United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division
FRANK G. TREADWAY, Plaintiffs,
BLUESTONE COAL CORP., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BERGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF
Court has reviewed the Complaint (Document 1), the
Motion of Defendants to Dismiss Complaint or in the
Alternative for a More Definite Statement (Document 6)
and the Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Motion
to Dismiss (Document 8). Although the Plaintiff
submitted exhibits (Document 9) in support of their response
in opposition, the Court finds that the exhibits were not
integral to the complaint, and therefore, the Court did not
consider them in analyzing or issuing the ruling herein. For
the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the motion
should be denied.
Plaintiffs, Frank G. Treadway, Joey Clark Hatfield, and
Charles W. Hensley, initiated this putative class action on
December 14, 2016. They name Bluestone Coal Corp., Bluestone
Industries, Inc., and Mechel Bluestone, Inc., as Defendants.
The Plaintiffs were employees of Mechel Bluestone and
Bluestone Coal Corporation at the Burke Mountain Strip Mine.
They allege that “Mechel Bluestone owned, controlled,
operated, and maintained the Burke Mountain Strip Mine, in
coordination with Bluestone Industries, through the
subsidiary Bluestone Coal Corporation.” (Compl. at
¶ 9.) They assert that “at least approximately 105
employees” were employed at the Burke Mountain Strip
Mine, which they allege is a single site of employment.
(Id. at ¶¶ 7, 11.)
Treadway and Mr. Hatfield allege that they were laid off
without prior written notice on March 2, 2012, and Mr.
Hensley alleges that he was laid off without prior written
notice on December 28, 2011. On December 28, 2011, management
verbally informed employees that they were laid off
indefinitely. Approximately forty (40) workers were called
back on January 3, 2012, while approximately sixty-five (65)
employees remained laid off. About five miners were laid off
on February 11, 2012, and another thirty employees were laid
off on March 2, 2012. Neither the miners nor their union
received written notice of the layoffs in advance. The
employees were not called back to work for a period lasting
in excess of six months.
Plaintiffs allege that the layoffs violate the WARN Act. They
bring their claim on their own behalf and on behalf of all
employees subject to layoff from the Burke Mountain Strip
Mine during the relevant time period. The Defendants filed a
motion to dismiss and for a more definite statement, which is
now ripe for review.
FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT
Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs should be required to
amend their complaint to provide a more definite statement
under Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
They argue that the Plaintiffs' allegations regarding the
Defendants' corporate structure and status as employers
are vague, ambiguous, and unclear, and that the Plaintiffs
failed to allege which Defendant was responsible for each
allegation. The Plaintiffs argue that the complaint complies
with the applicable pleading standard. They contend that some
of the allegations complained of do not relate to a material
element of the claim, and none are so vague or ambiguous as
to prevent a responsive pleading.
12(e) permits a party to move for a more definite statement
of a pleading that “is so vague or ambiguous that the
party cannot reasonably prepare a response.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). “[W]hen the complaint conforms to
Rule 8(a) and it is neither so vague nor so ambiguous that
the defendant cannot reasonably be required to answer, the
district court should deny a motion for a more definite
statement.” Hodgson v. Virginia Baptist Hosp.,
Inc., 482 F.2d 821, 824 (4th Cir. 1973). The Fourth
Circuit further explained that a Rule 12(e) motion should be
denied where discovery will permit the parties to ascertain
the unpled information. Id.; see also Tilley v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 40 F.Supp.2d 809, 814 (S.D. W.Va.
1999) (Haden, C.J.) (Rule 12(e) is “ordinarily
restricted to situations where a pleading suffers from
unintelligibility rather than want of detail.”)
(quoting Robinette v. Griffith, 483 F.Supp. 28, 36
Court finds that allegations in the complaint are
sufficiently clear to permit a response. The Defendants
primarily complain of a lack of clarity regarding which
Defendant is allegedly liable. The Plaintiffs clearly pled
that the Defendants jointly employed workers at the Burke
Mountain Strip Mine and that representatives of each
Defendant were involved in management. (Compl. at
¶¶ 7, 9, 13.) To the extent it is unclear which
Defendant allegedly took an action, there is no impediment to
each Defendant answering the allegation with a denial,
affirmation, or explanation, as appropriate. Finally, the
Court does not find that allegations regarding the
relationship between the Defendants (Paragraphs 9 and 30) to
be at all unclear. Therefore, the motion for a more definite
statement should be denied.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a
complaint. Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192
(4th Cir. 2009); Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d
298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). “[T]he legal sufficiency of a
complaint is measured by whether it meets the standard stated
in Rule 8 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure]
(providing general rules of pleading) . . . and Rule 12(b)(6)
(requiring that a complaint state a claim upon which relief
can be granted.)” Id. Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading must contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure
to state a claim, the Court must “accept as true all of
the factual allegations contained in the complaint.”
Erikson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). The Court
must also “draw[ ] all reasonable factual inferences
from those facts in the plaintiff's favor.”
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th
Cir. 1999). However, statements of bare legal conclusions
“are not entitled to the assumption of truth” and
are insufficient to state a claim. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Furthermore, the Court
need not “accept as true unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” E. Shore
Mkts., v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship,213 F.3d 175,
180 (4th Cir. 2000). “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory