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BRICKER v. STOUCHSBURG NURSERY AND GARDEN CTR.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


July 13, 2004.

KEVIN D. BRICKER
v.
STOUCHSBURG NURSERY AND GARDEN CENTER, INC.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRUCE KAUFFMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Kevin D. Bricker brings this action against Defendant Stouchsburg Nursery and Garden Center, Inc., alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. ("FLSA") (Count I), and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 260.1, et seq. (Count II). Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be denied.

I. Background

  Plaintiff was employed by Defendant from June 1, 2001 through August 24, 2003. (Compl. at ¶ 5). He contends that he is entitled to overtime and vacation pay under the FLSA and the state Wage Payment and Collection Law. Id. at ¶¶ 16-18, 22-23. Defendant responds that Plaintiff was a salaried managerial employee and therefore is not entitled to overtime under the FLSA. Motion to Dismiss at 5. Defendant also contends that it is not covered by the FLSA because it does not have in excess of $500,000 in annual gross sales. Id. at 7.

  The Court's jurisdiction is based on the existence of a federal question, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. There is no diversity of citizenship. II. Legal Standard

  A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

  In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the Court must distinguish between motions that attack the complaint on its face and those that attack the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact. Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Assoc., 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). A facial attack is considered under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6); all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are taken to be true. Id. If the attack is factual, however, Plaintiff's allegations are not presumed to be true. Id.; Fortuna's Cab Service v. City of Camden, 269 F. Supp.2d 562, 564 (D.N.J. 2003). The Court may look beyond the pleadings and make its own determination as to whether it has the power to hear the action. Cestonaro v. United States, 211 F.3d 749, 752 (3d Cir. 2000). Further, the Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction does in fact exist. Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891.

  B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

  When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion will be granted only when it is certain that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved by the plaintiff. Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988). III. Analysis

  A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

  The FLSA provides that "[a]ny employer who violates the provisions of section 206 or section 207 of this title [which govern minimum wage and overtime] shall be liable to the employee or employees affected." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). To prove a violation of either § 206 or § 207, Plaintiff must demonstrate, inter alia, that Defendant is an enterprise engaged in commerce, defined as having annual gross sales of not less than $500,000. 29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(i)(A). Defendant, Stouchsburg Nursery and Garden Center, Inc., argues that it has been in existence only since its incorporation on July 1, 2003; that it is a separate entity from its predecessor, Stouchsburg Nursery; and that, if the sales figures for the two entities are not aggregated, it has annual gross sales of under $250,000. Defendant thus submits that it is not subject to the FLSA and that the Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action.

  Defendant incorrectly casts this issue as one of jurisdiction. "A district court has federal question jurisdiction in any case where a plaintiff with standing makes a non-frivolous allegation that he or she is entitled to relief because the defendant's conduct violated a federal statute." Growth Horizons, Inc. v. Delaware County, 983 F.2d 1277, 1281 (3d Cir. 1993). Legal insufficiency of a federal claim does not deprive the federal court of jurisdiction. "[D]ismissal for lack of jurisdiction is not appropriate merely because the legal theory alleged is probably false, but only because the right claimed is `so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy.'" Kulick v. Pocono Downs Racing Ass'n, 816 F.2d 895, 899 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, 414 U.S. 661, 666 (1974)). See also 2 Moore's Federal Practice § 12.30[1], at 12-36 (3d ed. 2000) ("Subject matter jurisdiction in federal-question cases is sometimes erroneously conflated with a plaintiff's need and ability to prove the defendant bound by federal law asserted as a predicate for relief — a merits-related determination.").

  In the instant case, the question of whether Defendant corporation and its predecessor entity are a single "enterprise engaged in commerce" for purposes of the FLSA goes to the merits of the case, not the Court's jurisdiction. Defendant's status as an enterprise is an element of the claim that Plaintiff must prove, just like Plaintiff's status as an employee and Defendant's failure to compensate him at the proper rate for overtime work. Plaintiff's allegations are not so "completely devoid of merit" that the Court must dismiss without entertaining the claim. Accordingly, the Court will not dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

  B. Failure to State a Claim

  Defendant next moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the ground that Plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant argues that Plaintiff is exempt from the FLSA minimum wage and overtime provisions because he was a salaried employee and worked in an executive capacity. However, at this stage of the proceedings, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro, 764 F.2d at 944. The question of whether Plaintiff actually was a salaried executive is appropriately resolved on summary judgment or at trial. Assuming the facts as pled to be true, Plaintiff's Complaint clearly states a cause of action under the FLSA. Accordingly, the claims will not be dismissed under Fed.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). IV. Conclusion

  This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action, and Plaintiff's Complaint will not be dismissed for failure to state a claim. An appropriate Order follows. ORDER

  AND NOW, ____ this day of July, 2004, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (docket no. 4) and Plaintiff's response thereto, it is ORDERED that the Motion is DENIED for the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum.

20040713

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