Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Geo Group, Inc.

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

February 28, 2018

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE GEO GROUP, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER ON STATE'S MOTION TO DISMISS OR STRIKE DEFENDANT'S COUNTERCLAIMS AND AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES

          ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff State of Washington's Motion to Dismiss or Strike Defendant's Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses. Dkt. 37. The Court has considered the motion, Defendant The Geo Group, Inc.'s Response, Plaintiff's Reply, Defendant's Answer, and the remainder of the file herein. Dkts. 34, 37, 40, 42.

         This case arises out of the allegation that Defendant failed to compensate immigration detainees commensurate with the Washington Minimum Wage Act. See Dkt. 1. The Answer alleges a counterclaim for Unjust Enrichment-Offset, which Plaintiff moves to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. 37 at 7. The Answer also alleges counterclaims for declaratory and injunctive relief, which Plaintiff moves to strike under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Id. at 11-13. See Dkt. 34 at ¶¶12.1-12.16 and 12.16.1-12.16.4 (the accompanying prayer for relief). The Answer raises thirteen affirmative defenses, almost all of which Plaintiff seeks to strike. Id. at 14. See id. ¶¶8.1-8.13.

         Facts alleged in the Answer and procedural history are introduced below where relevant to discussion of each counterclaim and affirmative defense.

         I. COUNTERCLAIMS AND AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES 8.10 (Plaintiff's unjust enrichment) AND 8.12 (offset) (Dkt. 34 at ¶¶8.10, 8.12, 11.1-12.16)

         A. Standards for relief.

         Plaintiff seeks dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) motions to dismiss may be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Material allegations are taken as admitted and the complaint is construed in the plaintiff's favor. Keniston v. Roberts, 717 F.2d 1295 (9thCir. 1983). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-55 (2007) (internal citations omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555. The complaint (or counterclaim) must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 547.

         Plaintiff also moves to strike under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). The rule is designed to help “avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial.” Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Under Rule 12(f), courts may “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Motions to strike are disfavored, because they “may be used as delaying tactics and because of the strong policy favoring resolution on the merits.” Barnes v. AT&T Pension Ben. Plan-Nonbargained Program, 718 F.Supp.2d 1167 (N.D.Cal.2010), citing to Stanbury Law Firm v. I.R.S., 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir.2000).

         B. Counterclaim for Unjust Enrichment-Offset and Affirmative Defenses 8.10 (Plaintiff's unjust enrichment) and 8.12 (offset) (Dkt. 34 at ¶¶8.10, 8.12, 11.1-11.8)

         Defendant's Unjust Enrichment counterclaim alleges that, as required by ICE, GEO operates the Voluntary Work Program, which is not intended to, and does not, create an employer/employee relationship between GEO and detainees, whose participation is voluntary. Dkt. 34 at ¶11.1. The program is intended to promote institutional maintenance and reduce detainee idleness, it is alleged, with no traditional, standard, performance metrics used to measure job performance. Id. at ¶11.3. The counterclaim “does not seek any positive award . . . against the State[, ]” but Defendant seeks an offset for the costs of detention not contemplated in the initial ICE-GEO contract if Plaintiff prevails and is awarded disgorgement money from Defendant. Id. at ¶11.7. Such an award would unjustly enrich Plaintiff with a “windfall” and would duplicate any award to the plaintiff in Chen v. GEO, W.D.Wash. Cause No. 3:17-cv-05769-RJB, Defendant alleges. Id. at ¶¶11.7, 11.8.

         Defendant separately alleges two related affirmative defenses, Affirmative Defense 8.10 (Plaintiff's unjust enrichment) and Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset), which read:

8.10 Plaintiff seeks unjust enrichment.
8.12 GEO has not been unjustly enriched by any work performed by detainees, because GEO has provided services to detainees, and any award against GEO for unjust enrichment must be offset by costs incurred for caring for plaintiffs during their time in detention.

Dkt. 34 at 7.

         Defendant acknowledges that Affirmative Defense 8.10 (Plaintiff's unjust enrichment), overlaps with the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim. Dkt. 40 at 24, ln. 16-18. The defense should be stricken as redundant.

         Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset) includes general denial language in the first clause (“GEO has not been unjustly enriched”), which should be stricken because it is not helpful and serves only to detract from the core affirmative defense raised, offset. The second clause of Affirmative Defense 8.12 (“any award . . . must be offset) is properly raised as an affirmative defense.

         Remaining for consideration is whether to dismiss the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim for failure to state a claim, and whether to strike the second clause of Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset).

         “Unjust enrichment of a person occurs when he has and retains money or benefits which in justice and equity belong to another.” Bailie Commc'ns, Ltd. v. Trend Bus. Sys., Inc., 61 Wn.App. 151, 159 (1991). A claim for unjust enrichment has three elements: (1) the defendant [or counter-defendant] receives a benefit, (2) the received benefit is at the plaintiff's [or counter-plaintiff's] expense, and (3) the circumstances make it unjust for the defendant [or counter-defendant] to retain the benefit without payment. Young v. Young, 164 Wn. 2d 477, 484-85 (2008).

         The Court considered the pleadings with care, but Defendant's theory for the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim is unclear. Although at the pleadings stage Defendant need not reveal the entirety of its counterclaim theory, the pleadings fail to allege-and Defendant's Response (Dkt. 40 at 24, 25) fails to point to-sufficient alleged facts that could any way provide notice of a plausible theory for the first two elements. The counterclaim lacks any facts that could account for how Plaintiff, the State of Washington, received a benefit, and how Plaintiff caused Defendant to incur the expense of conferring that benefit. Plaintiff's motion to dismiss the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim should be granted and the counterclaim dismissed without prejudice.

         Plaintiff's challenge to Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset) appears tentative, and probably is not properly raised. Although Plaintiff addressed the merits of offset in its motion, it appears to have done so for the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim as alleged under an offset theory. See Dkt. 37 at 7, ln. 18-22 (citing to counterclaim, not ¶8.12); id. at 14, ln. 10; Dkt. 42 at 16, ln. 18. But see Dkt. 42 at 16, ln. 2-6. The Reply attempts to bootstrap Affirmative Defense 8.12 by incorporating the defense into substantive argument for the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim. See id.

         Even if Plaintiff properly raised Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset) explicitly as part of the motion to dismiss the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim, Plaintiff's substantive offset arguments should not bar the defense at this stage of the proceedings. Plaintiff argues: 1) there is nothing to “offset, ” because neither Washington nor its residents have received a benefit from Defendant from its operation of the Northwest Detention Center and the Voluntary Work Program; (2) equity precludes offset, because Defendant has benefitted from its illegal conduct; and (3) offset would result in double recovery to Defendant, and to the extent an offset could be available, “any obligation owed to GEO for detention services rests squarely with [ICE]-not Washington or its residents[.]”. Dkt. 37 at 9-11; Dkt. 42 at 5-7. Addressing these arguments is premature. Plaintiff's motion to strike Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset) should be denied without prejudice.

         In summary, Plaintiffs motion to strike Affirmative Defense 8.10 (Plaintiffs unjust enrichment) should be granted and the defense stricken as redundant.

         Plaintiffs motion to strike Affirmative Defense 8.12 (offset) should be granted in part and the defense stricken as redundant for the first clause (“GEO has not been unjustly enriched . . . services to detainees”) only. The motion should denied without prejudice for the second clause (“any award . . .. must be offset . . .”).

         Plaintiffs motion to dismiss the Unjust Enrichment counterclaim should be granted and the claim dismissed without prejudice.

         Defendant also seeks leave to amend its counterclaim. Dkt. 38 at 10. Defendant may move for leave to amend pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 if it chooses.

         C. Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (Dkt. 34 at ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.