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Hailstalk v. Antique Auto Classic Car Storage

September 9, 2008

JUANITA SUZANNE HAILSTALK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANTIQUE AUTO CLASSIC CAR STORAGE, LLC, LEE HUDSON, II, AND JOSEPH FORD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Noel L. Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Before the Court is a motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint filed by defendants Antique Auto Classic Car Storage, LLC, Lee Hudson, II, and Joseph Ford. Defendants also filed a motion seeking to strike plaintiff's sur-reply. For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motion to dismiss, as converted to a motion for summary judgment, is denied, and its motion to strike plaintiff's sur-reply is granted.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff has alleged that defendants violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and therefore this Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction).

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Juanita Hailstalk alleges that defendants violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law and the New Jersey Wage Payment Act. Hailstalk asserts that defendants owe her more than $12,000.00 in wages and overtime pay.

Hailstalk states that she was hired by defendants in August of 2004 as a resident manager. She states that she worked seven days a week and was responsible for defendants' customers on a 24-hour basis. Hailstalk alleges that from October 2004 through June 2005, she earned $400.00 every two weeks, which was raised to approximately $500.00 every two weeks in June 2005, and by October 2006, she was earning approximately $580.00 every two weeks. She also states that although she worked overtime, including overnights and on weekends, she has not been properly compensated by defendants for her regular work hours or for the overtime she worked from the period of October 2004 through June 2006.

Before filing a complaint in this Court, on February 20, 2006, Hailstalk filed a claim with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development ("NJLWD") requesting an investigation into defendants' alleged failure to pay her the full amount of wages due.*fn1 In her claim with the NJLWD, Hailstalk was represented by Jeffrey Dragon, Esq. During the pendency of the NJLWD claim, counsel for the parties discussed settlement and a proposed settlement agreement was provided to Ms. Hailstalk. She states, however, that she rejected the settlement agreement sent to Mr. Dragon from defendants. Hailstalk also states that she neither consented to settlement nor authorized Mr. Dragon to settle the matter on her behalf and that she refused to sign the proposed settlement agreement.

Defendants argue that the parties agreed to settle the matter, and that defendants' counsel sent a letter dated November 28, 2006, to Mr. Dragon, who was representing Hailstalk at that time, confirming that the matter was settled and that a formal agreement would be forthcoming. Defendants admit that Hailstalk never signed a formal agreement. In addition, on April 2, 2007, Hailstalk was sent a letter from the NJLWD stating that it had received Hailstalk's correspondence regarding her claim against defendants and that their file had been marked settled and the matter closed. The NJLWD also informed her that since the matter settled, and since a settlement is not an admission of guilt on the party of the employer, that neither party could appeal and the decision was final. The NJLWD also advised her that if she was dissatisfied with the outcome, she could contact another attorney about other administrative remedies or court action.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on the grounds that because of the prior proceedings before the NJLWD, this Court lacks jurisdiction based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and that all of plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion.*fn2 Because this Court cannot decide this matter if it lacks jurisdiction, defendants' 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is decided first.

A. Standard for 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

If the subject matter jurisdiction of the Court is challenged, the plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion. See Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991). In addition, "... the district court may not presume the truthfulness of plaintiff's allegations, but rather must 'evaluat[e] for itself the merits of [the] ...


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