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Herrera v. Ilhan

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

June 21, 2013

ROSALBA HERRERA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HAKAN ILHAN, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

This Memorandum Opinion addresses the Motion to Dismiss Complaint of Plaintiff Jose Santiago Ramirez Ramirez and supporting Memorandum that Defendants Foxhall Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Pizza Autentica ("Foxhall"), First Annex, Inc. d/b/a Cafe Cantina ("First Annex"), and Hakan Ilhan filed, ECF No. 14; Plaintiff Ramirez's Opposition, ECF No. 16; and Defendants' Reply, ECF No. 19; as well as the Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim of First Annex, Inc. Against Ana Lidia Alas and Rosalba Herrera that Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants Alas and Herrera filed, ECF No. 17, along with a supporting Memorandum, ECF No. 18-1; Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff First Annex's Opposition, ECF No. 21; and Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants Alas and Herrera's Reply, ECF No. 22. Plaintiffs Herrera, Alas and Ramirez have requested a hearing. ECF No. 23. I find that a hearing is unnecessary in this case. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Ramirez's Complaint, which the Court construes as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is GRANTED; Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants Alas and Herrera's Motion to Dismiss First Annex's Counterclaim against them is GRANTED; and First Annex is granted leave to amend its Counterclaim.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, former employees of Defendants, filed this Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 ("FLSA") action against Defendants, claiming that Defendants failed to pay Plaintiffs "their final pay for the hours that they worked from September 17, 2012 to October 3, 2012" or adequate overtime wages, and paid Ramirez "less than the required minimum wage." Compl. ¶¶ 17-18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 34 & 40, ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs also alleged that, through these acts, Defendants violated the D.C. Minimum Wage Act Revision Act of 1992, D.C. Code Ann. §§ 32-1001-32-1015; the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law, D.C. Code Ann. §§ 32-1301-32-1310; and the Virginia Payment of Wage Law, Va. Code Ann. §§ 40.1-29-40.1-33. Compl. ¶¶ 48, 54, 60-62 & 67-68.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW - MOTION TO DISMISS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose "is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.'" Id. (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief, " as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. See Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (discussing standard from Iqbal and Twombly ). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663.

III. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS RAMIREZ'S CLAIMS

A. Conversion of a Motion to Dismiss to a Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants move to dismiss Ramirez's complaint, contending that Ramirez "received payment from Defendants of the sum of $1, 637.00 in consideration of a release of all claims set forth in his Complaint." Defs.' Mot. ¶ 1. They attach to their Motion a handwritten release ("Release"), signed "Jose Ramirez" and dated "11/16/2012, " which states: "I have received all my back pay from Cafe Cantina, 1750 H St N.W. DC, and Pizza Autentica, Ballston location. I do not have any claims against both of the above mentioned locations anymore. $1637 (total pay)[.]"[1] Id. Ex. A.

Ramirez argues that Defendants' contention that Ramirez has settled his claims "is neither part of a verified Motion nor supported by an affidavit attesting to the facts alleged, " nor integral to the Complaint. Ramirez Opp'n 6. Ramirez insists that "[t]he document attached as Exhibit A to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss also should be disregarded by the Court because it is extrinsic evidence that is not integral to and explicitly relied upon by Plaintiff Ramirez in his Complaint, " and it is "unsworn, unauthenticated, and unreliable." Id. According to Ramirez, "[t]he Fourth Circuit has made it clear that extrinsic evidence attached by a defendant to a motion to dismiss should not be considered unless it was integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint and the plaintiffs do not challenge its authenticity." Id. at 6-7.

In his Reply, Plaintiff Ramirez requests that the Court "treat the Motion to Dismiss as a Motion under Rule 56, " and he attaches an affidavit of Hakan Ilhan, President of Foxhall and First Annex, to "verif[y] the authenticity of the signed release document and the payment of consideration to the Plaintiff pursuant to that release." Defs.' Reply 2 & Ex. A. Ilhan's Affidavit states that the Release "is a true and accurate copy of a business record of Foxhall Enterprises Inc. kept in the ordinary course of business, " and that Foxhall "paid the consideration stated in the Release." Ilhan Aff. ¶¶ 3-4.

It is true that, for the Court to consider documents attached to a motion to dismiss when reviewing the motion as a motion to dismiss, the documents must be "integral to the complaint and their authenticity [must] not [be] disputed." CACI Int'l v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 566 F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009). However, the Court may consider a broader array of documents when it treats a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, which it may do pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). See Syncrude Canada Ltd. v. Highland Consulting Grp., Inc., No. RDB-12-318, 2013 WL 139194, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 10, 2013). When the Court does so, "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Notably, "the Federal Rules do not prescribe that any particular notice be given before a Rule 12 motion is converted to a Rule 56 motion." Ridgell v. Astrue, DKC-10-3280, 2012 WL 707008, at *7 (D. Md. Mar. 2, 2012). Thus, this requirement "can be satisfied when a party is aware that material outside the pleadings is before the court.'" Walker v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., No. CCB-12-3151, 2013 WL 2370442, at *3 (D. Md. May 30, 2013) (quoting Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985)). Indeed, while the Court "clearly has an obligation to notify parties regarding any court-instituted changes in the pending proceedings, [it] does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious." Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998). It is obvious that the Court may construe a motion that is styled as a "Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, " as a motion for summary judgment. Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7; see Laughlin, 149 F.2d at 260-61. And, even if the motion is simply titled "Motion to Dismiss, " as is the case here, "the fact that defendant had attached other materials to its motion should have alerted plaintiff to the possibility" that the Court would treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment. Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7; see Laughlin, 149 F.2d at 260-61.

Here, Defendants attached the Release as Exhibit A to their Motion to Dismiss. Consequently, Defendants' attachment and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure gave Plaintiff Ramirez adequate notice that the Court could construe Defendants' motion as one for summary judgment. Laughlin, 149 F.2d at 260-61; Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7. And, because Ramirez challenges the use of the Release in his memorandum, see Pl.'s Opp'n 6-7, he obviously was aware of its existence and Defendants' reliance on it. The Court will treat Defendants' motion as a motion for summary judgment.

Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, No. 12-1722, ___ F.3d ___, 2013 WL 1866940, at *3 (4th Cir. May 6, 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat a motion for ...


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