United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V. EAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Opposed Motion for Leave
to File a First Amended Complaint and Brief in Support (Dkt.
# 26). Plaintiff Kazem Mousavi requests leave to file an
amended complaint adding a claim of negligence based on
California labor law. Defendants John Christner Trucking, LLC
(JCT) and Three Diamond Leasing, LLC oppose plaintiff's
request and argue that the proposed amended complaint is
untimely and futile.
January 3, 2019, plaintiff filed this case alleging that
defendants placed a surveillance device inside the cab of his
tractor-trailer, and he claims that this caused him severe
emotional distress. Dkt. # 2. Plaintiff alleged claims under
the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §
2520 (ECPA), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and he also alleged
state law claims of invasion of privacy, negligence, and
breach of contract. The Court entered a scheduling order
(Dkt. # 19), inter alia, setting a deadline of May
1, 2019 for parties to file motions seeking leave to join
additional parties or amend pleadings. Defendants filed a
motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 9) plaintiff's claims under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court granted the motion in part
and dismissed plaintiff's § 1981 and negligence
claims, but the Court denied the motion as to plaintiff's
remaining claims. Dkt. # 25.
has filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint
adding a negligence claim under California law. As a matter
of California law, an injured employee may bring a civil suit
for monetary damages if his employer fails to secure the
payment of workers' compensation benefits. Cal. Lab. Code
§ 3706. Plaintiff “seeks to add factual
allegations to support this claim (i.e., allegations that
show [JCT] misclassified [p]laintiff as an independent
contractor rather than an employee).” Dkt. # 26, at 2.
The Court has reviewed plaintiff's proposed amended
complaint, and the proposed amended complaint re-alleges the
previously dismissed claims, even though plaintiff has not
sought leave to include these claims in an amended complaint.
Dkt. # 26, at 14-16. Plaintiff states that he is aware that
the Court dismissed certain claims, and he re-alleges the
dismissed claims for the purpose of preserving these claims
for appeal. Id. at 14-15.
oppose plaintiff's motion to amend, and they have advised
the Court that there is a separate class action lawsuit
pending before the Honorable Gregory K. Frizzell that will
resolve the underlying issue of drivers' status as
employees or independent contractors. See Thomas
Huddleston et al. v. John Christner Trucking, LLC,
17-CV-549-GKF-FHM (N.D. Okla.). Huddleston was
originally filed in the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of California, and it was later transferred
to the Northern District of Oklahoma. The case concerns
JCT's alleged misclassification of its drivers as
independent contractors, and Thomas Huddleston, the
representative of the putative class and collective action,
alleges claims under federal, California, and Oklahoma law.
The complaint specifically requests a ruling that JCT's
drivers should be treated as employees as a matter of
California labor law. Judge Frizzell conditionally certified
the case as a collective action under the Fair Labor
Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), and Mousavi filed a
notice of consent to join in the collective action.
Huddleston, 17-CV-549-GKF-FHM, Dkt. # 90 (N.D. Okla.
July 10, 2018). JCT has filed a motion asking Judge Frizzell
to find that California law is inapplicable and that Oklahoma
substantive law should govern the plaintiff's state law
claims. Huddleston, 17-CV-549-GKF-FHM, Dkt. # 158
(N.D. Okla. Apr. 19, 2019). There is also a pending motion
for class certification seeking the creation of three
separate classes, and two of those classes would require
Judge Frizzell to determine whether drivers were improperly
classified as independent contractors under California law.
Huddleston, 17-CV-549-GKF-FHM, Dkt. # 162, at 10-12
(N.D. Okla. Apr. 22, 2019).
argue that plaintiff knew the basis for his new negligence
claim at the time the complaint was filed, and
plaintiff's request to file an amended complaint should
be denied as untimely. Dkt. # 31, at 3-5. They claim that
plaintiff plainly knew that there was an issue as to his
status as employee or independent contractor, because he is a
member of the putative class in the case before Judge
Frizzell. Id. at 4. Plaintiff responds that there
are no issues concerning workers' compensation coverage
in Huddleston, and he claims that his Oklahoma
counsel was not familiar with California law when he filed
the complaint in this case. Dkt. # 37, at 3. The Court does
not find that plaintiff's motion to amend is untimely.
The deadline to file motions to join parties or amend
pleadings was May 1, 2019, and plaintiff's motion was
filed on that date. Plaintiff certainly could have included
his workers' compensation claim in his complaint, because
he knew of the factual and legal basis for this claim based
on his own involvement in the Huddleston case.
However, the motion to amend was filed within the deadline
set by the Court and defendants have not shown that allowing
the amendment would delay resolution of this case.
though the motion to amend is timely, the Court finds that
motion should be denied for other reasons. Plaintiff
repeatedly suggests that his proposed amended complaint would
assert a new negligence claim and that the real issue is
defendants' failure to obtain workers' compensation
coverage. However, the dispositive issue for plaintiffs new
negligence claim is whether he was improperly classified as
an independent contractor by JCT. This is a complex factual
and legal issue that is squarely at issue in
Huddleston, and plaintiff is a member of the
putative class in Huddleston. The Court finds no
reason for two separate judges to rule on the same issue, and
the interests of judicial economy strongly favor denying
plaintiffs motion to amend. Should Judge Frizzell find that
JCT's drivers were improperly classified as independent
contractors, the Court would consider allowing plaintiff to
file an amended complaint asserting claims related to the
dispute concerning his employment status if he can show that
such claims cannot be asserted in Huddleston. It
would be a waste of judicial resources for two judges to
consider the employment status of JCT's drivers, and
plaintiffs motion to amend should be denied.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiffs Opposed Motion
for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint and Brief ...