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Lester v. Pay Car Mining, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division

August 31, 2017

PAY CAR MINING, INC., et al., Defendants.



         The Court has reviewed the Complaint (Document 1), the Motion of Defendants to Dismiss Complaint or in the Alternative for a More Definite Statement (Document 5), and the Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for a More Definite Statement (Document 7). For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the motion should be denied.


         The Plaintiff, Dougie Lester, initiated this putative class action on January 20, 2017. The Plaintiff named Pay Car Mining, Inc., Bluestone Industries, Inc., Bluestone Coal Corp., Keystone Service Industries, Inc., and Mechel Bluestone, Inc. as Defendants. The Plaintiff was an employee of Mechel Bluestone and Pay Car Mining at the Pay Car Mine in McDowell County, West Virginia. Mr. Lester alleges that “Mechel Bluestone owned, controlled, operated, and maintained the Pay Car Mine, in coordination with Bluestone Industries, Bluestone Coal Corp., and Keystone Industries, Inc., through the subsidiary Pay Car Mining.” (Compl. at ¶ 11.) He further asserts that “Pay Car Mining, both on its own and jointly with Mechel Bluestone, KSI, Bluestone Coal Corp., and Bluestone Industries employed 100 or more employees . . . at or in connection with the Pay Car Mine, ” which they allege is a single site of employment. (Id. at ¶ 9, 15.)

         Mr. Lester alleges that he was laid off without prior written notice on October 20, 2012, within a 90-day period encompassing other layoffs at the Pay Car Mine. On or about October 20, 2012, the management carried out a mass layoff at the Pay Car Mine, and neither the miners nor their union representatives received written notice of the layoffs in advance. Mr. Lester was not called back to work for a period lasting “well in excess of six months.” (Id. at ¶ 31.) Mr. Lester alleges that the layoffs violate the WARN Act. He brings his claim on his own behalf and on behalf of all employees subject to layoff from the Pay Car 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.


         The Defendants argue that the Plaintiff should be required to amend his complaint to provide a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They argue that the Plaintiff's allegations regarding the Defendants' corporate structure and status as employers are vague, ambiguous, and unclear, and that the Plaintiff failed to allege which Defendant was responsible for each allegation. The Plaintiff argues that the complaint complies with the applicable pleading standard. He contends 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.

         Rule 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 (W.D.Va.1979)).

         The 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 Plaintiff clearly pled that the Defendants jointly employed workers at the Pay Car Mine and that representatives of each Defendant were involved in management. (Compl. at ¶¶ 9, 11, 16.) 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 the allegations regarding the relationship between the Defendants (Paragraphs 11 and 23) to be at all unclear. Therefore, the motion for a more definite statement should be denied.


         A. Standard of Review

         A 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. 8(a)(2).

         In 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 statements, do not suffice… [because courts] ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (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.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.) In other words, this “plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to demonstrate more than ‘a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.'” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.) In the complaint, a plaintiff must “articulate facts, when accepted as true, that ‘show' that the plaintiff has stated a claim entitling him to relief.” Francis, 588 F.3d at 193 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557.) ‚ÄúDetermining whether a complaint states [on its face] a ...

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