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Peck v. Air Evac EMS, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division

July 17, 2019

JASON PECK, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
AIR EVAC EMS, INC., d/b/a AIR EVAC LIFETEAM, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DANNY C. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jason Peck has filed an unopposed motion for class certification and for preliminary approval of a class action settlement for unpaid overtime. [Record No. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20] United States Magistrate Judge Matthew Stinnett issued a report, recommending that the Court approve the settlement agreement, certify the class, approve the notice and opt-out forms, and approve a website and first-class mailings distributing notice to class members. [Record No. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2]

         This Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1');">1). The Court is not required to review claims in which neither party objects to the findings of the magistrate judge. Thomas v. Arn, 1');">140');">474 U.S. 1');">140, 1');">150 (1');">1985). Here, the parties jointly objected only to correct the magistrate judge's erroneous references to sleep time.[1');">1" name="FN1');">1" id="FN1');">1">1');">1] [Record No. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23] After reviewing the settlement agreement and the report and recommendation, the Court will preliminarily approve the settlement agreement and notice. The Court will also conditionally certify the class, approve class counsel, and appoint a class representative.

         I.

         Peck, a former flight nurse employed by Defendant Air Evac EMS, Inc. (“Air Evac”), filed a purported class action on behalf of current and former flight paramedics, flight nurses, and pilots employed by Air Evac, for overtime compensation between October 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">25, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">13, to the present. Prior to March 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">14, the defendant's overtime policy required an employee to work one hundred twenty hours per two-week pay period before receiving overtime. From March 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">14 to July 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">18, the policy required that an individual work eighty-four hours per pay period before receiving overtime. Air Evac's policy provided that non-exempt employees were entitled to shift pay when hours were worked in excess of 7 shifts per given pay period. The defendant changed its overtime policy prior to reaching the settlement to pay all flight nurses, flight paramedics, and pilots overtime for all time worked in excess of forty hours per week. Peck asserts that Air Evac's former policy violates the Kentucky Wage and Hour Act (“KWHA”).

         The plaintiff filed this lawsuit in Fayette Circuit Court on October 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">25, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">18. The defendant removed the matter to this Court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act. In a companion case, this Court previously found that air ambulance companies are not exempt from the KWHA. Day et al. v. Air Methods Corp., No. 1');">17-1');">183, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">17 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1');">174693 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">17). Air Evac concluded it would likely be found liable for unpaid overtime and the parties agreed that mediation would be helpful in resolving this matter. The parties used experts to analyze payroll and time data. They agreed that there was great uncertainty and, in the absence of an approved settlement, the parties could face long and uncertain litigation.

         The parties reached an agreement that includes a monetary maximum gross settlement fund of $3, 000, 000.00, including up to $800, 000.00 in attorney's fees and costs and a $1');">15, 000.00 incentive to Peck. [Record No. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20-2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, p. 6] The proposed class is “[a]ll current and former flight nurses, flight paramedics, and pilots employed by [Air Evac] in the Commonwealth of Kentucky at any time from October 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">25, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">13 through [] preliminary approval.” [Record No. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20-2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, p. 30] The parties agree that the class includes 42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 current and former employees of Air Evac.

         The defendant will pay the total settlement amount into a settlement fund if approved. The class members who do not opt-out of their share of the net settlement fund will receive their share after deductions for attorney's fees, costs, and the incentive to Peck. Rust Consulting, Inc., will administer the net settlement fund and provide notice to potential class members. The parties state that the agreement requires that the administrator finalize and mail by first class mail a notice packet and opt-out form to each member of the class, maintain a static website where the notice can be downloaded, and respond to inquiries from the class members regarding procedures to be followed. Further, the administrator will attempt to locate current addresses for the class members if the notice packet is returned as undeliverable and will resend the notice and opt-out form. If a class member does not timely submit a request to opt-out of the action, his or her claims will be released and barred once the settlement is final. Individual settlement payments were calculated by reviewing Air Evac's time and payroll records to establish the amount of unpaid overtime assuming that Peck's class claims were true. [Record No. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20-2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, pp. 1');">17-2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">27]

         II.

         The plaintiff has filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of the class action settlement and release, the proposed notice and opt-out forms, and for attorney's fees. [Record No. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20] Before the Court can preliminarily approve the class action settlement, it must preliminarily certify the class under Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(a) and (b) of the Federal Rules of the Civil Procedure, appoint class counsel, and approve the class representative. Afterward, it must determine if the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable. UAW v. GMC, 1');">15');">497 F.3d 61');">15, 631');">1 (6th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2007).

         a. Certification of the Class

         Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets out the requirements for maintaining a class action. Before the Court may certify a class, the proposed class must satisfy all four of the threshold requirements of Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(a): numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. In re American Medical Sys., Inc., 1');">1069');">75 F.3d 1');">1069, 1');">1079 (6th Cir. 1');">1996). If each of these four prerequisites is established, then the plaintiffs must show that the class may be maintained under one of the theories available under Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(b). Glazer v. Whirlpool Corp. (In re Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Prods. Liab. Litig.), 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 F.3d 838');">72');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 F.3d 838, 851');">1 (6th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">13), cert. denied, 1');">1 U.S. 1');">11');">196');">571');">1 U.S. 1');">11');">196 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">14).

         The party seeking to certify a class bears the burden of establishing that certification is proper. In re American Medical Sys., Inc., 75 F.3d at 1');">1079. A class action may not be approved simply “by virtue of its designation as such in the pleadings” nor may prospective class representatives simply rely upon “mere repetition of the language of Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(a)” to support their motion. Id. Instead, an adequate basis for each prerequisite must be pled and supported by the facts. Weathers v. Peters Realty Corp., 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 1');">11');">197');">499 F.2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 1');">11');">197, 1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">200 (6th Cir. 1');">1974); see also Pipefitters Local 636 Ins. Fund v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, 1');">18');">654 F.3d 61');">18, 62');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">29 (6th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">11');">1), cert. denied, 1');">132');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 S.Ct. 1');">1757');">1');">132');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 S.Ct. 1');">1757 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2). Additionally, the Court must engage in a rigorous analysis to determine whether the prerequisites of Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23 are satisfied. Glazer, 72');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 F.3d at 851');">1. There is a heightened standard for certification of a settlement-only class. See UAW, 497 F.3d at 62');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">25.

         At the outset, the Court must determine whether the class definition is “sufficiently definite so that it is administratively feasible for the court to determine whether a particular individual is a member of the proposed class.” Young v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 693 F.3d 532');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 (6th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2). The Court must also determine whether the named plaintiff is a member of the proposed class. Brashear v. Perry County, No. 06-1');">143, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77471');">1, at *4 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2006); Thacker v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.LC., 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">259 F.R.D. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">262');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">266 (E.D. Ky. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2009). Here, the parties have agreed that there are 42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 members of the class. The individuals in the class are sufficiently definite because they are current and former flight paramedics, flight nurses, and pilots for Air Evac from October 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">13 to the present. The named plaintiff is a member of the class because he is a former flight nurse for Air Evac. The Court can determine whether class members are included in the class by looking to the employment and payroll information of Air Evac for the relevant time period and omit persons who choose to opt-out of the class. Accordingly, the class is sufficiently definite and the named plaintiff is a member of the proposed class.

         i. Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(a)

         The parties stipulated to certification of the class for the purpose of settlement only. However, the Court will independently review the factors set forth for certification of the class. Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(a) states:

One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if:
(1');">1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
(2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">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.

         First, the putative class meets the numerosity requirement. “There is no strict numerical test for determining impracticability of joinder.” In re American Medical Sys., 75 F.3d at 1');">1079. In the present case, there are 42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 individuals in the proposed class which is ascertainable from the defendant's employment records. The class is sufficiently numerous such that joinder of all members of the class would be impracticable.

         Second, there is a common question of law or fact common to the class. To show commonality, the plaintiffs' claims must be based on a common contention that is “of such a nature that it is capable of class wide resolution - which means that determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each one of the claims in one stroke.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 349 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">11');">1). “The commonality test is qualitative, rather than quantitative, that is, there need be only a single issue common to all members of the class.” In re American Medical Sys., 75 F.3d at 1');">1080. The common question presented in this action is whether the defendant should have paid the putative class members for overtime in accordance with KRS Chapter 337. All members of the proposed class were subject to the same overtime provision at the same company.

         Third, Peck's claims are typical of the class.

Typicality determines whether a sufficient relationship exists between the injury to the named plaintiff and the conduct affecting the class, so that the court may properly attribute a collective nature to the challenged conduct. . . . Thus, a plaintiff's claim is typical if it arises from the same event or practice or course of conduct that gives rise to the claims of other class members, and if his or her claims are based on the same legal theory.

In re American Medical Sys., 75 F.3d at 1');">1082');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 (internal citations and quotations omitted). Peck's claims are typical of the class because he was subject to the same overtime provisions as the other members of the putative class and his injury is directly related to the wrong of the class. Further, a representative's claim can still be typical even if the class members suffer varying levels of injury. See Reese v. CNH Am., LLC, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">27 F.R.D. 483');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">27 F.R.D. 483, 487-88 (E.D. Mich. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2005) (referencing Bittinger v. Tecumseh Prods. Co., 1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23 F.3d 877');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23 F.3d 877, 884-85 (6th Cir. 1');">1997)). Some members of the class will receive higher settlements because they worked more overtime. But the overtime provision and legal theory are the same for all class members.

         Finally, the Court must “measure the adequacy of the class members' representation based upon two factors: ‘1');">1) the representatives must have common interests with unnamed members of the class, and 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2) it must appear that the representatives will vigorously prosecute the interests of the class through qualified counsel.'” Greenberg v. Procter & Gamble Co. (In re Dry Max Pampers Litig.), 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24 F.3d 71');">13');">72');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">24 F.3d 71');">13, 72');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">21');">1 (6th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">13) (quoting Vassalle v. Midland Funding LLC, 708 F.3d 747, 757 (6th Cir. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">13)). Class representatives are generally adequate if the representatives are “part of the class and possess the same interest and suffer the same injury as the class members.” East Tex. Motor Freight Sys. Inc. v. Rodriguez, 1');">1 U.S. 395');">431');">1 U.S. 395, 303 (1');">1977).

         The defendant concedes for purposes of settlement that the named plaintiff and counsel are adequate. The named plaintiff in this action is a member of the class, he suffered the same injury as the unnamed class members, and he possesses the same interest in receiving his past overtime compensation. It does not appear that there is a conflict among the named plaintiff and the unnamed members of the class because all of the class members will receive what they are actually owed for past overtime. Accordingly, Jason Peck can be appointed as class representative.

         “In making the determination of adequacy of representation the district court should consider the experience and ability of counsel for the plaintiffs.” Cross v. National Trust Life Ins. Co., 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 1');">102');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">26');">553 F.2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2d 1');">102');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">26, 1');">1031');">1 (6th Cir. 1');">1977). The parties and the magistrate judge explain that plaintiff's counsel are experienced in class action litigation and are also involved as plaintiff's counsel in a similar class action before this Court. Based on the foregoing, the Court concludes that named plaintiff and class counsel are adequate.

         In summary, the prerequisites of Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(a) are satisfied.

         ii. Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(b)

         The plaintiff moved for certification of this class action under Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(b)(3), which states that:

A class action may be maintained if Rule 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">23(a) ...

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