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White v. Mow It Right, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

August 16, 2019

DALE WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
MOW IT RIGHT, LLC; CHRIS FOWLER; and, MELINDA FOWLER, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION AND/OR IMPROPER VENUE

          CHARMIANE G. CLAXTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and/or Improper Venue or, in the Alternative, to Transfer Venue (Docket Entry (“D.E.”) #20, #21) and Plaintiff's request to amend his Complaint to cure any deficiencies therein (D.E. #22). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge. (D.E. #28). For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's request to amend his Complaint is hereby GRANTED and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and/or Improper Venue or, in the Alternative, to Transfer Venue, is hereby DENIED.

         I. Introduction

         a. Plaintiff's Complaint

         On October 10, 2018, Plaintiff Dale White (“White” or “Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (“FLSA”). (Compl. ¶ 1). Plaintiff alleges that he resides in Desoto County, Mississippi.[1] Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Mow It Right, LLC (“Mow It Right”) is a Mississippi limited liability company organized pursuant to the Mississippi Limited Liability Company Act. (Id. ¶ 3). Plaintiff alleges that, upon information and belief, Defendants Chris and Melinda Fowler (the “Fowlers”) reside in Desoto County, Mississippi. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Mow It Right and the Fowlers are all subject to this Court's jurisdiction through the Tennessee Long Arm Statute and may be served with process through their registered agent, who is located in Olive Branch, Mississippi. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this Complaint because the claims asserted arise under a federal statute, conferring federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Id. ¶ 4). Plaintiff further alleges that venue is proper “as the injuries claimed in this Complaint took place within the geographic jurisdiction of this Court.” (Id. ¶ 5).

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants hired him as a mower on or about April 2011. (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff alleges that his job duties “were to mow yards as directed by Defendants, drive a work truck as directed by Defendants, and provide maintenance and support over the off-season.” (Id. ¶ 8). Plaintiff alleges that his work was jointly directed and controlled by all Defendants who, upon information and belief, also had joint power to hire and fire, jointly set pay rates, and were jointly responsible for maintaining employment records. (Id. ¶ 16).

         b. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants filed the instant motion seeking one of three remedies-dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction; dismissal for improper venue; or, a transfer of venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. Defendants filed this motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) or § 1406. Defendants argue that the Complaint “lacks even a single factual allegation as to where Plaintiff performed the duties of his employment and where he received payment for his work.” (Def.'s Memo. In Support of Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Memo.”) at 2).

         In support of the instant motion, Defendants have filed declarations of the Fowlers as well as those of five other employees-Kaylee Fowler, Michael Key, Amanda Howe, Anthony Tuggles, and Allen Whaley. The declarations provided demonstrate as follows. Chris and Melinda Fowler live in Desoto County, Mississippi, and Mow It Right has only one office and physical location in Olive Branch, DeSoto County, Mississippi. (Def.'s Memo. at 2 (citing C. Fowler Decl. ¶¶ 1-2; M. Fowler Decl. ¶¶ 1-2; K. Fowler Decl. ¶ 2; M. Key Decl. ¶ 2; M. Key Decl. ¶ 3; A. Howe Decl. ¶ 3; A. Tuggles Decl. ¶ 3; A. Whaley ¶ 3)). Mow It Right “provides lawn care services in DeSoto County, Mississippi and Shelby County, Tennessee.” (C. Fowler Decl. ¶ 5; M. Fowler Decl. ¶ 5; K. Fowler Decl. ¶ 3; M. Key Decl. ¶ 3; A. Howe ¶ 3; A. Tuggles Decl. ¶ 3; A. Whaley ¶ 3).

         Mow It Right's records “show that over the course of Plaintiff's employment . . . approximately 90 percent of the lawn-cutting work Plaintiff did for Mow It Right was performed in Desoto County, Mississippi.” (Id. (citing C. Fowler & M. Fowler Decl's. ¶ 7; K. Fowler, A. Whaley, A. Tuggles, A. Howe, M. Key & A. Tuggles Decl's. ¶ 5). Mow It Right's payroll functions are all handled at its Olive Branch, DeSoto County, Mississippi location. Id. (citing C. Fowler & M. Fowler Decl's. ¶ 5, 9; K. Fowler, A. Whaley, A. Tuggles, A. Howe & M. Key Decl's. ¶ 7). Plaintiff's paychecks, like the paychecks of all Mow It Right employees, were issued by Mow It Right's office in Olive Branch, Mississippi. (C. Fowler Decl. ¶ 9; M. Fowler Decl. ¶ 9; K. Fowler Decl. ¶ 7; M. Key Decl. ¶ 7; A. Howe Decl. ¶ 7; A. Tuggles ¶ 7).

         c. Plaintiff's Response

         In response to Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff initially asserts that it is procedurally defective because it was filed after the responsive pleading in this matter. Plaintiff avers that this Court could construe the untimely Motion to Dismiss as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; however, Plaintiff argues that such a motion is not an ideal vehicle for determining whether the Court lacks personal jurisdiction as Defendants have offered declarations outside the pleadings in support of the motion. Plaintiffs further assert that the motion could be construed as a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; however, Plaintiff states that such a motion is premature as further discovery should be allowed in advance of such a motion pursuant to Rule 56(d) and that, even if the Court were to so construe it, it should be denied.

         With respect to the merits of the motion, Plaintiff asserts that this Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendants because, “[e]ven though it may [be] true that a substantial part of the events giving rise to plaintiff['s] claims occurred outside the [western] district of Tennessee, ” “Plaintiff routinely went into Tennessee when working” for Defendants. (Pl.'s Resp. at 6, 10). Accordingly, Plaintiff argues that ...


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