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Inc. v. Hegna

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 8, 2019

SMITTY'S SUPPLY, INC.
v.
LINDSAY MORGAN HEGNA

         SECTION: "S" (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARY ANN VIAL LEMMON UNITED STATES DISTICT JUDGE

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion to Dismiss Smitty's Supply, Inc.'s Declaratory Judgment Claim (Rec. Doc. 244), filed by Lindsay Morgan Hegna, is GRANTED, and the declaratory judgment claim is dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         Detailed facts related to this case have been set forth extensively in prior orders of the court, and are hereby incorporated by reference and will not be restated. For purposes of the present motion, the following facts are sufficient.

         On June 30, 2016, Smitty's Supply, Inc. ("Smitty's") filed its Petition for Declaratory Judgment in Louisiana state court. In its petition, Smitty's sought

a judgment declaring that no obligation was created under any contract or agreement between Smitty's and Hegna that obligated Smity's to adopt, establish or fund a Phantom Stock Plan and/or a SARs Stock Plan and include Hegna as a plan participant any such plan prior to the date of the termination Hegna's employment with Smitty's, and that Hegna has to rights to the value of any stock under any such plan. . . ."[1]

         On the same date, Hegna filed her own lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In her Complaint, she alleges, inter alia, that she "entered an oral employment contract with the Defendants," pursuant to which she "had a vested interest in the Company's Phantom Stock Plan and SARs Plan."[2]

         Eventually, Smitty's petition was removed to this court, [3] and Hegna's Pennsylvania action was transferred and consolidated with it.[4] Also consolidated was a similar claim filed by another former Smitty's executive.[5] In the instant motion, Hegna seeks to dismiss Smitty's declaratory judgment claim pursuant to Federal Rule 12(c).

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Rule 12(c) Standard

         "The standard for dismissal under Rule 12(c) is the same as that for dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Chauvin v. State Farm & Cas. Co., 495 F.3d 232, 237 (5th Cir. 2007). “To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 & 1973 n.14 (2007)). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 1965. The court “must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” In re S. Scrap Material Co., LLC, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008). A district court may consider only the contents of the pleading and the attachments thereto. Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)).

         Declaratory Judgment

         The Declaratory Judgment Act provides: “In a case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction, ... any court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought.” 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). The Declaratory Judgment Act is “an authorization, not a command.” Pub. Affairs Assocs., Inc. v. Rickover, 369 U.S. 111, 112 (1962); see also, Soc'y of Separationists, Inc. v. Herman, 959 F.2d 1283, 1287 (5th Cir. 1992). Thus, federal courts have wide discretion to grant or deny declaratory judgment. See Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 286 (1995). Numerous cases have held that dismissal of declaratory judgment claims is appropriate where they are duplicative of legal claims. See, e.g., Veal v. Wells Fargo Bank. N.A., 2016 WL 6024534, *6 (E.D. La. 10/14/16); Narvaez v. Wilshire Credit Corp., 757 F.Supp.2d 621, 636 (N.D. Tex. 2010); Kougl v. Xspedius Mgmt. Co. of DFW, LLC., 2005 WL 1421446, at *4 (N.D. Tex. June 1, 2005)(denying as redundant a declaratory judgment claim seeking contract interpretation where this would be resolved as part of breach of contract action); accord, Steele v. Green Tree Servicing, ...


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