The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III
Before the Court in this diversity action asserted under the Maryland Wage and Hour Law is Defendants Rite Aid Corporation and Eckerd Corporation's (collectively, "Defendants" or "Rite Aid") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff James Fisher's ("Plaintiff" or "Fisher") Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) ("the Motion"). (Doc. 25.) The Motion has been fully briefed and thus is ripe for disposition. (See Doc. 26 (Defendants' Brief in Support); Doc. 33 (Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition); Doc. 39 (Defendants' Reply); Doc. 40 (Defendants' Supplement).) For the reasons articulated in this Memorandum, the Court shall grant the Motion and dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint.
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."*fn1 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.
Because Plaintiff fails to include a factual statement in his Brief in Opposition (Doc. 33), the following facts are derived from Plaintiff's Complaint or Defendants' Introduction (Doc. 26) but, nonetheless, are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff in accordance with the standard of review.
Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a Complaint on September 3, 2010 seeking damages and injunctive relief against Defendants for alleged violations of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"). (Doc. 1.)Plaintiff alleges that he was formerly employed by Defendants and was misclassified as exempt for the overtime pay requirements of the MWHL, and seeks to certify a class pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 of:
[A]ll individuals employed as Assistant Store Managers during any workweek since December 29, 2005 at any one of the 145 Maryland stores referenced in Defendant Rite Aid Corporation's Form 10-K, as filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on April 28, 2010. (Doc. 1 ¶ 13.)
The action sub judice is not the first-filed action regarding Plaintiff's allegations, however. On June 26, 2009, Plaintiff 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 that they were ...