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Richards v. Octane Environmental, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

December 6, 2019

RICK RICHARDS and ERNEST RICHARDS, II, Plaintiffs/ Counter Defendants,
v.
OCTANE ENVIRONMENTAL, LLC, an Ohio limited liability company, TERENCE SEIKEL, CRAIG STACY, and JOSEPH SEIKEL, Defendants/Counter Claimants/ Third-Party Plaintiff/Counter Defendant,
v.
JASON RICHARDS, AMANDA HUNT, AARON GILES, and JACOB RICHARDS, Third-Party Defendants/Counter Claimants against Octane Environmental, LLC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTERCLAIMS [ECF NOS. 74, 93]

          THOMAS S. KLEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims of Octane Environmental, LLC [ECF No. 74]. This Motion was amended at ECF No. 93 based on a technical omission in the original motion. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies the Motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 17, 2018, Rick Richards and Ernest Richards, II (together, “Plaintiffs”) filed separate but related suits in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, West Virginia, against the Defendants, Octane Environmental, LLC (“Octane”), Terence Seikel, Craig Stacy, and Joseph Seikel (together, “Defendants”). On August 16, 2018, the actions were removed to the Northern District of West Virginia. ECF No. 1. On August 23, 2018, Defendants filed an Answer to the Complaint. ECF No. 7. On November 15, 2018, the Honorable Irene M. Keeley, United States District Judge, entered an order consolidating the two cases through the pretrial conference and designating 1:18-CV-158 as the lead case. ECF No. 17. On December 3, 2018, the case was transferred to the Honorable Thomas S. Kleeh, United States District Judge.

         On January 16, 2019, the Court granted Defendants leave to file a third-party complaint against Amanda Hunt, Aaron Giles, Jacob Richards, and Jason Richards. ECF Nos. 36, 37. On January 28, 2019, the Court granted Defendants leave to amend their Answer to include Counterclaims against Plaintiffs. ECF Nos. 47, 48. Defendants filed the Counterclaims on February 18, 2019. ECF Nos. 51, 52. On April 1, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims, which is ripe for consideration and the subject of this Memorandum Opinion and Order. ECF No. 74. On April 17, 2019, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims based on a technical oversight in the original motion. ECF No. 93.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In the Counterclaims against Ernest Richards and Rick Richards [ECF Nos. 51, 52], Octane alleges the following set of facts, which the Court regards as true for purposes of the Motion.

         A. Ernest Richards

         In October 2017, Octane hired Ernest Richards to work in its Water Transfer Department. CCER, ECF No. 51, at ¶ 1.[1] In December 2017, Blue Ridge Mountain Resources awarded Octane its first significant water transfer job. Id. ¶ 2. It was at the Farley pad in Ohio. Id. Ernest Richards and Delbert Hickman supervised and executed the job between December 12, 2017, and December 29, 2017. Id. Octane did not fully complete the job at the Farley pad and was asked to leave the site. Id. ¶ 3. Ernest Richards and Delbert Hickman, while using Octane's equipment, personally completed the job and received compensation in their personal capacities. Id. ¶ 4.

         On April 1, 2018, Octane implemented an employee handbook. Id. ¶ 5; CCRR, ECF No. 52, at ¶ 5. Section four (4) of the handbook provides, “Employees may not use company systems in a manner that is unlawful, wasteful of company resources, or unreasonably compromises employee productivity or the overall integrity or stability of the company's systems.” CCER, ECF No. 51, at ¶ 6; CCRR, ECF No. 52, at ¶ 6. Nothing in the handbook authorizes employees to delete information and/or files from Octane-provided laptop computers. CCER, ECF No. 51, at ¶ 7; CCRR, ECF No. 52, at ¶ 7. Section 4 also provides that “employees must never use their position with the company, or any of its customers, for private financial gain to advance personal financial interests, to obtain favors or benefits for themselves, members of their families or any other individuals . . . .” CCER, ECF No. 51, at ¶ 8; CCRR, ECF No. 52, at ¶ 8.

         On or about May 1, 2018, Ernest Richards began working at Water Transfer Solutions, LLC, a competitor of Octane. CCER, ECF No. 51, at ¶ 9. He never informed Octane by written notice that he was ending his employment with Octane. Id. ¶ 10. On May 11, 2018, Octane terminated Ernest Richards from employment. Id. ¶ 11. He received wages and medical benefits through May 11, 2018. Id. ¶¶ 12, 13. Ernest Richards possessed and used Octane's company-provided truck through May 11, 2018. Id. ¶ 14. He continued to possess Octane's company-provided credit card through May 11, 2018, and charged $640.61 to the card between May 1, 2018, and May 11, 2018. Id. ¶ 15. Around Friday, May 11, 2018, Rick Richards instructed and/or advised Ernest Richards to delete data and/or information from Ernest Richards's Octane-provided laptop computer or otherwise erase certain information maintained on the computer (and how to do it). Id. ¶¶ 16, 17; CCRR, ECF No. 52, at ¶¶ 10, 11. On or about May 11, 2018, Ernest Richards deleted confidential and/or trade secret information from his Octane-provided laptop. CCER, ECF No. 51, at ¶ 18.

         B. Rick Richards

         In July 2016, Octane hired Rick Richards as its general manager. CCRR, ECF No. 52, at ¶ 1. During his period of employment with Octane, Rick Richards misrepresented himself to some of Octane's suppliers and customers as a partial owner of the company. Id. ¶¶ 2, 3. While Rick Richards was employed by Octane, he installed and maintained a program on his Octane-provided laptop that allowed him to immediately delete the contents of the computer by pushing a few keystrokes. Id. ¶ 9.

         On May 13, 2018, Rick Richards emailed his letter of resignation to Terence Seikel. Id. ¶ 4. Before he did so, he provided Ernest Richards with software, information, and/or instructions on how to delete data and/or information from Ernest Richards's Octane-provided laptop (and then instructed him to do so). Id. ΒΆΒΆ 10, 11. On or around May 11, 2018, Rick Richards provided Amanda Hunt, Aaron Giles, and Jacob Richards with information about ...


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