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Williams v. First Tower Loan, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

January 29, 2015

LESIA WILLIAMS,
v.
FIRST TOWER LOAN, LLC

MEMORANDUM RULING

DONALD E. WALTER, District Judge.

Before the court is the motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of defendant First Tower Loan, LLC ("Tower Loan"). [Doc. #21]. Plaintiff Lesia Williams ("plaintiff") opposes the motion. [Docs. ##25, 28]. For the following reasons, Tower Loan's motion is GRANTED and plaintiff's suit is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

I. BACKGROUND

The relevant facts of this case are not in dispute.[1] Tower Loan is a finance company operating numerous branch offices in five different states.[2] In May 2011, plaintiff began working as an after-hours janitor at two of Tower Loan's Louisiana branches located in Ouachita Parish.[3] Plaintiff had previously become a customer of Tower Loan when she co-signed an automobile loan for her son.[4]

On November 28, 2012, plaintiff filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.[5] The outstanding amount plaintiff owed on the automobile loan was one of the debts that plaintiff asked to be discharged.[6] Shortly after receiving notice of plaintiff's bankruptcy filing, a manager at Tower Loan's Monroe branch informed plaintiff that she was fired.[7] Plaintiff claims that she was explicitly told that she was being terminated because she had declared bankruptcy and named Tower Loan as a creditor.[8]

On November 16, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint against Tower Loan alleging that her termination was a violation of 11 U.S.C. § 525(b). Tower Loan now moves for summary judgment, primarily arguing that § 525(b) is inapplicable because plaintiff was not an employee of Tower Loan but rather an independent contractor. Alternatively, Tower Loan argues that plaintiff should be estopped from asserting her claim because she failed to timely disclose the instant lawsuit in her bankruptcy proceeding.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs that a court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[9] A fact is "material" if it may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" if there is sufficient evidence so that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party. Id. The court must "review the facts drawing all inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986) (citing United States Steel Corp. v. Darby, 516 F.2d 961 (5th Cir.1975)).

The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Lawrence v. Univ. of Tex. Med. Branch at Galveston, 163 F.3d 309, 311 (5th Cir. 1999). The moving party need not produce evidence to negate the elements of the non-moving party's case, but need only point out the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325; Lawrence, 163 F.3d at 311.

Once the moving party carries its initial burden, the burden then falls upon the non-moving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). This burden is not satisfied with some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory or unsubstantiated allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (per curiam) (citations omitted). The non-moving party "must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts in the record showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Wallace v. Texas Tech. Univ., 80 F.3d 1042, 1047 (5th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).

Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, the moving party shall file a short and concise statement of the material facts as to which it contends there is no genuine issue to be tried. Local Rule 56.2 requires that a party opposing the motion for summary judgment set forth a "short and concise statement of the material facts as to which there exists a genuine issue to be tried." All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party "will be deemed admitted, for purposes of the motion, unless controverted as required by this rule." LR 56.2.

III. DISCUSSION

The court must determine: (A) whether § 525(b) applies to independent contractors; and (B) whether plaintiff was an independent contractor or an employee. For the following reasons, the court concludes that the statute does not apply to independent contractors and that plaintiff was an independent contractor ...


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