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Daniel Knepper v. Rite Aid Corporation

February 16, 2011

DANIEL KNEPPER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
RITE AID CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

Former Plaintiff Robert Vasvari ("Plaintiff" or "Vasvari") was employed as an Assistant Manager by Rite Aid Corporation ("Defendants") and, in this action,*fn1 seeks to recover "back wages for all hours worked . . . as well as for overtime work" under Ohio's Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act ("Ohio MFWSA"). Pursuant to an Order of the Court on December 3, 2010, Daniel Knepper was substituted for Robert Vasvari as Plaintiff because of Mr. Vasvari's death. Because Mr. Knepper replaced Mr. Vasvari but all claims and allegations remained the same, we shall refer to them interchangeably. Plaintiff also seeks to certify a class on behalf of all current and former Rite Aid Assistant Mangers in the state of Ohio pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) ("the Motion"). (Doc. 45). The Motion has been fully briefed by the parties, and thus is ripe for disposition. (See Doc. 72 (Defendants' Brief in Support); Doc. 74 (Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition); Doc. 76 (Defendants' Reply).) For the reasons articulated in this Memorandum, the Court will grant the Motion and dismiss the action without prejudice.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that "after the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial -- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings."*fn2 A "Rule 12(c) motion is little more than a relic of the common law and code era, and it only has utility when all the material allegations of fact are admitted in the pleadings and only questions of law remain. Granting a Rule 12(c) motion results in a determination on the merits at an early stage in the litigation, and thus this court requires the movant to clearly establish that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

Inst. for Sci. Info., Inc. v. Gordon & Breach, Sci. Publishers, Inc., 931 F.2d 1002, 1005 (3d Cir. 1991) (citing Jablonski, 863 F.2d at 290-91, punctuation omitted). A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991).

As in a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), when considering a motion to dismiss under 12 (c) courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). In resolving a motion to dismiss under 12(c), a court generally should consider only the allegations in the complaint, as well as "documents that are attached to or submitted with the complaint, . . . and any matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006).

A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, "in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint attacked by a motion to dismiss need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, ---, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 235 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Accordingly, to satisfy the plausibility standard, the complaint must indicate that defendant's liability is more than "a sheer possibility." Iqbal, 120 S.Ct. At 1949. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Under the two-pronged approach articulated in Twombly and later formalized in Iqbal, a district court must first identify all factual allegations that constitute nothing more than "legal conclusions" or "naked assertions." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are "not entitled to the assumption of truth" and must be disregarded for purposes of resolving a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Next, the district court must identify "the 'nub' of the . . . complaint -- the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]." Id. Taking these allegations as true, the district judge must then determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. See id.

III. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Vasvari was formerly employed by Rite Aid from November 2, 1998 until June 12, 2009.For approximately the last three years of his employment, Vasvari was classified as an Assistant Manager. Vasvari's employment was terminated on June 12, 2009 because of restructuring within the company.

On July 22, 2009, Vasvari initiated the instant action by filing a Complaint against Defendants in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Vasvari v. Rite Aid, et al., No. 4:09-cv-1699, seeking damages and injunctive relief for alleged violations of the Ohio MFWSA.*fn3 (Doc. 1). Defendantsfiled an Answer to Vasvari's Complaint on October 2, 2009 (Doc. 11) and filed a Motion to Dismiss or Transfer on that same date (Doc. 12). A stipulation and order transferring the action to this Court was entered on October 19, 2009. (Doc. 14.)

On June 23, 2009, Vasvari consented to become a party-plaintiff in the Craig v. Rite Aid Corporation, 08-cv-2317, Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) ("FLSA") action before this Court,in which current and former Rite Aid assistant managers allege they were misclassified as exempt and thus improperly denied overtime compensation.Plaintiff advances the same argument under the Ohio MFWSA in the class-action Complaint presently before the Court (Doc. 1), filed on July 22, 2009 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. To serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses, the action was transferred to this Court on October 19, 2009 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(b). (Doc. 14.)

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, judgment on the pleadings on February 22, 2010 (Doc. 45), and we granted in part and denied in part that motion on July 9, 2010 (Doc. 54). Specifically, we found that, contrary to Defendants' assertions, Vasvari did not release his Ohio MFWSA claims in the release and waiver that he signed when he left his employment with Rite Aid, and thus denied Defendants' motion on those grounds. Further, we denied Defendants' motion to the extent that Defendants asserted that Vasvari may not maintain an Ohion MFWSA action because of its incompatibility with the FLSA ยง 216(b) action, but noted that Defendants could renew the Motion if the Third Circuit decided a pending case, Parker v. NutriSystem, Inc., ...


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