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Troy Lindell and Mark Pope v. Synthes

May 10, 2012

TROY LINDELL AND MARK POPE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SYNTHES, USA., ET. AL. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER TO STAY ACTION AND TO SET STATUS CONFERENCE

Plaintiffs in this case are Troy Lindell and Mark Pope ("Plaintiffs"), former employees of Defendant Synthes, USA ("Synthes"), a major medical device manufacturer. Plaintiffs have sued Synthes on behalf of a putative class of current, former, and future Synthes employees for various Labor Code violations ("Pope Action"). Synthes has moved for an order staying the Pope Action pending the outcome of a bankruptcy proceeding in the related case of In re Mark Randall Pope, case no. 1:11-cv-12222 (the "Pope Bankruptcy"), which is currently pending before the Bankruptcy Court of this District and Division. Plaintiffs' filed an opposition to the motion (Doc. 42), to which Synthes replied on May 4, 2012 (Doc. 46). The matter was taken under submission without oral argument by this Court on May 7, 2012. (Doc. 47). For the reasons that follow, the Court orders that Defendant's Motion to Stay is GRANTED.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On December 13, 2011, Plaintiffs filed the proposed class action seeking reimbursement for business expenses and unlawfully withheld wages on behalf of a putative class of former, and future sales consultants employed in California by Synthes. (Pl's Compl. at ¶ 1, Doc. 24). According to the Complaint, the sales consultants in the proposed class worked overtime hours and traveled frequently without proper reimbursement and compensation. (Id. at ¶ 3.) As alleged, Plaintiffs' claim Synthes wrongfully denied sales consultants business expense reimbursement in violation of California Labor Code § 2802 and took unlawful wage deductions in violation of California Labor Code §§ 221, 223, and 300. (Id. at ¶¶ 70--84). Plaintiffs have also pleaded violations of the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 et seq., and seek related civil penalties under the California Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 ("PAGA"). (Id. at ¶¶ 91-105.).

A. Pertinent Procedural History

On June 6, 2010, Synthes commenced and action against Mark Pope in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for an alleged failure to honor a non-compete agreement. ("Synthes Action"). (Doc. 31, Ex. 1). On September 10, 2010, the Pennsylvania Court entered an order enjoining Pope from certain solicitation activities and imposing a judgment in favor of Synthes for over $156,000.00. (Doc. 31, Ex. 2).

On February 25, 2011, after the Pennsylvania default judgment was entered, Pope sought bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California. (Pl's Opp'n. at 5, Worthman Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. 1). On April 26, 2011, the Bankruptcy Trustee determined that Pope's bankruptcy case was no asset case. (Doc. 31, Ex. 4). Pope was granted a discharge, and a final decree was entered on June 30, 2011. The Pope Bankruptcy was subsequently closed on July 11, 2011. (Id.)

As seen above, after receiving a discharge of his debts, on December 13, 2011, Pope and Lindell commenced the Pope Action against Synthes. (Doc. 1). Several months later, on March 15, 2012, Pope moved to reopen his bankruptcy proceedings in order to schedule the potential asset involved with his stake in the Pope Action. The Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California reopened Pope's case, and again directed the appointment of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee. (Worthman Decl., Doc. 42, Ex. 2). After the bankruptcy was reopened, Pope amended his Schedules to include his claim against Synthes. On April 25, 2012, Synthes moved in the Bankruptcy Court for an order to vacate the order reopening the case, which is still pending before the Bankruptcy Court. (Worthman Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. 1).

On May 5, 2012, having found that Pope's bankruptcy was a no asset case, the Bankruptcy Trustee again requested a discharge from any further duties as trustee in the Pope Bankruptcy. Pope has until June 2, 2012 to file any objections to the trustee's determination. If no objections are filed, the Bankruptcy Court will enter an order discharging the trustee and closing the case. In re Mark Randall Pope (case no. 1:11-cv-12222).

Synthes now moves for an order staying the underlying Pope Action pending the final determination of the Pope Bankruptcy.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal district courts have the power to stay ongoing proceedings "incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). Where there is an independent proceeding related to a matter before the trial court, the Court may "find it is efficient for its own docket and the fairest course for the parties to enter a stay of an action before it, pending resolution of independent proceedings which may bear upon the case." Mediterranean Enters. v. Ssangyong Corp., 708 F.2d 1458, 1465 (9th Cir. 1983).

In determining whether a stay is appropriate, the Court is to consider "the possible damage which may result from the granting of a stay, the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law which could be expected to result from a stay." Landis, 299 U.S. at 254. A district court's decision to grant or deny a stay is a matter of discretion. See Dependable Highway Exp., Inc. v. Navigators Ins. Co., 498 F.3d 1059, 1066 (9th Cir. ...


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