United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
DAVID BROWNE, ANTONIO CALDWELL, and LUCRETIA HALL, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated PLAINTIFFS
P.A.M. TRANSPORT, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment on the Claims of
Named Plaintiff Antonio Caldwell and Opt-In Plaintiffs Based
on Estoppel (Doc. 151) and a Memorandum Brief (Doc. 152) and
Statement of Facts in Support (Doc. 153) by P.A.M. Transport
("PAM") and John Doe Defendants (collectively,
"Defendants"). Plaintiffs filed a Response (Doc.
169), and Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 179). The matter is
now ripe for decision. For the following reasons, the Court
GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 151).
seek summary judgment against Named Plaintiff Antonio
Caldwell and forty-eight Opt-In Plaintiffs on the basis of
judicial estoppel. PAM previously raised this argument in its
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Doc. 56). In its
ruling, the Court denied the motion without prejudice,
holding that the question was fact-intensive and not
appropriate for a Rule 12(c) motion. (Doc. 82, p. 13).
Caldwell and his wife filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition
and proposed plan in the Eastern District of Arkansas on June
20, 2014. He then made at least four amendments to this
proposed plan before the plan was confirmed by the bankruptcy
court in April 2015. Mr. Caldwell submitted two more
amendments to the bankruptcy plan in May 2015, and the
bankruptcy court confirmed an amended plan on June 3, 2015.
In August of that year, Mr. Caldwell began working for PAM.
He was employed by PAM for a little more than five months,
ending his employment in late January 2016. On December 9,
2016, Mr. Caldwell and fellow Named Plaintiffs David Browne
and Lucretia Hall initiated this action. Mr. Caldwell
submitted another modified plan in his bankruptcy proceeding
in August 2017, adding a new creditor, but did not inform the
bankruptcy court that this case had been filed. In November
of that year, Mr. Caidwell disclosed his bankruptcy
proceeding in response to Defendants' interrogatories.
His modified bankruptcy plan was confirmed by the bankruptcy
court on January 31, 2018. Throughout this period, Mr.
Caldwell also submitted amended schedules to the bankruptcy
court but did not indicate that he had initiated this
litigation. In May 2018, PAM filed its Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings in which it first raised the issue of judicial
estoppel. On June 26, 2018, Mr. Caldwell filed an amended
Schedule A/B in his bankruptcy case, listing for the first
time the instant "lawsuit for unpaid wages and
liquidated damages" under category 21 of personal
property, "other contingent and unliquidated claims of
every nature." (Doc. 169-6). He indicated that the
current value of his interest is "unknown."
Id. As of the writing of this opinion, Mr.
Caldwell's bankruptcy proceeding remains active.
estoppel is an equitable doctrine invoked by a court at its
discretion" in order to "prevent improper use of
judicial machinery." New Hampshire v. Maine,
532 U.S. 742, 750 (2001). Courts invoke judicial estoppel
"to protect the integrity of the judicial process by
prohibiting parties from deliberately changing positions
according to the exigencies of the moment." Id.
at 749-50 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
"The circumstances under which judicial estoppel may
appropriately be invoked are probably not reducible to any
general formulation of principle." Id. However,
the Supreme Court offers three factors to consider in
determining whether to apply the doctrine:
First, a party's later position must be clearly
inconsistent with its earlier position. Second, courts
regularly inquire whether the party has succeeded in
persuading a court to accept that party's earlier
position, so that judicial acceptance of an inconsistent
position in a later proceeding would create the perception
that either the first or the second court was misled. Absent
success in a prior proceeding, a party's later
inconsistent position introduces no risk of inconsistent
court determinations, and thus poses little threat to
judicial integrity. A third consideration is whether the
party seeking to assert an inconsistent position would derive
an unfair advantage or impose an unfair detriment on the
opposing party if not estopped.
Id. at 750-51 (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). The Eighth Circuit has cautioned that
"[c]ourts should only apply the doctrine as an
extraordinary remedy when a party's inconsistent behavior
will result in a miscarriage of justice." Stallings
v. Hussmann Corp., 447 F.3d 1041, 1049 (8th Cir. 2006).
Named Plaintiff Caldwell
Court first turns to the matter of judicial estoppel as to
Named Plaintiff Antonio Caldwell. Both parties have provided
the Court with copies of documents from Mr. Caldwell's
bankruptcy proceedings, and the Court finds it appropriate to
take judicial notice of these filings as public records.
See Bazzelte v. Compasspointe Healthcare
System, 2016 WL 6832643, at *2 (W.D. Ark. Nov. 18,
2016) (so holding in the context of a Rule 12(c) motion for
judgment on the pleadings).
Court first considers whether Mr. Caldwell has taken
inconsistent positions in his bankruptcy proceeding and
before this Court. Defendants assert that because Mr.
Caldwell failed to disclose this action on the modified plan
confirmed by the bankruptcy court after this litigation began
and did not update his Schedule A/B until after Defendants
brought the matter to his attention, he has taken the
position before the bankruptcy court that this action does
not exist while he attempts to litigate it here, a clearly
inconsistent position. In support, Defendants direct the
Court to multiple cases in which the Eighth Circuit has
agreed with a lower court that a plaintiff took inconsistent
positions in his or her bankruptcy proceeding and before the
district court. See Stallings, 447 F.3d at 1049
(bankruptcy petitioner's "failure to amend his
bankruptcy schedules to include his [post-petition] claim
against [his employer] represented to the bankruptcy court
that no such claims existed," and his position was
inconsistent with his subsequent filing of those claims in
federal district court); see also Van Horn v.
Martin,812 F.3d 1180, 1183 (8th Cir. 2016) (same);
Jones v. Bob Evans Farms, Inc.,811 F.3d 1030, 1033
(8th Cir. 2016) (same); E.E.O.C. v. CRST Van Expedited
Inc.,679 F.3d 657, 679 (8th Cir. 2012) (same). In each
of these cases, however, the plaintiff ultimately had his or
her bankruptcy discharged or dismissed without having ever
amended the relevant schedules. See Stallings, 447
F.3d at 1045; Van Horn, 812 F.3d at 1182; Bob