unitek; (ii) Catherine Lawley, Director of Human Resources of Unitek; (iii) Scott Hisey, Chief Executive Officer of Unitek; (iv) Dan Yannantuono, Chief Executive Officer of DirectSat; (v) Jay Heaberlin, Vice President of Operations of DirectSat; and (vi) Lloyd Riddle, President of DirectSat. (R. 117-1, Motion, Ex. A, Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 10-16.) (Unitek, DirectSat and the proposed individual defendants are referred to collectively as "Defendants" for the purposes of this Motion). Plaintiffs allege that the six proposed individual defendants were each involved in the day to day operations of DirectSat or Unitek, had the authority to hire and fire employees, the authority to direct and supervise the work of employees, the authority to sign on corporate checking accounts including payroll accounts, the authority to make decisions regarding wage and hour classifications, employee compensation, and capital expenditures, and that they had they acted and had the authority to act on behalf of DirectSat and Unitek in devising and implementing the wage and hour practices related to employees. Id. at ¶¶ 11-16. Plaintiffs further allege that the proposed individual defendants employed by DirectSat Heaberlin, Yannantuono, and Riddle -- were responsible for setting up DirectSat's Illinois operations in 2006. Id. at ¶¶ 12, 15-16.

LEGAL STANDARD

"Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) instructs that leave to amend shall be freely given 'when justice so requires,' a district court may deny a plaintiff leave to amend if 'there is undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive.'" Sound of Music Co. v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 477 F.3d 910, 922 (7th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). The Court may also deny a plaintiff's motion for leave to amend if "undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment" would occur. Id. at 922-23 (citations omitted). In other words, "leave to amend is not automatically granted, and may be properly denied at the district court's discretion for reasons including undue delay, the movant's bad faith, and undue prejudice to the opposing party." Crest Hill Land Dev., LLC v. City of Joliet, 396 F.3d 801, 804 (7th Cir. 2005); see also Guise v. BWM Mortgage, LLC, 377 F.3d 795, 801 (7th Cir. 2004) ("district court's decision to grant or deny a motion for leave to file an amended pleading is 'a matter purely within the sound discretion of the district court.'") (citation omitted).

ANALYSIS

DirectSat argues that the Court should deny Plaintiffs' Motion because (i) with respect to Unitek and the proposed individual defendants, granting Plaintiffs' Motion would result in harassment and undue burden, and (ii) with respect to the individual defendants, the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs' Motion.

I. Plaintiffs' Motion is in Good Faith and Does Not Result in Undue Prejudice to Defendants

DirectSat argues that the Court should deny Plaintiffs' Motion because (i) Plaintiffs delayed in the filing of the Motion, (ii) Plaintiffs brought the motion to harass Defendants, and (iii) the Motion does not result in expanded relief for Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs, however, have established that they seek leave to file their Amended Complaint in good faith and that the filing of the Amended Complaint will not prejudice Defendants.

DirectSat contends that Plaintiffs intend the Motion to harass the proposed individual defendants because the Motion does not result in expanded relief to Plaintiffs and because the proposed individual defendants, none of whom live or work in Illinois, will have to defend a lawsuit outside of their home forums. As detailed below, however, requiring a non-resident defendant to defend an action in Illinois is not an undue burden if a plaintiff can properly establish jurisdiction over that defendant. Indeed, DirectSat's conclusory contention that requiring the proposed individual defendants who live outside of Illinois to face suit here results in undue burden is without legal support.

DirectSat also contends that the Court should deny Plaintiffs' Motion because, beginning as early as July 2008, DirectSat repeatedly informed Plaintiffs that Unitek is the parent corporation of DirectSat and therefore Plaintiffs' Motion is untimely. Whether Plaintiffs were aware of the existence of the corporate entity and its relationship to DirectSat, however, is not the critical issue. In their Reply in support of their Motion, Plaintiffs contend that during the course of depositions taken in December 2009, Plaintiffs confirmed the corporate relationship between DirectSat and Unitek, and further learned the specific roles played by the six proposed individual defendants. (R. 122-1, Plaintiffs' Reply, p. 4.) As courts in this district have recognized, "[n]ewly-discovered information may provide sufficient reason to join a new party as a defendant." Westell Techs., Inc. v. Hyperedge Corp., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15688, No. 02 C 3496, 2003 WL 22088039, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 8, 2003).

Moreover, discovery does not close until April 1, 2010. Plaintiffs contend that adding the proposed individual defendants does not greatly alter the scope of discovery in this matter, and that Plaintiffs would have required discovery from the proposed individual defendants even if they did not file their Motion. Given that discovery is ongoing in this matter and no trial date has been set, DirectSat has not established that granting Plaintiffs' Motion would result in undue prejudice, or that Plaintiffs brought the Motion in bad faith. See Karpov v. Net Trucking, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3363 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 14, 2008) (granting motion to amend where no trial was set, discovery process was ongoing and no dispositive ...


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