Wycoff et al v. Sani E Zehra Inc et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge John H England, III on 3/24/14. (ASL)
2014 Mar-24 AM 1:03
U.S DISTRC COURT
N.D OF ALBM
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LACEY ANGELA WYCOFF, et al.,
SANI E ZEHRA, INC. d/b/a DAIRY
QUEEN OF TRUSSVILLE, et al.,
Case Number: 2:13-cv-00006-JHE
Plaintiffs Lacey Angela Wycoff, Shana Lynn Wycoff, Ellen Christine Sarmiento, Stacey
Dawn Otts Santos, Kenneth Robert Otts, Nicholas Bryan Holt, Patrick Tyler Franklin, Caleb
Tyler Russell, Amanda Christine Broome, and Kimberly Brown, as mother and next friend of
Madison Nichole Gilbreath, a minor, initiated this action against Sani E Zehra, Inc. d/b/a Dairy
Queen of Trussville (“DQ Trussville”), Saboo Foods, Inc. d/b/a Dairy Queen of Clay (“DQ
Clay”), and Salim G. Momin alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29
U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (“FLSA”). (Doc. 1). Defendants answered Plaintiffs’ complaint, (docs. 6,
7, & 9), and Defendant DQ Trussville asserted counterclaims against Plaintiff Shana Lynn
negligence/wantonness, (doc. 6). Plaintiff Shana Lynn Wycoff now moves to dismiss the
counterclaims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to join an indispensable party
In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 73, the parties in this case have voluntarily consented to have a United States
Magistrate Judge conduct any and all proceedings, including trial and the entry of final
judgment. (Doc. 17).
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and (7), Fed. R. Civ. P. (Doc. 10). The motion is fully briefed and
ripe for review. (Docs. 10 & 11). For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is
Plaintiffs, a group of ten employees, worked at the Dairy Queen fast food restaurants in
Trussville and Clay, Alabama. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs allege their former employers refused to pay
overtime compensation for hours worked in violation of the FLSA. (Id.). In defense to Plaintiff
Shana Lynn Wycoff’s (“Wycoff”) claims, Defendant DQ Trussville asserts Wycoff was a
manager and therefore exempt from FLSA2 overtime compensation requirements. (Doc. 11 at
¶2). Additionally, DQ Trussville asserts counterclaims against Wycoff for state law conversion,
breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and negligence/wantonness based on Wycoff’s alleged
failure to deposit store proceeds. (Doc. 6). DQ Trussville further contends it demanded Wycoff
repay the allegedly misappropriated funds, and, after agreeing to repay at least one unmade
deposit, she failed to do so, and thereafter refused to repay the remaining unmade deposits. (Id.
at ¶ 4). DQ Trussville asserts Wycoff’s FLSA claims are not brought in good faith and are
retaliatory for it demanding she repay the allegedly misappropriated funds. (Id. at ¶ 5). Wycoff
moves to dismiss the counterclaims, arguing there is no subject-matter jurisdiction over the
counterclaims and DQ Trussville failed to join an indispensable party. (Doc. 10).
Throughout its opposition to the motion, Defendant DQ Trussville inadvertently refers
to the Fair Labor Standards Act as “FMLA” instead of “FLSA.” (See doc. 11 at ¶1). The court
understands Defendant DQ Trussville intends to refer to the FLSA, as that is what this case is
II. Standard of Review
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, with the power to hear only cases
authorized by the Constitution or by statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511
U.S. 375, 377, 114 S. Ct. 1673, 1675 (1994). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a
party may move the court to dismiss a case if the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter
of the case. Even when a party does not assert a jurisdictional challenge, “a federal court is
obligated to inquire into subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be lacking.”
Bochese v. Town of Ponce Inlet, 405 F.3d 964, 975 (11th Cir. 2005). Simply put, a federal court
is powerless to act beyond its constitutional or statutory grant of subject-matter jurisdiction.
Smith v. GTE Corp., 236 F.3d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 2001). Regardless of how the issue came
before the court, a plaintiff, as the party invoking jurisdiction, bears the burden of establishing
the court=s subject-matter jurisdiction. Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994).
This Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ FLSA claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331 providing original jurisdiction for “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws or
treaties of the United States.” DQ Trussville’s counterclaims arise under state law and do not
meet the requirements for jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or § 1332, providing original
jurisdiction in “all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $
75,000 . . . and” there is diversity of citizenship. Accordingly, as DQ Trussville concedes, the
court has no independent jurisdiction over them.
Instead, the court has subject-matter
jurisdiction over DQ Trussville’s counterclaims only if supplemental jurisdiction is authorized
under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Section 1367 provides supplemental jurisdiction over claims “that are so related to claims
in the action within [the court’s] original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or
controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). The
Eleventh Circuit has held § 1367 gives federal courts the power to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over all state law claims that arise out of a common nucleus of operative fact with a
substantial federal claim. Lucero v. Trosch, 121 F.3d 591, 597 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing United
Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724-25, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966). In determining
whether state law claims meet this standard, courts examine “whether the claims arise from the
same facts, or involve similar occurrences, witnesses or evidence.” Hudson v. Delta Airlines,
Inc., 90 F.3d 451, 455 (11th Cir. 1996) (citing Palmer v. Hosp. Auth. of Randolph Cnty., 22 F.3d
1559, 1566 (11th Cir. 1994)).
Even if the court has the power to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state law
claim, § 1367 gives the court the discretion to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
a claim arising under state law when:
(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law;
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the
district court has original jurisdiction;
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining
28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). If, after examining these factors, the district court decides it has discretion
to decline jurisdiction, it should consider the traditional rationales for pendent jurisdiction in
deciding whether or not to exercise its discretion, including judicial economy, convenience,
fairness to the parties, and whether all the claims would be expected to be tried together.
Palmer, 22 F.3d at 1569 (citing Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 725-27, 86 S. Ct. 1130).
DQ Trussville’s counterclaims do not derive from a common nucleus of operative facts as
the Plaintiffs’ FLSA claims as required for the court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Here,
the FLSA claims deal only with Plaintiffs’ entitlement to compensation for time worked,
specifically overtime compensation. (See doc. 1). The operative facts upon which these claims
depend include (1) DQ Trussville and DQ Clay’s status as an employer covered by FLSA; (2)
Plaintiffs’ status as employees of Defendants; and (3) the number of hours Plaintiffs worked per
week. See Coello v. La Cabana Mexican Rest., No. 4:12-cv-1104-VEH, 2013 WL 6569140, at
*4 (N.D. Ala. Dec. 13, 2013) (quoting Carvalho v. Door-Pack, Inc., 565 F. Supp. 2d 1340, 1341
(S.D. Fla. 2008)). DQ Trussville’s counterclaims against Wycoff for state law conversion,
breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and negligence/wantonness arise out of its allegation
Wycoff, in a managerial position for DQ Trussville, failed to deposit store proceeds. (See doc.
11 at ¶3). Although they involve one of Wycoff’s job duties and are based actions or omissions
that occurred while working for Defendants, DQ Trussville’s counterclaims focus on discrete
actions and omissions Wycoff allegedly took or didn’t take while working for DQ Trussville.
This connection is simply not enough. See e.g., Yeseren v. Cksingh Corp., No. 2:10-cv-25329DNF, 2010 WL 4023524 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 13, 2010) (holding there is no common nucleus of
operative fact where the plaintiff alleged FLSA violations and the employer counterclaims for
conversion and breach of duty of loyalty committed during the same period for which the
plaintiff claimed FLSA violations). The counterclaims are entirely independent torts that bear no
relation to Defendants’ alleged failure to adequately compensate Plaintiffs pursuant to the FLSA.
Any overlap of witnesses and evidence would be de minimus. The court cannot conclude DQ
Trussville’s counterclaims are so related as to form part of the same case or controversy as
Plaintiffs’ FLSA claims, and, therefore, the court does not have supplemental jurisdiction over
the counterclaims for state law conversion, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and
Based on the foregoing, it is unnecessary to address whether the court would be inclined
to act on its discretionary authority to exercise jurisdiction over the supplemental state law
counterclaims. To the extent the court would have such discretion, however, this would not be
an appropriate case to exercise such discretion. The counterclaims apply to only one Plaintiff
and would needlessly protract from this case and distract from the FLSA issues.
DQ Trussville’s counterclaims are not so related as to form part of the same case or
controversy as Plaintiffs’ FLSA claims, and the court does not have supplemental jurisdiction
over the counterclaims for state law conversion, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and
negligence/wantonness. Accordingly, DQ Trussville’s counterclaims are therefore DISMISSED
WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
A separate order will be
DONE this 24th day of March 2014.
JOHN H. ENGLAND, III
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Because the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the undersigned does not reach the
question of whether DQ Trussville failed to join an indispensable party.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?