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Meerkreebs v. Astor & Sanders Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 7, 2018

GARY MEERKREEBS, Plaintiff,
v.
ASTOR & SANDERS CORP., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Gary Meerkreebs contends that he was happily working for Indus Corporation (“Indus”) when Defendants Astor & Sanders Corporation (“Astor”) and Systems Integration and Development (“Systems”) (together, the “Companies”) approached him about employment, seeking his expertise with regard to a bid proposal they would be submitting. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 7-8, 16-17, ECF No. 1.[1] Meerkreebs stated the terms of employment he would accept, and the Companies agreed, but they did not at that time memorialize the terms of the agreement in writing. Then, three months later, Astor sent him an offer letter that stated that his employment would be at-will and did not mention the specific terms discussed and agreed to in the interview. Id. ¶¶ 18-26. Relying on the representations in the interview, Meerkreebs signed the contract, resigned from Indus, and went to work for the Companies. Id. ¶¶ 26-28. In so doing, he assisted the Companies with preparing the bid that was the subject of their discussions prior to Meerkreebs accepting employment.

         As soon as the bid was submitted, the Companies reneged on some of the terms they agreed to as conditions of Meerkreebs's employment, and six weeks later, they “temporarily” terminated his employment, pending approval of the contract for which he had prepared the bid, even though one of the conditions he set was “that his position . . . not [be] dependent upon the award of any specific contract.” Id. ¶¶ 29-30, 33. Meerkreebs filed this lawsuit against the Companies, claiming intentional misrepresentation (Count I), negligent misrepresentation (Count II), and promissory estoppel (Count III). Id. ¶¶ 35-53. The Companies have moved to dismiss, ECF Nos. 13 & 14, [2] arguing that Meerkreebs cannot plausibly allege reasonable reliance on a misrepresentation or false statement, which is an element of all of his claims. But because Meerkreebs has alleged reasonable reliance and otherwise stated claims for negligent and intentional misrepresentation against the Companies, I will deny the motions. Meerkreebs consents to the dismissal of his promissory estoppel claim, and therefore I will dismiss that claim.

         Factual Background

         Sadhna Agrawal owns Defendant Astor, and her husband Ajay Agrawal owns Defendant Systems, another company “housed in the same building.” Compl. ¶¶ 9-11. The Companies “share a human resources department, as well as a single proposal department, business development department, IT department, and other shared resources, ” and the Agrawals “jointly supervise all [of the Companies'] employees.” Id. ¶¶ 13-14.

         Meerkreebs interviewed with the Companies on or about March 25, 2016 and informed them that “he wanted contract delivery responsibilities, his position could not be tied to a contract (billable versus overhead), and that his position could not be ‘at risk' if a contract ended or was not awarded.” Compl. ¶¶ 18-23. He also stated his requirements for hours, salary, and telecommuting. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Systems's chief executive officer agreed to these terms “and said ‘no problem.'” Id. ¶¶ 23, 25. Meerkreebs “received on official non-contingent offer of employment” from Astor, dated June 24, 2016 (“Offer Letter”), accepted the offer, and gave notice to Indus on June 27, 2016. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. The Offer Letter, which Meerkreebs signed on June 27, 2016, stated:

It is my pleasure to offer you a position as the Senior Project Manager at Astor & Sanders Corp. (Astor). . . .
. . .
This offer is contingent upon satisfactory results of the Astor employee background screening. . . .
This offer of employment is valid for three days from the date of this letter. Unless otherwise arranged, your starting date will be July 11, 2016. If you accept this offer of employment, you will be an at-will employee of Astor. As such, Astor makes no guarantee of continued employment or employment for a specific length of time. . . .

Offer Ltr., Astor Mem. Ex. 1, ECF No. 12-1, at 16.[3]

         Meerkreebs began working for the Companies in July 2016 and for two months, he worked on the bid proposal for them. Compl. ¶ 28. But, as soon as it was submitted, the Companies refused to honor the terms they agreed to as conditions of Meerkreebs's employment, specifically the times he wanted to arrive at and leave work each day and the telecommuting days he wanted. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. He feels that they hired him for a specific contract and once that contract's bid was submitted, they violated the terms that he demanded, and they agreed to. Id. ¶ 31. About six weeks later, the Companies told Meerkreebs that “they [we]re thinking of letting [him] go temporarily, ” while waiting for the contract to be awarded, despite having agreede in the interview that his employment would not depend on the Companies' being awarded any particular contract. Id. ¶ 33.

         Standard of Review

         The Companies move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), under which Meerkreebs's pleadings are subject to dismissal if they “fail[ ] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A pleading 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, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the [claimant] pleads factual content ...


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