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Jacobs v. Genesco

September 3, 2008

TONY A. JACOBS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GENESCO, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on defendant Genesco, Inc's ("defendant") motion to dismiss and to strike plaintiff Tony A. Jacobs' ("plaintiff") class action complaint, alleging various wage and hour violations by defendant.*fn1 Specifically, defendant seeks to dismiss plaintiff's claims for relief for (1) conversion, arguing that the failure to pay wages is not legally cognizable as a conversion claim; (2) injunctive relief, arguing as a former employee of defendant, plaintiff lacks standing to request such a remedy; and (3) punitive damages, arguing they are not an available remedy for claims brought under the California Labor Code. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). With respect to each of these claims, defendant separately moves to strike all allegations in the complaint which pertain to these claims. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f).

For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff's conversion and punitive damages claims are not legally tenable and thus are dismissed, without leave to amend. Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief, however, is cognizable as plaintiff has standing to assert the subject class claims. Based on these rulings, defendant's motion to strike is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former assistant manager of defendant, filed a class action complaint in the Shasta County Superior Court on June 16, 2008, alleging defendant failed to pay employees all wages due, to provide employees required meal and rest periods, and to provide employees itemized wage statements. On behalf of himself and all other similarly situated employees, plaintiff asserts claims for (1) minimum and overtime wages owed; (2) failure to provide meal and rest periods; (3) failure to provide meal periods after five hours worked; (4) penalties under the California Labor Code; (5) conversion; (6) failure to comply with itemized employee wage statement requirements; (7) unfair competition; (8) declaratory relief; (9) accounting; and (10) injunctive relief.*fn2 With respect to the third claim for relief for failure to provide meal periods after five hours worked, as required by Labor Code § 512, plaintiff seeks an award of punitive damages. (Compl., filed Aug. 25, 2008.)

On July 18, 2008, defendant removed the action to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. It now moves to dismiss certain claims for relief on the grounds that two of plaintiff's claims are barred as a matter of law, and one claim, plaintiff lacks standing to assert.

STANDARD

1. Motion to Dismiss

On a motion to dismiss, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). Thus, the plaintiff need not necessarily plead a particular fact if that fact is a reasonable inference from facts properly alleged. See id.

Nevertheless, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Calif., Inc. v. Calif. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Moreover, the court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986).

Ultimately, the court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1973 (2007). Only where a plaintiff has not "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," is the complaint properly dismissed. Id. "[A] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (quoting Hudson v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).

2. Motion to Strike

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) enables the court by motion of a party or by its own initiative to "order stricken from any pleading . . . any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." The function of a 12(f) motion is to avoid the time and expense of litigating spurious issues. Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th Cir. 1993), rev'd on other grounds, 510 U.S. 517 (1994); see also 5A Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 2d § 1380 (1990).

Rule 12(f) motions are generally viewed with disfavor and not ordinarily granted, because they are often used to delay, and because of the limited importance of the pleadings in federal practice. Bureerong v. Uvawas, 922 F. Supp. 1450, 1478 (C.D. Cal. 1996). A motion to strike should not be granted "unless it is clear that the matter to be stricken could have no possible bearing on the litigation." Lilley v. Charren, 936 F. Supp. ...


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