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Butler v. Harvest Management Sub, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

February 15, 2018

PATRICIA BUTLER and WESLEY BUTLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
HARVEST MANAGEMENT SUB, LLC d/b/a HOLIDAY RETIREMENT, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Harvest Management Sub LLC's Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. # 11. Plaintiffs Patricia Butler and Wesley Butler oppose the Motion. Dkt. # 20. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The following is taken from Plaintiff's Complaint, which is assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion to dismiss. Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007).

         As a preliminary matter, Defendant requests that the Court take judicial notice of a decision in a related FLSA case involving Defendant, Cwik v. Harvest Mgmt. Sub LLC, No. 2:12-cv-08309-DMG-JC (C.D. Cal., filed Sept. 26, 2012), and the relevant filings in that case, attached as exhibits to Defendant's Motion. Dkt. # 11 Ex. A-G. As the requested documents are “matters of public record” and their authenticity is not contested, Defendant's request is granted. See Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689 (9th Cir. 2001) (“Under Fed.R.Evid. 201, a court may take judicial notice of ‘matters of public record.'”); Fed.R.Evid. 201.

         Plaintiffs bring this proposed collective action against Defendant for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 27 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant intentionally misclassified thousands of Co-Managers as exempt employees to evade federal wage and hour laws. Dkt. # 1 ¶ 3. Plaintiffs worked as Co-Managers from approximately July 2012 to November 2014. Dkt. # 1 ¶ 11. In November of 2015, Plaintiffs filed a petition for bankruptcy which was discharged in February of 2016. Dkt. # 11. Plaintiffs did not disclose a potential FLSA claim in their bankruptcy proceedings. Id. Plaintiffs filed this action on May 2, 2017. Dkt. # 1.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. FRCP 12(b)(6)

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. The rule requires the court to assume the truth of the complaint's factual allegations and credit all reasonable inferences arising from those allegations. Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007). A court “need not accept as true conclusory allegations that are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must point to factual allegations that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 568 (2007). If the plaintiff succeeds, the complaint avoids dismissal if there is “any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint” that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Id. at 563; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         A court typically cannot consider evidence beyond the four corners of the complaint, although it may rely on a document to which the complaint refers if the document is central to the party's claims and its authenticity is not in question. Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006). A court may also consider evidence subject to judicial notice. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Defendant argues that Plaintiffs are barred from pursuing their FLSA claims based on the doctrine of judicial estoppel. “Judicial estoppel is an equitable doctrine invoked by a court at its discretion.” Ah Quin v. Cty. of Kauai Dep't of Transp., 733 F.3d 267, 270 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 750, 121 S.Ct. 1808, 149 L.Ed.2d 968 (2001)). Its purpose is to “protect the integrity of the judicial process” by precluding a party from gaining an advantage by asserting one position and then later taking a clearly inconsistent position. Ah Quin, 733 F.3d at 270; see also Hamilton v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 270 F.3d 778, 782 (9th Cir. 2001).

         While the doctrine of judicial estoppel is not reducible to any “general formulation of principle, ” a court may consider the following factors to inform its decision whether to apply the doctrine in a particular case: (1) a party's later position is “clearly inconsistent” with its earlier position; (2) the party persuaded a court to accept that party's earlier position, so that judicial acceptance of an inconsistent position in a later proceeding would create the perception that the first or the second court was misled; (3) whether the party seeking to assert an inconsistent position would derive an unfair advantage or impose an unfair detriment on the opposing party if not estopped. Ah Quin, 733 F.3d at ...


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