United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
KENDRICK BENNETT, ET AL.
MCDERMOTT INTERNATIONAL INC., ET AL.
MEMORANDUM RULING AND ORDER
D. CAIN, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court is a Motion for Sanctions filed under Rule 11 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by defendant CB&I,
LLC ("CB&I"). Plaintiffs oppose the motion and
request reimbursement of attorney fees they have incurred in
responding. Doc. 86.
motion relates to plaintiffs' suit filed against their
alleged employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.,
and the Louisiana Wage Payment Act ("LWPA"),
Louisiana Revised Statute § 23:631 et seq.
Plaintiffs claimed that they were entitled to compensation
under those statutes for time spent commuting to and from
work on an employer-mandated busing system. See doc.
15. Upon consideration of the defendants' motions filed
under Rule 12(b)(6), the court dismissed plaintiffs'
claims under both laws with prejudice. Docs. 97, 98.
CB&I, one of the alleged employers, now moves for
sanctions under Rule 11. It argues that plaintiffs'
federal claims lack legal or factual support and that
plaintiffs' counsel failed to conduct an adequate inquiry
into these claims before filing suit. Doc. 64.
central purpose of Rule 11 is "to spare innocent parties
and overburdened courts from the filing of frivolous
lawsuits." Kurkowski v. Volcker, 819 F.2d 201,
204 (8th Cir. 1987). Rule 11(b) provides in relevant part
that, by presenting a pleading, motion, or other paper to the
court, an attorney certifies to the best of his
"knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an
inquiry reasonable under the circumstances," that:
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are
warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for
extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for
establishing new law; [and]
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if
specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary
support after a reasonable opportunity for further
investigation or discovery[.]
violation of these provisions by counsel justifies sanctions
under Rule 11(c). See Whitehead v. Food Max of
Miss., Inc., 332 F.3d 796, 802 (5th Cir. 2003). In
determining whether an attorney has violated Rule 11(b), the
court uses an objective standard of reasonableness under the
circumstances. Id. (citing Childs v. State Farm
Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 29 F.3d 1018, 1024 (5th Cir.
1994)). The imposition of sanctions under this rule is
usually a fact-intensive inquiry, and the trial court is
accorded substantial deference. Thomas v. Capital Sec.
Svcs., 836 F.2d 866, 873 (5th Cir. 1988).
argues that plaintiffs failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry
into the facts and law prior to filing suit. Specifically, it
alleges that (1) plaintiffs' minimum wage claims are
impossible under the applicable Fifth Circuit standards and
(2) plaintiffs' claims are barred under the
Portal-to-Portal act and applicable precedent. Doc. 64, att. 1.
The court did not reach the first allegation in considering
the defendants' motions to dismiss, because it found that
plaintiffs' federal claims were more easily dismissed
under the second. For the purposes of determining whether
plaintiffs committed an 11(b) violation, however, the court
will also consider the first allegation here.