Loucks v. Sunrise USA Inc et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER: Denying 11 motion to dismiss and Granting 12 motion to transfer; ORDER transferring case to the District of Middle Alabama; original electronic record and certified copy of docket entries will be mailed to Clerk of Court 10 business days from this date.. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 9/19/2014. (KAM, )
2014 Sep-19 PM 01:52
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
VALERIE MALISSIA VEAZEY
SUNRISE USA, INC., et al.,
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss this case as a duplicative
action, (Doc. 11), and Motion to Transfer the case to the Middle District of Alabama.
(Doc. 12). The issues have been fully briefed by the parties and are ripe for decision.
For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is due to be denied while the
motion to transfer is due to be granted.
Plaintiff Valerie Malissia Veazey Loucks (“Loucks”) brought this action,
alleging violations by Sunrise USA, Inc.; Restaurant Help, Inc.; Service Solution, Inc.;
and Rory S. Smith (“Defendants”) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along
with several state law causes of action.
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Loucks was employed by the Defendants beginning on August 5, 2009, working
as a waitress at the Shoney’s Restaurant in Clanton, Alabama. On August 1, 2011, after
allegedly suffering from sexual harassment at the hands of co-workers and supervisors,
Loucks filed an EEOC charge against the Defendants. After receiving her right to sue
letter, Loucks filed suit against the Defendants in the United States District Court for
the Middle District of Alabama, alleging unlawful employment practices, intentional
gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. See Loucks, et al. v. Smith,
et al., 2:12-cv-304-WHA. That case is still pending at this time.
Loucks now alleges that she has been the victim of retaliation by the Defendants
since filing the initial EEOC charge and lawsuit in 2011, and alleges various mental and
physical damages, as well as constructive termination from her employment, as a
result. On July 24, 2014, Loucks brought the instant action against the Defendants in
this Court, alleging unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII and several state law
causes of action stemming from the retaliatory conduct. Defendants then filed the
motion to dismiss, arguing that the instant litigation involved essentially the same
parties, facts, and circumstances as the pending case in the Middle District, and thus
should be dismissed as duplicative, or in the alternative transferred to the Middle
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Motion to Dismiss
There is no precise rule governing concurrent jurisdiction of claims between
federal district courts, but the “general principle is to avoid duplicative litigation” in
such circumstances. Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. U.S., 424 U.S. 800, 817
(1976). When determining how to handle multiple federal filings, a district court
should consider all the equities of the situation. See Curtis v. Citibank, N.A., 226 F. 3d
133, 138 (2d Cir. 2000). “[T]he true test of the sufficiency of a plea of ‘other suit
pending’ in another forum [i]s the legal efficacy of the first suit, when finally disposed
of, as ‘the thing adjudged,’ regarding the matters at issue in the second suit.” The
Haytian Republic, 154 U.S. 118, 124 (1894). To determine how effectively the first suit
will dispose of the matters in the second suit, federal courts typically borrow the test
for claim preclusion and ask whether the second suit involves “the same parties or
their privies” and “arises out of the same transaction or series of transactions” as the
first suit. Adams v. Cal. Dept. of Health Serv., 487 F. 3d 684, 689 (9th Cir. 2007); see
also The Haytian Republic, 154 U.S. at 124 (“There must be the same parties. . . there
must be the same rights asserted and the same relief prayed for; the relief must be
founded upon the same facts, and the title, or essential basis, of the relief sought must
be the same.”); Curtis, 226 F. 3d at 139.
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In this case, the claims currently in the Middle District and the claims currently
before this Court involve the exact same parties. However, the facts that the second
suit are based on differ from those involved in the first suit. While both suits are based
around unlawful discrimination allegedly suffered by the Plaintiff at the hands of her
employers, the claims in this complaint revolve around unlawful retaliation that the
Plaintiff has allegedly suffered subsequent to filing her complaint in the Middle
District. Therefore, the two cases are not “founded upon the same facts” and
dismissal on the grounds of duplicative litigation is improper. Therefore, Defendants
Motion to Dismiss the action as duplicative litigation is denied.
Motion to Transfer
Under the special venue provision of Title VII, venue is appropriate in “any
judicial district in the State in which the unlawful employment practice is alleged to
have been committed. . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f )(3). The special venue provisions of
Title VII are the exclusive venue provisions for Title VII employment discrimination
actions. Pinson v. Rumsfeld, 192 F. App’x 811, 817 (11th Cir. 2006). However, “[f ]or
the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may
transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been
brought. . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). It is proper for a district court to transfer a Title VII
employment discrimination case under § 1404(a) where, though venue is proper in the
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district, all the relevant parties and facts are located in another district. See Ross v.
Buckeye Cellulose Corp., 980 F. 2d 648, 655 (11th Cir. 1993) (transfer of Title VII action
to the Middle District of Georgia was not an abuse of discretion under § 1404(a), even
though venue was also proper in both the Northern or Southern Districts of Georgia,
because all relevant locations, records, and witnesses for the suit were located in the
In the present case, venue is proper in the Northern District of Alabama because
the unlawful employment practices at issue occurred in the state of Alabama.
However, the Court is convinced that, under the circumstances of this case, the
interests of justice counsel in favor of a transfer to the Middle District of Alabama.
Loucks is a resident of Chilton County in the Middle District. Loucks was
employed, and all the relevant actions took place, at a Shoney’s restaurant located in
Chilton County. The defendant corporations were all operating that same Shoney’s
restaurant in Chilton County. The individual defendant, Rory S. Smith, is a resident
of Tennessee but is the controlling shareholder in corporations which operated the
Shoney’s in Chilton County. According to the complaint, the relevant events all
occurred at the Shoney’s restaurant in Chilton County. It is reasonable to assume that
any witnesses and evidence involved in the case will primarily be located in Chilton
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Also relevant to the Court’s decision is the fact that claims based on similar
(although not identical) facts are already pending in the Middle District. A transfer will
allow the Middle District to determine whether it would be proper to consolidate this
action with the already pending action. Therefore, this Court will exercise its
discretion to transfer this case to the Middle District of Alabama.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11) is
DENIED. Defendants’ Motion to Transfer (Doc. 12) is GRANTED. The Clerk of the
Court is directed to transfer this case to the Middle District of Alabama.
Done this 19th day of September 2014.
L. SCOTT COOGLER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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