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Butler v. Pp&G, Inc.

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 6, 2013



WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. ECF No. 10. The motion is ripe. Upon consideration of the limited factual record and the applicable law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that the motion will be denied.


Plaintiff, Unique Butler, brings this action to recover unpaid minimum wages from Defendant, PP&G, Inc., which owns and operates Norma Jean's Night Club ("Night Club"). The Night Club is a gentleman's club that features female entertainers. The only facts that the parties do not dispute are: (1) Plaintiff worked as an exotic dancer at the Night Club and (2) Defendant did not pay her any wages. Defendant argues that it did not pay Plaintiff wages because she was an independent contractor and she elected not to change her status to become an employee when she was provided with the opportunity. Thus, the main issue before the Court is whether Plaintiff was an independent contractor or an employee entitled to collect minimum wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (MWPCL), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501 to 3-509.[1]

Plaintiff moves for partial summary judgment, asking the Court to find, as a matter of law, that: (1) Plaintiff was an employee under FLSA; (2) Defendant is liable to Plaintiff under FLSA; (3) Plaintiff is entitled to liquidated damages pursuant to § 216(b) of FLSA; and (4) Defendant violated MWPCL and thus, Plaintiff is entitled to treble damages under MWPCL. ECF No. 10 at 2. Were the Court to rule in Plaintiff's favor on these issues, Plaintiff asserts that the only matters that would be left for trial would be the amount of damages and whether Defendant's violation of FLSA was willful.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, "the court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The purpose of summary judgment is to dismiss claims and defenses that lack evidentiary support. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). When the moving party "will have the burden of proof at trial, they must show that no material fact remains by pointing to admissible evidence on each of the elements of their claim." Major v. CSX Transp., Inc. , 170 F.Supp.2d 563 (D. Md. 2001). The non-moving party must then point to the record showing an absence of evidence for an essential element of the moving party's claim or present "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. , 477 U.S. at 324.

All facts and inferences will be drawn in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co. , 80 F.3d 954, 958 (4th Cir. 1996). The court, however, will not rely on a party's allegations that lack supporting evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). "[A] plaintiff may not... rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Id. at 259. (citations omitted). A motion for summary judgment will be denied when there is a "dispute about a material fact [that] is genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248.


As an initial matter, the Court is concerned about the quality of briefing from both parties. In Plaintiff's reply, halfway through the pleading, Plaintiff's counsel simply copies and pastes, without explanation, nine pages of the argument he made in his original motion. Defendant's counsel's submission is similarly deficient. The Court's concerns here include the use of different fonts, grammatical errors, and citation mistakes. More significantly, the lack of any citation to relevant case law strongly undermines the Defendant's legal argument. These deficiencies notwithstanding, the Court will address the arguments made by the parties.

In her motion, Plaintiff relies almost exclusively on Defendant's "admissions" to prove that she was an employee at the Night Club. She argues that Defendant's untimely response to her Rule 36 Requests for Admissions conclusively establishes those requested admissions as now admitted. Defendant, however, asserts that this Court should allow it to withdraw those admissions. Because they are so central to Plaintiff's argument, this Court must first resolve whether the admissions can be withdrawn.

Plaintiff's counsel states that on April 24, 2013, he emailed, and sent by first class mail, Requests for Admissions to Defendant, to which Defendant did not respond within the thirty-day time frame provided by Rule 36(a). ECF No. 10 at 4. Without framing a clear argument that the Requests for Admissions were not properly served, Defendant's counsel states that, although he received the Requests for Admissions on April 24, 2013, by email, he did not receive the discovery request in the mail. ECF No. 12 at 7.[2] Without actually moving to strike the Requests, Defendant also notes that Plaintiff propounded 54 requests for admissions, which is more than the 30 requests allowed under Local Rule 104.1. Defendant's counsel further explains that he failed to timely respond to the requests because he relied on Plaintiff's counsel verbal agreement to extend the time for him to respond, although Plaintiff's counsel denies making that agreement. When Defendant's counsel learned that Plaintiff's counsel was using the admissions in support of a motion for partial summary judgment, he sent Defendant's responses to Plaintiff's counsel by fax on June 3, 2013, and by email on June 4, 2013.

The Court will assume, without deciding, that Plaintiff's service of the Requests for Admissions was proper. The Court will also assume, without deciding, that Plaintiff's counsel did not agree to an extension.[3] Nevertheless, the Court will also allow Defendant to withdraw those admissions, for the reasons that follow.

Rule 36(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that "a party may serve on any other party a written request to admit... the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1)." When a party does not respond to the Request for Admissions within 30 days after being served, the admissions are automatically admitted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(a)(3). The purpose of this discovery tool is to "narrow the array of issues before the court, and thus expedite both the discovery process ...

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