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Cage v. Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 14, 2019

KAILYN CAGE, Plaintiff,
v.
NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court are three motions to dismiss, filed by Defendants University Space Research Association (ECF No. 5), Alutiiq Pacific LLC (ECF No. 10), and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (ECF No. 14). Pro se Plaintiff Kailyn Cage has not responded to the motions nor has she answered this Court's Order to show cause as to why the Court should not rule on the motions without her response. See ECF No. 16. Accordingly, the Court considers the motions fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the motions are GRANTED.

         I. Background

         On October 30, 2018, Plaintiff Kailyn Cage filed this suit against Defendants NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (“GSFC”), Alutiiq Pacific LLC (“Alutiiq”), and University Space Research Association (“USRA”) (collectively, “Defendants”), asserting claims related to an incident from Cage's time as an intern at GSFC. See ECF No. 1. On July 29, 2015, during Cage's internship, Alutiiq security officers stopped Cage for a vehicle inspection as she was leaving GSFC's campus. ECF No. 14-3 ¶ 11. Cage brings three claims against Defendants arising out of this event. Cage asserts the officers “performed an illegal search of locked vehicle compartments . . . without consent or a warrant, ” resulting in damage to her car. ECF No. 1 at 5. Cage next alleges that the officers “illegally detain[ed]” her and her property without probable cause. Id. Finally, Cage claims that she suffered “[d]eformation [sic] of character and subsequent dismissal of employment, ” including USRA's failure to pay her stipend in full. Id. Each Defendant has moved to dismiss, or for summary judgment, separately. The Court considers each motion in turn.

         II. USRA's Motion

         A. Standard of Review

         USRA moves for dismissal or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, attacking the sufficiency of the claims. ECF No. 5-1 at 1. When a motion to dismiss is styled in the alternative as a motion for summary judgment, the Court may exercise its discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to convert the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to one brought pursuant to Rule 56. See Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007); Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436 (D. Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., Md., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). Before a Rule 12(d) conversion, the parties must: (1) “be given some indication by the court that it is treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment;” and (2) “be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery.” Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013) (internal marks and citations omitted).

         The first requirement is met “[w]hen a party is aware that material outside the pleadings is before the Court.” Id. Parties are deemed to be on such notice when “the movant expressly captions its motion ‘in the alternative' as one for summary judgment and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration.” Hart v. Shearin, No. GLR-15-2056, 2016 WL 3459846, at *4 (D. Md. June 24, 2016) (citing Moret v. Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D. Md. 2005)). As to the second requirement, a party “cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party has made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.” Id. (quoting Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002)); see also Nguyen v. CNA Corp., 44 F.3d 234, 242 (4th Cir. 1995) (“[T]he failure to file an affidavit under [Rule 56(d)] is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.”) (citation omitted).

         USRA captioned its motion in the alternative for summary judgment and attached an affidavit including matters beyond the Complaint. See ECF Nos. 5, 5-3. Because Cage has been given ample opportunity to respond but has not mounted any opposition, the Court will treat the motion as one for summary judgment.

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the Court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, finds no genuine disputed issue of material fact, entitling the movant to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “A mere scintilla of proof . . . will not suffice to prevent summary judgment.” Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 314 (4th Cir. 2003).

         B. Discussion

         Cage's Complaint incudes only one claim against USRA-that USRA “failed to pay the remainder of [her] stipend” despite completion of her final project. ECF No. 1 at 5. Although Cage does not plead a particular statutory or common law claim, construed liberally, Cage appears to assert a claim for unpaid wages. Under either Maryland or federal law, however, Cage's claim is barred by the statute of limitations. A claim for unpaid wages under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law “must be filed within three years and two weeks from the date on which the employer should have paid the wage.” Butler v. VisionAIR, Inc., 385 F.Supp.2d 549, 554 (D. Md. 2005); see also Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-507.2(a); Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101. Actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act must be brought within two years, or within three years if the claim states a “willful violation.” 29 U.S.C. § 255(a).

         Viewing the evidence most favorably to Cage, her termination date was July 30, 2015, and USRA issued the final stipend payment to Cage on August 4, 2015. ECF No. 5-3 ¶ 10. From final payment, Cage had until August 18, 2018 to file an unpaid wage claim against USRA at the latest. Cage did not file suit until October 30, 2018, well beyond the allowable time. Thus, her claim is barred by the statute of limitations. The Court grants USRA's summary judgment motion.

         III. ...


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