Carlos G. Rocha, Plaintiff-Appellant,
J. Gordon Rudd, Jr., Anne T. Regan, Patricia A. Bloodgood, Zimmerman Reed PLLP, Gregory J. Meyers, Susan Ellingstad, and Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP Defendants-Appellees.
November 4, 2015
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 4857 -
Milton I. Shadur, Judge.
Kanne, Rovner, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
a group of law firms and several of their attorneys, had
previously represented Plaintiff Carlos Rocha and other FedEx
delivery drivers in an employment misclassification case
against FedEx. The employment misclassification case
ultimately settled, but Rocha was excluded from the
settlement. Just before the settlement was finalized, Rocha
retained Johnson, his current spouse, and discharged
Defendants as his counsel. Rocha later sued Defendants in
federal district court, alleging several theories of harm,
including legal malpractice and fraud, in association with
the case against FedEx. The district court dismissed
Rocha's amended complaint, and Rocha appealed. We affirm.
not a party here, much of this case's background involves
FedEx, which includes FedEx Corporation ("FedEx
Corp.") and its subsidiary FedEx Ground Package System,
Inc. ("FedEx Ground"), a business that provides
package delivery and pick-up service.
late 2005 until November 2010, "Rocha delivered packages
for FedEx's Chicago terminal, acting at various times as
an employee and an independent contractor." Rocha v.
FedEx Corp., 15 F.Supp.3d 796, 800 (N.D. Ill. 2014).
Rocha is also the owner of Arize 11, an Illinois corporation
formed in 2008, through which he contracted with FedEx.
Fluegel v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc.
April 20, 2005, a group of FedEx delivery drivers,
represented by Defendants, filed a putative class action
lawsuit against FedEx in the Northern District of Illinois.
Fluegel v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., No.
1:05-cv-02326, (N.D. Ill. dismissed Sept. 17, 2012). Their
key allegation was that FedEx had misclassified them as
independent contractors, thereby denying them protections
under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act
("IWPCA"), 820 ILCS 115/1 et seq.
that year, Fluegel was consolidated with other cases
in a multidistrict litigation ("MDL") proceeding in
the Northern District of Indiana. In Fluegel, the
MDL court denied class certification but granted partial
summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that
they were employees under the IWPCA. In re Fedex Ground
Package Sys., Inc. Emp. Practices Litig., 2010 WL
2243246 at *1 (N.D. Ind. 2010). In the fall of 2010, the MDL
court remanded Fluegel to the Northern District of
Illinois, and litigation on the case continued.
20, 2011, Rocha joined the Fluegel action. His
retainer agreement with Defendants expressly limited the
scope of Defendants' representation because he was
pursuing other claims against FedEx on behalf of Arize 11,
with separate representation by Johnson (his spouse). The
retention agreement also affirmed Rocha's "absolute
right to accept or reject any settlement" with FedEx
negotiated by Defendants.
2012, over 100 additional plaintiffs had joined the
Fluegel action. In April 2012, the parties in
Fluegel agreed to mediation. A month later, on May
25, 2012, the parties notified the court that they had
reached a tentative settlement. Soon after, Defendants were
notified by Rocha, through Johnson, that he would object to
the settlement if it required release of his Arize 11 claims.
5, 2012, Defendants explained in a letter to Rocha the
material terms of the proposed settlement, including the
total settlement amount, each individual plaintiff's
portion, and attorney's fees. Furthermore, this letter
stated that for the settlement, FedEx required "from
every Plaintiff a release of all claims against FedEx both
individually and on behalf of any associated
corporation." This letter concluded by reiterating
Rocha's ability to make the final determination of
whether to join the settlement. Throughout the summer of
2012, on multiple occasions, Defendants discussed with Rocha
the proposed settlement terms, including the required release
of all claims by Rocha and Arize 11 against FedEx.
parties in Fluegel filed a joint motion to approve
the settlement agreement, and on August 7, 2012, the district
court approved it.
September 10, 2012, Johnson filed a notice of appearance as
counsel for Rocha in Fluegel. On September 14, 2012,
Defendants filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for Rocha,
and on September 17, 2012, the district court granted this
motion, stating, "Ms. Johnson has informed
Plaintiffs' Counsel on behalf of Mr. Rocha, that she does
not oppose their withdrawal from representation of Mr.
Rocha." Also on September 17, 2012, the Fluegel
court dismissed the case with prejudice for all named
plaintiffs except Rocha, whose case was voluntarily dismissed
without prejudice. Defendants confirmed that Rocha would not
have to pay any attorney's fees or other expenses.
Rocha's Lawsuits against FedEx in Federal and State
October 30, 2012, Rocha and Arize 11, represented by Johnson,
filed a 518-paragraph, 16-count complaint against FedEx and
numerous FedEx executives, which included allegations of
violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act ("RICO"), the Sherman and Clayton
Acts, and Illinois law. Rocha eventually amended the
complaint to 17 counts. In response, FedEx filed a motion to
district court dismissed Rocha's amended complaint on
January 17, 2014, finding it to be "an egregious
violation of Rule 8(a)." Rocha, 15 F.Supp.3d at
805 (internal quotation omitted). The dismissal of
Rocha's amended complaint was without prejudice, and
Rocha was granted leave to file an amended federal complaint
if he "can address the fundamental deficiencies set
forth in this opinion in no more than 300 clear paragraphs
that are not repetitive, speculative, or conclusory."
Id. at 813. The court suggested, alternatively, that