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Baker v. Masco Builder Cabinet Group

November 25, 2009

CODY BAKER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MASCO BUILDER CABINET GROUP, D/B/A MERILLAT INDUSTRIES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey L. VIKEN United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court pursuant to defendant's motion to dismiss, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the amended complaint filed by plaintiffs. (Docket 7). Plaintiffs resist defendant's motion. (Docket 9). This matter is ripe for adjudication.

FACTS*fn1

In reviewing defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts as true all of the factual allegations contained in plaintiffs' amended complaint and grants all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs as the nonmoving party. Crooks v. Lynch, 557 F.3d 846, 848 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing Stufflebeam v. Harris, 521 F.3d 884, 886 (8th Cir. 2008)).

On or about September 21, 2009, plaintiffs filed a class-action complaint against Masco Builder Cabinet Group, d/b/a Merillat Industries, in the circuit court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit for South Dakota. (Docket 1, Exhibit A). On or about October 1, 2009, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in the circuit court. (Docket 1, Exhibit B). On October 14, 2009, defendant filed a notice of removal, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446, in federal court and provided notice of the removal to the plaintiffs and the circuit court. (Dockets 1 & 2). The basis for removal is diversity jurisdiction as defined in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (Docket 1).

The class represented by the named plaintiffs in this case consists of approximately 157*fn2 hourly and salaried employees of the defendant's particle board manufacturing plant located in Rapid City, South Dakota. (Docket 1, Exhibit B at ¶¶ 4, 5). On or about March 19, 2009, defendant, by and through its Director of Operations and Director of Labor Relations and Field Services, announced the closure of the Rapid City plant and offered an incentive to the employees to continue working until the official closing date sometime in September of 2009. Id. at ¶ 7. Tom Sollers, Director of Labor Relations and Field Services, issued a memorandum that stated, in part, as follows:

. . . It has also been rumored that the Company will renege on the severance that has been announced. This is to inform you that this will absolutely not happen. We will pay severance as we have in all other plant closures in accordance with what has already been announced. If employees remain until released, they will receive the following: 1) one week of pay per years of service, minimum two weeks, and 2) a one time payment to help offset some of the Cobra premium costs . . . .

Id. (emphasis in original not included).

Plaintiffs remained working at the plant, accepting reduced hours and forgoing other employment opportunities. Id. at ¶ 8. On or about August 11, 2009, defendant announced that it would not pay severance to its remaining employees. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiffs remained at the plant until the plant closed. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiffs brought suit for breach of contract. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 13. Plaintiffs allege that because of the breach, they have sustained damages. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff further allege that "[d]efendant's breach of its promise to pay severance wages was oppressive and/or malicious." Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiffs seek a judgment against defendant for severance pay with interest plus double the amount of wages due pursuant to SDCL § 60-11-07.

DISCUSSION

Defendant moves the court to dismiss plaintiffs' amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Docket 7). Rule 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint if the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendant argues that plaintiffs' amended complaint "is utterly devoid of any factual allegations which would 'permit the [c]court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.' " (Docket 8 at p. 2) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Defendant argues that plaintiffs' amended complaint "does nothing more than state the bare elements of their claim(s)" and is "insufficient to meet the federal pleading requirements." Id. at p. 4.

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a "pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this Rule is to give the defendant fair notice of plaintiff's claims and the grounds upon which those claims rest. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]" Id. (citations omitted). Plaintiffs must allege enough facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" and "raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Id. at 555, 570 (citations omitted). However, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if "actual proof of those facts is improbable" and "recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. at 556 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The "plausibility standard" at the pleading stage requires a showing greater than the mere possibility of misconduct yet less than the probability of misconduct.*fn3 Id. at 556, 557-58.

The Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __U.S.__, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) recently expounded on the "plausibility ...


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