United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
RICK RICHARDS and ERNEST RICHARDS, II, Plaintiffs/ Counter Defendants,
OCTANE ENVIRONMENTAL, LLC, an Ohio limited liability company, TERENCE SEIKEL, CRAIG STACY, and JOSEPH SEIKEL, Defendants/Counter Claimants/ Third-Party Plaintiff/Counter Defendant,
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]
S. KLEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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
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.
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.
October 2017, Octane hired Ernest Richards to work in its
Water Transfer Department. CCER, ECF No. 51, at ¶
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.
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.
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 ¶
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.
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. ¶¶ 10, 11.
On or around May 11, 2018, Rick Richards provided Amanda
Hunt, Aaron Giles, and Jacob Richards with information about