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Whitlock v. FSL Management, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

December 14, 2016

William Whitlock; David Skyrm; Kristin Moore; Holly Goodman; Gary Muncy; Michael Brown, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
FSL Management, LLC; Entertainment Concepts Investors Services, LLC; Cordish Operating Ventures, LLC; Entertainment Consulting Services, LLC; FSH Management, LLC, Defendants-Appellants.

          Argued: October 20, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville. No. 3:10-cv-00562-Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Clark C. Johnson, STITES & HARBISON PLLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellants.

          Michele D. Henry, CRAIG HENRY PLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Clark C. Johnson, Chadwick A. McTighe, Jeffrey S. Moad, STITES & HARBISON PLLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellants.

          Michele D. Henry, CRAIG HENRY PLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellees.

          Before: GUY, BOGGS, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

         This appeal arises out of a class certification and a court-approved class-action settlement. The defendants-appellants, who were parties to the settlement, challenge both of these determinations, arguing that because the underlying Kentucky state-law cause of action does not support class relief, the district court was required to reject the settlement and decertify the class. Whatever the substance of Kentucky state law, a point which this court need not decide here, we hold that it does not affect the ability of the district court to enforce a binding settlement agreement. For this reason, we affirm the decision of the district court and uphold the disputed settlement agreement.

         I

         A

         In 2010, plaintiffs William Whitlock, David Skyrm, James Middleton, and Kristin Moore brought suit in Kentucky state court against the defendants, FSL Management, LLC, Entertainment Concepts Investors, LLC, and Cordish Operating Ventures, LLC. The plaintiffs were former employees of various establishments that operate in "Fourth Street Live, " an entertainment district located in downtown Louisville, KY that was managed by the defendants. The plaintiffs individually alleged violations of the Kentucky Wage and Hour Act, KRS § 337.385, against the defendants for their policies regarding off-the-clock work and mandatory tip-pooling. Citing proper diversity jurisdiction, defendants removed the action to federal court, whereupon the plaintiffs amended their complaint to include an additional defendant and to seek relief as a class. The court granted leave for the plaintiffs to amend their complaint, and the litigation proceeded as a class-action suit.

         In 2012, the district court granted class certification to the plaintiffs, finding that they had both met the requirements of Rule 23(a) and fell within one of the enumerated subcategories of Rule 23(b). The defendants successfully stayed the class-action litigation while they pursued interlocutory review in this court, but their petition for review was denied. In re FSL Mgmt., LLC, No. 12-0509 (6th Cir. Jan 31, 2013). In April 2013, the defendants filed a motion in the district court to reconsider its prior order certifying the class. Specifically, the defendants argued that the Supreme Court's decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426 (2013), coupled with its decision to vacate two related class-certification orders, see In re Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Products Liability Lit., 678 F.3d 409 (6th Cir. 2012), vacated and remanded, 133 S.Ct. 1722 (Apr. 1, 2013); Ross v. RBS Citizens, N.A., 667 F.3d 900 (7th Cir. 2012), vacated and remanded, 133 S.Ct. 1722 (Apr. 1, 2013), supported reconsideration of the plaintiffs' class certification. The district court denied the motion to reconsider class certification, and the parties subsequently began settlement discussions.

         In May 2014, the parties reached an agreement as to the financial component of the settlement. It would take them almost another year, however, until the parties could reach an agreement regarding the settlement's non-monetary terms. Emails between the parties suggest a final agreement was reached as to all of the settlement's terms sometime around March 19 and March 20, 2015. On March 20, 2015, the parties filed a joint status report with the district court declaring that they had ...


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