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Valencia v. North Star Gas Ltd. Co.

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 16, 2017

WILLIAM STEVE VALENCIA, an individual, and LUIS FERNANDEZ SOTO, an individual, on behalf of themselves and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
NORTH STAR GAS LTD. CO., a California corporation; PEOPLEASE LLC, a South Carolina Corporation, Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendant Peoplease, LLC's (“Defendant's” or “Peoplease's”) motion to dismiss Plaintiffs William Steve Valencia and Luis Fernandez Soto's (collectively, “Plaintiffs'”) Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and, in the alternative, a motion for a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). (Dkt. No. 7.) The motion has been fully briefed. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 13.) The Court deems Defendant's motion suitable for disposition without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). Having reviewed the moving papers and applicable law, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss.


         On February 8, 2017, Plaintiffs William Steve Valencia (“Valencia” or “Plaintiff”) and Luis Fernandez Soto (“Soto” or “Plaintiff”) filed a putative hybrid class action in federal court against Defendants North Star Gas Ltd. Co. (“North Star” or “Defendant”) and Peoplease LLC (“Peoplease” or “Defendant”). (Dkt. No. 1, Compl.) Plaintiffs bring a putative collective action for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., and a putative class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (“Rule 23”) for violations of California state law. (Id. ¶ 1.)

         Plaintiffs allege that North Star “owns, operates, or otherwise manages a natural gas company responsible for distribution and supply of propane.” (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiffs allege that Peoplease “is Plaintiffs' co-employer responsible for paying wages, payroll, and employment law compliance, ” and that Peoplease “works with North Star to administer human resource services.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiffs allege that “Defendants employ Plaintiffs and others to transport propane by driving various routes to and from Defendants' propane supply. These routes run throughout California, among other States.” (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs bring the instant action on behalf of themselves and on behalf of “current and former non-exempt employees who transported propane along certain routes for Defendants.” (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs' core contention is that although “employees often work well in excess of 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week, ” due to the length of time necessary to transport propane along certain routes, Defendants fail to pay Plaintiffs any overtime compensation. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants do not adequately compensate drivers for non-productive time and do not provide adequate wage statements. (Id. ¶¶ 18-22.)

         Plaintiffs assert eight claims for relief based on Defendants' (1) failure to pay wages due under the FLSA, (2) failure to pay overtime due under state law, (3) failure to pay regular wages under state law, (4) failure to pay meal period premium pay under state law, (5) failure to pay rest break premium pay under state law, (6) failure to provide accurate itemized wage statements under state law, (7) failure to timely pay wages under state law, and (8) violation of the UCL. Plaintiffs do not specify under which state laws their second through fifth claims are brought.

         Peoplease filed the instant motion on March 21, 2017 under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(e). (Dkt. No. 7.) Peoplease asserts that it is not in an employment relationship with Plaintiffs and thus cannot be held liable for violations of the Labor Code or the FLSA. (Id. at 7.) Peoplease further asserts that Plaintiffs' Complaint is impermissibly vague for failure to specify the relevant statutes under which certain state law claims are brought, and for failure to specify which Defendant each cause of action is pled against. (Id. at 8.) In the alternative, Peoplease requests that the Court order Plaintiffs to make a more definite statement regarding their allegations against Peoplease. (Id.) Plaintiffs responded on April 14, 2017, (Dkt. No. 10), and Peoplease replied on April 28, 2017, (Dkt. No. 13).


         I. Rule 12(b)(6)

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12 (b)(6) where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989) (“Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.”). Alternatively, a complaint may be dismissed where it presents a cognizable legal theory yet fails to plead essential facts under that theory. Robertson, 749 F.2d at 534. While a plaintiff need not give “detailed factual allegations, ” a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts that, if true, “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). “To survive a 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) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547). A claim is facially plausible when the factual allegations permit “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. In other words, “the non-conclusory ‘factual content, ' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.” Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). “Determining whether a complaint 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, 556 U.S. at 679.

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe all inferences from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2002); Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Legal conclusions, however, need not be taken as true merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations. Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 2003); W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, documents relied upon but not attached to the complaint when authenticity is not contested, and matters of which the court takes judicial notice. Lee v. Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001).

         II. Rule 12(e)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) provides:

A party may move for a more definite 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. The motion must be made before filing a responsive pleading and must point out the defects complained of and the details desired. If the court orders a more definite statement and the order is not obeyed within 14 days after notice of the order or within the time the court sets, the court may strike the pleading or issue any other appropriate order.

Fed. R. Civ. P. ...

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