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C.R. England, Inc. v. Swift Transportation Co.

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

October 16, 2019

C.R. ENGLAND, INC., a Utah corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
SWIFT TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, a Delaware corporation, SWIFT TRANSPORTATION CO. OF ARIZONA, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, SWIFT TRANSPORTATION SERVICES, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, JOHNNY FOWLER, an individual, KEVIN WHITLEY, an individual, ALFONSO RUIZ, an individual, AKIMA BROOKS, an individual, and ANDERSON COMER, an individual, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. DEE BENSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Swift Transportation Company, Swift Transportation Co. of AZ, LLC, and Swift Transportation Services, LLC (“Swift”). (Dkt. No. 81.) The court held a hearing on the Motion on March 21, 2017. (Dkt. No. 146.) At the hearing, Plaintiff was represented by Scott Hagen and Calvin R. Winder, and Swift was represented by Stephen E. W. Hale.

         Also before the court is Plaintiff C.R. England, Inc.'s (“England”) Motion for Rule 41(a)(2) Dismissal. (Dkt. No. 188.) The Motion has been fully briefed by the parties, and the court has considered the facts and arguments set forth in those filings. Pursuant to civil rule 7- 1(f) of the United States District Court for the District of Utah Rules of Practice, the Court elects to determine the motion on the basis of the written memoranda and finds that oral argument would not be helpful or necessary. DUCivR 7-1(f).

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         England enters into employment contracts with its truck drivers who have participated in England's training program or another training program at England's expense. The agreements provide that the driver will work exclusively for England for a nine-month period of time, and that the driver will not work for any other competing trucking company during that same nine-month period of time. (Complaint, Dkt. No. 2, ¶ 27.) Each agreement also provides that England will forgive the driver's tuition debt if the driver completes the nine-month period of exclusive driving for England. (Id.)

         On October 28, 2014, England filed suit against Swift alleging that it gave notice of these agreements to Swift, and that Swift intentionally hired the truck drivers still under contract with England anyway. (Id. ¶¶ 27-29.) England brought claims against Swift for Tortious Interference with Contract, Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, Unjust Enrichment, and Civil Conspiracy. (Id., ¶¶ 108-45.)

         On April 27, 2016, Swift filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 81.) Swift argued that England's claims for tortious interference and civil conspiracy should be dismissed either because the driver agreements at issue were unenforceable, or because England failed to allege that Swift interfered with England's business relationships by “improper means.” Swift also argued that England's claim for unjust enrichment should be dismissed because it was not a proper measure of damages for the claims alleged, and that it was unsupported by the facts alleged by England.

         The court held oral argument on the Motion for Summary Judgment on March 21, 2017. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court asked for further briefing on the required elements of a claim for intentional interference with contract in light of conflicting holdings in this court. The parties filed simultaneous briefs on this issue on April 21, 2017. (Dkt. Nos. 153, 154.) After reviewing the briefing submitted by the parties, the court issued an Order Certifying Questions to the Utah Supreme Court, pursuant to Rule 41 of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure, requesting clarification as to whether the tort of intentional interference with contract requires proof of “improper means” under Utah law, and, if so, what constitutes “improper means.” (Dkt. No. 166.) On August 2, 2017, the court stayed this case pending the Opinion of the Utah Supreme Court. (Dkt. No. 174.)

         On February 27, 2019, the Utah Supreme Court issued its Opinion. (C.R. England v. Swift, 2018 UT 8 (2018); Dkt. No. 179.) The Court held that “improper means” is a required element of a claim of tortious interference. (Id.) The Court also clarified that “to prove the element of improper means based on an alleged violation of an established industry rule or standard, the plaintiff must provide evidence of an objective, industry-wide standard.” (Id.) This matter was remitted to this court on March 26, 2019. (Dkt. No. 181.)

         On May 1, 2019, England moved for leave to file supplemental briefing regarding its undue enrichment claim. (Dkt. No. 182.) The court denied that motion on July 22, 2019. (Dkt. No. 188.)

         On July 25, 2019, England filed a Motion for Rule 41(a)(2) Dismissal of its tortious interference claims (Counts II and III). (Dkt. No. 188.) England acknowledged that the allegations in those counts were insufficient to satisfy the “improper means” element of either intentional interference tort following the Opinion of the Utah Supreme Court clarifying the standard. (Id. at 3.) England stated that it did not seek leave to amend to assert some other “improper means” and that the dismissal would be with prejudice. (Id. at 3-4.) Swift opposed the Motion, arguing that England's motion did not truly seek dismissal with prejudice, but rather sought voluntary dismissal so that it could pursue the same claims in other fora. (Dkt. No. 193 at 2-3.)

         DISCUSSION

         Motion for Rule 41 Dismissal

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2) provides that after an answer has been filed, “an action may be dismissed at the plaintiff's request only by court order, on terms that the court considers proper.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41. “Absent ‘legal prejudice' to the defendant, the district court normally should grant such a dismissal.” Ohlander v. Larson, 114 F.3d 1531, 1537 (10th Cir. 1997). Factors relevant to the legal prejudice analysis include “the opposing party's effort and expense in preparing for trial; excessive ...


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