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Winston v. Air Truck Express, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 22, 2014

Charles Winston, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Air Truck Express, Inc., et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [DOC. 5]

JENNIFER A. DORSEY, District Judge.

Delivery driver Charles Winston sues his former employer Air Truck Express, Inc. and D&N Delivery Corporation-the company that hired Air Truck to provide delivery drivers-seeking unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Both companies now move to dismiss his claims: D&N argues that it bears no liability because it was not Winston's employer; and both defendants claim immunity under the Motor Carrier Exemption to the FLSA, which exempts motor carriers employing drivers who operate vehicles in interstate commerce from overtime-payment obligations. Having thoughtfully considered the parties' submissions, which include materials outside the pleadings, I convert the motion into one for summary judgment. I find that Winston has raised genuine issues of material fact regarding D&N's liability as a joint employer and the interstate-versus-intrastate nature of his employment such that a clear application of the Motor Carrier Exception is not currently possible, and I deny the motion.

Discussion

A. Conversion of the Motion into One for Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) supplies the standard for pleadings in a federal cause of action and states, "[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction....; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought."[1] A district court may dismiss a complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6).[2] But in ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the court may not consider "matters outside the pleadings."[3] If matters outside the pleadings are presented and considered, the motion is no longer viewed under Rule 12(b)(6); the court must consider the arguments under Rule 56's summaryjudgment standards.[4]

Although labeled a "Motion to Dismiss, " defendants' filing is better characterized as one for summary judgment. It seeks to end this case not on the allegations in the pleadings but based on separate information offered by affidavit and extrinsic documentary evidence. See Docs. 5-1-5-4. Winston was notified that the court could convert the motion to one for summary judgment, and he has responded with his own affidavit and documents. See Docs. 6, 8.[5] Considering the nature of the defendants' arguments and both parties' submissions, the factual issues raised require me to look beyond the pleadings.[6] I thus treat defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 5) as a motion for summary judgment.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[7] When considering the propriety of a summary judgment motion, the court views all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[8] If reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate because the purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials when the facts are undisputed.[9] The court need only consider properly authenticated, admissible evidence in deciding summary judgment, [10] although it may consider other record materials.[11]

Once the moving party satisfies Rule 56 by demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the party resisting summary judgment to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."[12] "[A]n adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."[13] Rule 56(e)(2) states that "[i]f a party fails to properly... address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may... consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion."[14]

When summary judgment is sought against a pro se defendant, the court considers all of that party's contentions offered in motions and pleadings made on personal knowledge, setting forth facts that would be admissible as evidence, and made under penalty of perjury.[15] Additionally, a pro se defendant's filings and complaint are construed liberally.[16]

C. Winston Has Raised Genuine Issues of Material Fact that Preclude Summary Judgment.

1. Defendants Are Not Entitled to Summary Judgment Based on the Motor Carrier Exemption to the FLSA.

Defendants argue that their employment of drivers who operate vehicles in interstate commerce exempts them from overtime-pay obligations under the FLSA. Doc. 5 at 4. They characterize their shipments as overwhelmingly interstate (estimating that just 1/1000 deliveries is intrastate) and argue that "a substantial part of" Winston's "work involves driving a delivery truck that moves goods in interstate commerce." Id. Winston responds that his job was purely intrastate, that he was a "local pick-up and delivery driver, " "100% of ...


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