Painters District Council No. 58 et al v. RDB Universal Services, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. (See Full Order.) IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss Defendants' Counterclaim or for a more definitive statement [ECF No. 38 ] is DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall file an answer or other responsive pleadings to Defendants' counterclaims within ten (10) days. Signed by District Judge E. Richard Webber on 9/17/2015. (CBL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
PAINTERS DISTRICT COUNCIL
NO., 58, ET AL.,
RDB UNIVERSAL SERVICES, LLC
DELORIS BERRY AND RELDER BERRY
No. 4:14-cv-01812 ERW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion to Dismiss or for a more
definite statement [ECF No. 38] Defendants’ Counterclaim. [ECF No. 37]
On October 27, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants RDB Universal
Services, LLC (“RDB”), Deloris Berry, and Relder Berry [ECF No. 1], based on RDB’s alleged
breach of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). Plaintiffs allege RDB was obligated
under the CBA to make reports and contributions on a weekly basis [ECF No. 1 at ¶ 33-34].
Thus, Plaintiffs conclude, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a) and (g), RDB is liable for unpaid
principal amounts, liquidated damages on the unpaid principal amounts, “liquidated damages on
amounts it has paid and may pay in an untimely manner,” as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees,
accounting fees, and costs incurred in connection with this action. [ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 47-50]
Plaintiffs seek to hold Deloris and Relder Berry jointly and severally liable for RDB’s failures, as
guarantors of the CBA obligations. [ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 52-71]
On July 15, 2015, Defendants filed a counterclaim against Plaintiffs for money had and
received, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contract and business expectancy.
[ECF No. 37]. In response, on August 4th, 2015, Plaintiff filed this Motion to Dismiss or for a
More Definite Statement [ECF No. 38], alleging Defendants’ allegations are so vague they fail to
state a claim for relief which can be granted, or in the alternative ask the court enter an order
requiring defendants to make their counterclaims more definite. [ECF No. 38 ¶ 1] On August
28, 2015, Defendants filed a response to Plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss indicating their claims are
clear and arise out of the same facts as Plaintiffs’ claim. [ECF No. 41] Plaintiffs’ reply indicates
when the counterclaim is read with Defendants’ response, only then does the counterclaim
become intelligible, and it still does not state a cause of action for either Defendants Relder
Berry or Deloris Berry, or cause certain Union fund plaintiffs to be liable. [ECF No. 42]
a. Rule 12(b)(6)
Under FRCP 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for “failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” The notice pleading standard of FRCP 8(a)(2) requires a
plaintiff to give “a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To
meet this standard and to survive a FRCP 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citation omitted). This
requirement of facial plausibility means the factual content of the allegations must “allow the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Cole v. Homier Distrib. Co., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Courts must assess the plausibility of a given claim with reference to the allegations as a whole,
not in terms of the plausibility of each individual allegation. Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer
Group, 592 F.3d 893, 896 n.4 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted). This inquiry is “a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court must grant all reasonable inferences in favor
of the nonmoving party. Lustgraaf v. Behrens, 619 F.3d 867, 872-73 (8th Cir. 2010).
b. Rule 12(e)
Under FRCP 12(e), “A party may move for a more definitive statement of a pleading to
which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot
reasonably prepare a response.” This rule along with FRCP 8(a)(2), “permit[s] the court and
the litigants to know, at the pleading stage, who is being sued and the grounds for same, thereby
facilitating the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of the action.” Bay Indus., Inc. v.
Tru–Arx Mfg., LLC, No. 06–C–1010, 2006 WL 3469599, at *1 (E.D.Wis. Nov. 29, 2006). “The
decision to grant a motion for a more definite statement is left to the discretion of the court, as is
the level of specificity the court may require if the motion is granted.” Id at *1. “Rule 12(e)
provides a remedy for unintelligible pleadings; it is not intended to correct a claimed lack of
detail.” Campbell v. ABB Inc., No. 4:14CV01489 AGF, 2015 WL 1006388, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Mar.
5, 2015). However, “Motions for a more definite statement are not favored ‘because pleadings
are to be construed liberally to do substantial justice.’” Vickery v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., No.
4:15-CV-797 CAS, 2015 WL 5306204, at *5 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 10, 2015) (citing James W. Moore,
et al., 2 Moore's Federal Practice, § 12.36 (3d ed.2014)).
A. Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs pray the court dismiss Defendants’ counterclaim pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or in the alternative pray the court order
Defendants to make a more definite statement with their counterclaim pursuant to FRCP 12(e).
[ECF No. 38]. Plaintiffs specifically allege the counterclaim does not make it clear what
arguments are being made; how the parties are defined; which parties are being sued and which
parties are filing suit; what monies are in dispute; what contract is in dispute; and what workers
or third party entities are in dispute. [ECF No. 38]
a. Plaintiffs’ general allegations against Defendants for lack of specificity
Plaintiffs allege a number of general allegations against Defendants’ counterclaim
indicating it would be too difficult to respond to the counterclaim as written. Plaintiffs allege
Defendants fail to set forth why each Defendant is entitled to relief against each Plaintiff and the
allegations are too broad to respond; [ECF No. 38 at ¶ II.A.] the counterclaims are too vague and
confusing; [ECF No. 38 at ¶ II.B.] and, the agreement in question is undefined leading to
questions of whom the claims are against. [ECF No. 38 at ¶ II.C.] Finally, in Plaintiffs’ reply to
Defendants’ memorandum in support of the counterclaim, they contend Defendants Relder Berry
and Deloris Berry, and Plaintiffs, the Welfare Fund, the Apprenticeship Fund, and the Pension
Fund should be dismissed because no facts are provided entitling these specific Defendants to
relief or for liability to these specific Plaintiffs. [ECF No. 42 at 3]
“The purpose of the pleading requirements is simply to “give the [counterclaim]
defendant fair notice of what the [counterclaim] plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.” Superior Edge, Inc. v. Monsanto Co., 44 F. Supp.3d 890, 897 (2014) (quoting
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (U.S. 2002). Defendants bring three specific
claims, and it appears Plaintiffs acknowledges each is separate and addresses each claim
separately in their motion. See Superior Edge , Inc. at 897 (stating “That SEI understands the
legal nature and the factual allegations that support them is perhaps best illustrated by SEI’s
coherent motion to dismiss which raises specific arguments against each of Monsanto’s
counterclaims.”) Plaintiffs’ argument they are unsure of what parties are bringing claims or
having claims brought against them lacks merit since, as the first sentence of the counterclaim
indicates each of the defendants is filing a counterclaim against Plaintiffs, and each prayer for
relief asks for judgment against Plaintiffs. Further, Plaintiffs’ argument they are unsure of
which parties are in the suit is also unpersuasive as it cites no proposition or claim by Defendants
indicating there are additional parties.
Finally, Plaintiffs argue Defendants Relder Berry and Deloris Berry are not entitled to
relief and claims cannot be brought against the Welfare Fund, the Apprenticeship Fund, and the
Pension Fund, because Defendants have presented no facts which would entitle them to relief.
[ECF No. 42 at 3-4] Defendants in their counterclaim allege Plaintiffs and Defendants entered
into a collective bargaining agreement, and there is no other contrary language in the
counterclaim suggesting certain Plaintiffs or Defendants were not parties. “This court must
accept as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant all reasonable inferences from
the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party.” Gallagher v. City of Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013,
1016 (8th Cir. 2012). Therefore, the Court finds Defendants have pled enough facts which, if
true, would present a claim for relief and Plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss is denied on the bases of:
the vagueness of the arguments made, the imprecision regarding the definition of the parties, and
the lack of clarity in determining which parties are bringing claims and which parties have
claims brought against them.
b. Count I fails to state a claim against all plaintiffs
Defendants allege in Count I of their counterclaim a claim for money had and received.
[ECF No. 37 ¶ 7-14] Plaintiffs move to dismiss for failure to state a claim because there are no
facts in the complaint about which funds the money was deposited into and no “specific
statements regarding who requested what from whom.” [ECF No. 38 at ¶III.D.]
“To state a claim for money had and received, a plaintiff must allege that ‘(1) the
defendant received or obtained possession of the plaintiff’s money; (2) the defendant thereby
appreciated a benefit; and (3) the defendant’s acceptance and retention of the money was
unjust.’” Superior Edge, Inc., at 899 (2014) (quoting Pitman v. City of Columbia, 309 S.W.3d
395, 402 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010)).
The counterclaim specifically pleads Defendants overpaid this
money and Plaintiffs received it, Plaintiffs appreciated a benefit by getting money they had not
earned, and the keeping of such money was unjust. [ECF No. 37 ¶8-14] These allegations are a
short plain statement indicating the Defendants may be entitled to relief. Accordingly, the Court
will not grant Plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss Count I of Defendants’ Counterclaim.
c. Count II fails to state a claim against all plaintiffs
Defendants allege in Count II, of their counterclaim, a claim for breach of contract. [ECF
No. 37 ¶ 15-22] Plaintiffs move to dismiss for failure to state a claim because Defendants do not
clearly identify the contract or agreement in dispute, and Plaintiffs’ claim mentions multiple
contracts. [ECF No. 38 ¶ III.E.] Defendants state the only contract referenced in the
counterclaim is the collective bargaining agreement. It seems disingenuous for plaintiffs to
argue they are unaware of which contract is in dispute, when only one contract is mentioned in
the counterclaim, and there are no references back to the original claim in the counterclaim or to
another contract in the counterclaim. Accordingly, the Court will not grant Plaintiffs’ motion to
dismiss Count II of Defendants’ Counterclaim.
d. Count III fails to state a claim against all plaintiffs
Defendants allege in Count III of their counterclaim, a claim for tortious interference with
contract and business expectancy. [ECF No. 37 ¶ 23-29] Plaintiffs move to dismiss for failure to
state a claim because Defendants do not properly identify the “workers” and “third party
entities”. [ECF No. 38 ¶ III.F.] In the counterclaim Defendants identify third party entities as
parties which retained Defendants’ services [ECF No. 37 ¶ 24] and Defendants argue the only
classification of relevant workers were union workers. [ECF No. 41]
“A claim for tortious interference with a contract or business expectancy requires proof of
each of the following: (1) a contract or a valid business expectancy; (2) defendant's knowledge of
the contract or relationship; (3) intentional interference by the defendant inducing or causing a
breach of the contract or relationship; (4) absence of justification; and (5) damages resulting
from defendant's conduct.” Graham v. Hubbs Machine and Mfg., Inc., 2015 WL 728510 (E.D.
Mo. 2015). The counterclaim specifically pleads each element. [ECF No. 37 ¶23-29] These
allegations are a short plain statement indicating the Defendants may be entitled to relief, as
required under Iqbal. Defendants here are not required to point out each and every fact which
may prove relevant, but rather only provide a short simple statement which shows they are
entitled to relief. Konold v. Superior Int'l Indus. Inc., 911 F. Supp. 2d 303, 309 (W.D. Pa. 2012).
(stating “Generally speaking, a Complaint that provides adequate facts to establish “how, when,
and where” will survive a Motion to Dismiss.”) Accordingly, the Court will not grant Plaintiffs’
motion to dismiss Count III of Defendants’ Counterclaim.
B. Motion for a more definite Statement
Plaintiff in the alternative asks the court to order Defendant to make a more definite
statement under 12(e). Defendants, in their counterclaim, make clear the lawsuit is between all
defendants and all plaintiffs, the transaction arises out of the contractual bargaining agreement
and failure to return certain monies, and the specific amount of monies are those in dispute.
Defendants at this point do not need to provide the exact details of the trust fund Plaintiffs for the
monies which are alleged to be improperly withheld, as these facts may be explored in discovery.
The present case is similar to, Iron Workers St. Louis Dist. Council Annuity Trust v. United
Ironworkers, Inc., where a claimant was not required to specify the specific terms of the CBA,
number of hours worked, or specific audit findings. Iron Workers St. Louis Dist. Council
Annuity Trust v. United Ironworkers, Inc., No. 4:15-CV-00713-AGF, 2015 WL 4775191, at *2
(E.D. Mo. Aug. 13, 2015). Defendants have made intelligible pleadings, and have met the “short
and plain statement of the claim” as required by FRCP 8(a)(2) showing they are entitled to relief
required under Twombly.
The Defendants’ Counterclaim provides a short plain statement showing that the
Defendant is entitled to relief. The language of the counterclaim provides notice to the Plaintiff
of why they are being sued, and what the cause of the suit is, thus giving the Plaintiffs enough
information to intelligibly respond to the counterclaim. For the reasons set out above, the court
declines to grant Plaintiffs relief on either motion to dismiss or its motion for a more definite
statement. Therefore, the court will deny Plaintiffs’ motion and direct them to file an answer or
other appropriate motions within ten days.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion to Dismiss
Defendants’ Counterclaim or for a more definitive statement [ECF No. 38] is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall file an answer or other responsive
pleadings to Defendants’ counterclaims within ten (10) days.
Dated this 17th Day of September, 2015.
E. RICHARD WEBBER
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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?