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Evans v. Aptim Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 1, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Doc. 5.) filed by Defendant APTIM Corp. (“APTIM” or “Defendant”). Plaintiff Langon Evans (“Plaintiff”) opposes the motion. (Doc. 9.) APTIM has filed a reply. (Doc. 11.) Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, facts in the record, and arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, the Defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Relevant Factual Background

         The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Petition for Damages (Doc. 1-2 at 3-7.) They are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. Thompson v. City of Waco, Tex., 764 F.3d 500, 502-03 (5th Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was employed with Defendant or its predecessors for more than forty-five years. (Doc. 1-2 at 3.) As of October 2, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that he earned the following benefits: (1) received a base salary of $250, 000 per year, plus paid holiday and paid vacation; (2) participated in the group health insurance, retirement, and other benefits offered by Defendants; (3) was eligible to receive a bonus for 25% of his annual salary; (4) had use of a company vehicle; and (5) had use of a company cell phone. (Id.)

         While Plaintiff was employed with Defendant, he was supposedly offered another job at Allied Power (“Allied”). (Id.) Allied's offer allegedly came with a raise of $50, 000, the opportunity to earn a bonus of up to 35% of his annual salary, a sign-on bonus of $125, 000, five weeks of vacation a year, and similar benefits. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff states that the offer from Allied included a thirty-six-month period in which he could only be fired for “cause.” (Id.) Plaintiff supposedly accepted the offer from Allied. (Id.)

         Following Plaintiff's acceptance of Allied's offer, Plaintiff states he informed his superior at APTIM that he was terminating his employment and accepting a position at Allied. (Id.) In response, Plaintiff asserts that the CEO of APTIM offered him the following if he would stay at APTIM: (1) annual salary of $311, 000; (2) 200 vacation hours per year; and (3) participation in “Incentive Compensation Program.” (Id. at 5.) Further, Plaintiff claims that a provision was written on the contract by hand that he would be employed with Defendant for at least five years. (Id.) After receiving this offer, Plaintiff choose to stay with APTIM. (Id.)

         However, Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated without cause on February 22, 2018. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that he performed his job without complaint during the four months between his old and new contract. (Id.) Plaintiff states he has since found other employment after being terminated, but on less favorable terms than any of the previously discussed offers. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendant liable for “any and all damages arising out of its termination without cause of his employment, including, but not limited to, lost wages, past, present, and future, loss of earning capacity, past, present, and future, emotional distress, loss of insurance and other benefits.” (Id.) Plaintiff bases his claims on breach of contract, detrimental reliance, and La. R.S. § 23:631, et seq. (Id.) Plaintiff demands all unpaid wages owed to him under the unexpired term of the contract. (Id.)

         II. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         In Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 135 S.Ct. 346 (2014), the Supreme Court explained “Federal pleading rules call for a ‘short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); they do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” 135 S.Ct. at 346-47 (citation omitted).

         Interpreting Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Fifth Circuit has explained:

The complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual matter (taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or expectation (4) that discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of a claim. “Asking for [such] plausible grounds to infer [the element of a claim] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal [that the elements of the claim existed].” Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.

Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)).

         Applying the above case law, the Western District of Louisiana has stated:

Therefore, while the court is not to give the “assumption of truth” to conclusions, factual allegations remain so entitled. Once those factual allegations are identified, drawing on the court's judicial experience and common sense, the analysis is whether those facts, which need not be detailed or specific, allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” [Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)]; Twombly, 55[0] U.S. at 556. This analysis is not substantively different from that set forth in Lormand, supra, nor does this jurisprudence foreclose the option that discovery must be undertaken in order to raise relevant information to support an element of the claim. The standard, under the specific language of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), remains that the defendant be given adequate notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it is based. The standard is met by the “reasonable inference” the court must make that, with or without discovery, the facts set forth a plausible claim for relief under a particular theory of law provided that there is a “reasonable expectation” that “discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of the claim.” Lormand, 565 F.3d at 257; Twombly, 55[0] U.S. at 556.

Diamond Servs. Corp. v. Oceanografia, S.A. De C.V., No. 10-00177, 2011 WL 938785, at *3 (W.D. La. Feb. 9, 2011) (citation omitted).

         The Fifth Circuit further explained that all well-pleaded facts are taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Thompson v. City of Waco, Tex., 764 F.3d 500, 502-03 (5th Cir. 2014). The task of the Court is not to decide if the plaintiff will eventually be successful, but to determine if a “legally cognizable claim” has been asserted.” Id. at 503.

         III. Parties' Arguments

         A. Defendant's Argument

         Defendant makes two primary arguments as to why Plaintiff's claim under La. R.S. § 23:631, et seq. should be dismissed. First, Defendant argues that the statutory language of Section 23:631 demonstrates that it does not apply under these factual circumstances. (Doc. 5-1 at 3-4.) Second, Defendant claims that the decisions interpreting Sections 23:631 and 23:632 also support dismissal of Plaintiff's claims. (Id. at 4-7.)

         Defendant's first argument is that the statutory language of La. R.S. §§ 23:631 and 23:632 does not support Plaintiff's claim. Citing Gros v. LeBlanc, 304 So.2d 49, 51 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1974), Defendant argues that, because Sections 23:631 and 23:632 are penal in nature, they should be strictly construed. (Doc. 5-1 at 3.) Further, Defendant contends that the plain language of Section 23:631 only obligates an employer, upon termination of an employee, to pay the employee the wages that have previously been earned through his termination date. (Id. at 4.) Defendant specifically emphasizes that, in Section 23:631, the employer is only required “to pay the amount then due under the terms of employment.” (Id. at 3.) Finally, Defendant states that Section 23:632 only obligates an employer to pay penalties and attorney's fees if the employer fails to comply Section 23:631. (Id. at 4.)

         Defendant's second argument, that the case law interpreting Sections 23:631 and 23:632 does not support Plaintiff's argument, centers on four cases. First, Defendant cites the Louisiana Supreme Court in Boudreaux v. Hamilton Medical Group, Inc., 644 So.2d 619 (La. 1994). (Doc. 5-1 at 4.) Defendant points to Boudreaux for the definition of “terms of employment” in Section 23:631, specifically, (1) that “terms of employment” should be defined as ...

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