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Whole Foods to D.C. Cir.: BMS Applies to Federal Class Actions

May 13, 2019, 9:17 PM

If Whole Foods Market Group Inc. employees wanted to bring a multistate class action against their employer, they should have done it where Whole Foods is subject to general jurisdiction, the grocery retailer told the D.C. Circuit May 10.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Ct. of Cal. “made clear that each plaintiff, no matter how similarly situated, must independently establish personal jurisdiction over his or her claim,” the company argues in its reply brief.

The employees argue that BMS involved mass tort claims in state court and therefore doesn’t apply to their federal class action.

Courts around the country are divided on whether the decision applies to class actions in federal court. The issue is percolating in three federal courts of appeal but none have ruled on it yet.

The other appeals courts are the Fifth Circuit and Seventh Circuit. The Seventh Circuit case is the only one where the lower court ruled in the defendants’ favor.

The workers allege Whole Foods denied employees in several states bonuses they were due under a company “gainsharing” program. Managers manipulated the program by shifting labor costs and altering employee time records, they say.

The lower court found it has jurisdiction over the nationwide class because BMS doesn’t apply to class actions.

Regan Zambri Long PLLC and Gupta Wessler PLLC represent the workers.

Greenberg Traurig LLP represents Whole Foods.

The case is Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc. v. Molock, D.C. Cir., No. 18-7162, reply brief 5/10/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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