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Andresen v. International Paper Co.

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 3, 2014



CHRISTINA A. SNYDER, District Judge.

Proceedings: (In Chambers:) PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO DISMISS DEFENDANT'S COUNTERCLAIMS (Dkt. #44, filed May 7, 2014)

The Court finds this motion appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; Local Rule 7-15. Accordingly, the hearing date of June 9, 2014, is vacated, and the matter is hereby taken under submission.


On February 13, 2013, plaintiffs Jared Andresen, Yeghia Bekiarian, and John Duffy filed suit against defendants International Paper Company, d/b/a Container the Americas ("IP") and Does 1-50 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. IP removed the action to this Court on March 22, 2013. Dkt. #1. The operative second amended complaint ("SAC") asserts claims for failure to pay vested vacation wages upon termination, in violation of Labor Code § 227.3[1], failure to pay wages, waiting time penalties pursuant to Labor Code §§ 202-03, violation of the Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200, et seq., violation of the record-keeping provisions set forth in Labor Code § 226, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel. Dkt. #21. IP filed an amended answer on April 23, 2014, in which it asserts assert counterclaims against Bekiarian for breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of fiduciary duty, gross negligence, and intentional misrepresentation. Dkt. #43.

On May 7, 2014, Bekarian filed a motion to dismiss IP's counterclaims. IP filed an opposition on May 19, 2014, dkt. #50, and Bekarian replied on May 26, 2014, dkt. #51. After considering the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.


Plaintiffs are former employees of defendant who allege that defendant has deprived them of severance pay, vested vacation wages, and commissions that they accrued during their employment. See generally SAC. The crux of IP's counterclaims is that, to the extent that IP is liable to plaintiffs for accrued vacation pay, Bekiarian is partially responsible for creating this liability. In this regard, IP alleges that Bekiarian was first hired by Crockett Containers in 1972. Countercl. ¶ 5. IP alleges that, at that time, Bekiarian oversaw all Crockett facilities in California. Id . In 1990, Crockett was acquired by Temple-Inland, and IP acquired Temple-Inland in or around February 2012. Id . ¶¶ 5-15. After Temple-Inland acquired Crockett, Bekiarian became vice president and general manager of Temple-Inland's Crockett Division, and remained in that position after IP acquired Temple-Inland. Id . ¶¶ 8-16.

IP asserts that Bekiarian "created and subjected Crockett, [Temple-Inland, and IP] to material contingent paid vacation accrual liability" as to certain sales representatives, including plaintiffs Andresen and Duffy, while at the same time instructing human resources and accounting employees under his control not to provide paid vacation for IP's sales representatives, and not to account for accruing vacation pay liability. Id . ¶¶ 5-20. In particular, IP alleges that Bekiarian instructed Gale Leach, formerly a human resources manager at Crockett, that commissioned sales representatives were not entitled to paid vacation, and further instructed her not to account for accruals of paid vacation as to those representatives. Id . ¶ 7. IP alleges that Bekiarian gave similar instructions to Edith Rocha, the Controller of the Crockett Division of Temple-Inland. Id . ¶¶ 11-12. Additionally, according to IP, when IP acquired Temple-Inland, Bekarian did not disclose the possibility that this alleged liability existed. Id . ¶¶ 5-20.


A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in a complaint or counterclaim. "While a [pleading] 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 entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "[F]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

In considering a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all material allegations in the counterclaim, as well as all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them. Pareto v. F.D.I.C. , 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998). The counterclaim must be read in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors , 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington , 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). However, "[i]n keeping with these principles a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a counterclaim, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009); Moss v. United States Secret Service , 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) ("[F]or a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory factual content, ' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.") (citing Twombly and Iqbal); Sprewell , 266 F.3d at 988; W. Mining Council v. Watt , 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). Ultimately, "[d]etermining whether a complaint [or counterclaim] states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

Furthermore, unless a court converts a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into a motion for summary judgment, a court cannot consider material outside of the complaint or counterclaim (e.g., facts presented in briefs, affidavits, or discovery materials). In re American Cont'l Corp./Lincoln Sav. & Loan Sec. Litig. , 102 F.3d 1524, 1537 (9th Cir. 1996), rev'd on other grounds sub nom Lexecon, Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach , 523 U.S. 26 (1998). A court may, however, consider exhibits submitted with or alleged in the counterclaim and matters that may be judicially noticed pursuant to Federal Rule of ...

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