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Richards v. Octane Environmental, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

December 30, 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.
AMANDA HUNT, AARON GILES, and JACOB RICHARDS, Third-Party Defendants/Counter Claimants against Octane Environmental, LLC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COUNTERCLAIMS [ECF NO. 155]

          THOMAS S. KLEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is a Motion to Strike/Dismiss the Counterclaims of Octane [ECF No. 155]. 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 August 13, 2019, the Court granted Rick Richards leave to file an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 142. On August 27, 2019, Defendants filed an Answer and Counterclaim in response to the Amended Complaint, adding an additional counterclaim. ECF No. 147. Rick Richards then moved to dismiss the additional counterclaim. ECF No. 155. This motion is ripe for consideration and the subject of this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In the Amended Counterclaim against Rick Richards [ECF No. 147], Octane alleges the following set of facts, which the Court regards as true for purposes of the Motion. These are the same facts, with respect to Rick Richards, asserted in the original Counterclaims against Rick and Ernest Richards.

         In July 2016, Octane hired Rick Richards as its general manager. Am. Countercl., ECF No. 147, 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 April 1, 2018, Octane implemented an employee handbook. Id. ¶ 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.” Id. ¶ 6. Nothing in the handbook authorizes employees to delete information and/or files from Octane-provided laptop computers. Id. ¶ 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 . . . .” Id. ¶ 8.

         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. ¶¶ 10, 11. On or around May 11, 2018, Rick Richards provided Amanda Hunt, Aaron Giles, and Jacob Richards with information about how to do the same. Id. ¶¶ 12, 14, 16. He then instructed and/or advised them to do so. Id. ¶¶ 13, 15, 17.

         Between May 7, 2018, and May 10, 2018, Rick Richards connected a WD Easystore device to his Octane-provided laptop and transferred proprietary and/or confidential information from the laptop to the device. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19. Before submitting his notice of resignation at Octane, Rick Richards solicited the following employees to work for a competitor: Aaron Giles, Jason Richards, Amanda Hunt, Jacob Richards, Rudys Banegas Bonilla, Olmy Chavez Galeas, Anthony Curry, Dalton Davis, Michael Jordan, Sixto Melendez, Fredis Moran, Khamtu Phommalinh, Julio Rocha, Somphanh Phongsa, Samane Visethsounethone, Xay Xayavongsack, Somchai Khunthawat, Salvador Cortes-Aboitez, Sid Mahathirash, and Somphiane Khiaosoth. Id. ¶ 20.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a defendant to move for dismissal upon the ground that a complaint does not “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). A court is ...


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