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Castro v. Precision Demolition LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

July 11, 2017

ARTURO CASTRO, and all others similarly situated under 29 U.S.C. § 216 (b), Plaintiff,
v.
PRECISION DEMOLITION LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Following a jury trial in this action alleging claims for unpaid overtime and retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., plaintiff and defendants move for judgment as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) and to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e). For the reasons that follow, the court grants defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, grants in part plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the judgment, and otherwise denies the motions. The court is filing today an amended judgment in accordance with these rulings.

         I

         Castro brought this putative collective action on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated against defendants Precision Demolition LLC and Precision Demolition, LP (collectively, “Precision Demolition”), Holfords Prairie Partners, LLC (“Holfords”), Raymond D. Rinker III[1] (“Rinker”); and Aaron Smith (“Smith”). Castro alleged claims for unpaid overtime wages, under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), and for retaliation, under 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3).

         The parties tried the case to a jury, which returned a verdict partly in favor of Castro, and partly in favor of defendants. Regarding Castro's FLSA overtime claim, the jury found that Castro had proved the essential elements of this claim against Precision Demolition, Rinker, and Smith, but not against Holfords, and that Precision Demolition had willfully violated the FLSA. The jury found that Precision Demolition owed Castro $608.85 for unpaid overtime for travel time. Regarding Castro's FLSA retaliation claim, the jury found that Castro had proved all of the essential elements of this claim as to Precision Demolition and awarded him $13, 300 in “Back pay.”

         The court entered judgment on the verdict, awarding Castro judgment against Precision Demolition in the principal sum of $13, 908.85, together with liquidated damages in the sum of $608.85, and post-judgment interest on the foregoing sums at the rate of 0.57% per annum. The court also ordered that Castro recover from Precision Demolition such attorney's fees and related nontaxable expenses as the court might thereafter award on timely motion. The court assessed the taxable costs of court of Holfords, Rinker, and Smith against Castro.

         Castro now moves for judgment as a matter of law, contending that because Holfords is the general partner of the limited partnership that employed Castro (i.e., Precision Demolition), Holfords is a joint employer and is jointly and severally liable for Castro's damages. Castro also moves to alter or amend the judgment to impose liability for his claims on Holfords, Rinker, and Smith, and to award liquidated damages for his retaliation claim, contending that liquidated damages are mandatory by law, and that, even if an award of liquidated damages is discretionary, such an award is appropriate in this case to effectuate the purposes of the anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA.

         Defendants move for judgment as a matter of law, contending that Castro failed to prove that any defendant retaliated against him in violation of the FLSA, and to prove that he would have both been neither demoted nor terminated but for his participation in activity protected under the FLSA. Defendants move to alter or amend the judgment, contending that the jury's finding that any defendant retaliated against Castro is clearly erroneous, and that the jury's finding that Castro proved that he reasonably mitigated his damages is also clearly erroneous.

         II

         Before turning to the merits of the parties' motions, the court will address defendants' motion for leave to supplement their renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law.

         A

         Castro and defendants initially moved during trial for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a). After the court entered the judgment, both sides filed renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law, under Rule 50(b), and motions to alter or amend the judgment, under Rule 59(e). The parties then filed a joint motion to extend the deadlines to respond to the pending post-trial motions. Castro later moved for entry of a post-trial scheduling order. Although defendants initially objected, they later withdrew their objections, and the court granted Castro's motion, setting February 17, 2017 as the deadline for the parties to supplement their post-trial motions. Defendants did not supplement their renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law by this deadline.

         In Castro's response to defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, he asserts that the court should deny the motion because the pro forma renewed motion itself contains no supporting briefing, and defendants failed to file any supplemental briefing by the February 17, 2017 deadline. Alternatively, Castro argues that the court should deny defendants' motion for the same reasons it did so at trial.

         Defendants maintain in reply that their renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law is sufficient to preserve all issues and requests for relief made in that motion. Alternatively, they request leave to supplement their renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law.

         B

         In order to grant defendants' motion for leave to supplement, the court must decide whether to modify the February 17, 2017 deadline for the parties to supplement their post-trial motions. Although the time for filing a Rule 50(b) motion is governed, of course, by Rule 50(b) itself, a motion to supplement such a motion is governed by the court's scheduling order.

         Rule 16(b)(4) states that “[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” “The ‘good cause' standard focuses on the diligence of the party seeking to modify the scheduling order.” Cut-Heal Animal Care Prods., Inc. v. Agri-Sales Assocs., Inc., 2009 WL 305994, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Feb. 9, 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.). Mere inadvertence on the part of the movant, and the absence of prejudice to the nonmovant, are insufficient to establish “good cause.” Id.; Price v. United Guar. Residential Ins. Co., 2005 WL 265164, at *4 (N.D. Tex. Feb. 2, 2005) (Fish, C.J.) (citing Geiserman v. MacDonald, 893 F.2d 787, 791 (5th Cir. 1990)). “Instead, the movant must show that, despite [its] diligence, [it] could not reasonably have met the scheduling deadline.” Matamoros v. Cooper Clinic, 2015 WL 4713201, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 7, 2015) (Fitzwater, J.) (citing S & W Enters., L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., N.A., 315 F.3d 533, 535 (5th Cir. 2003)).

         The court assesses four factors when deciding whether to modify a scheduling order under Rule 16(b)(4): “(1) the explanation for the failure to timely [file the supplement]; (2) the importance of the [supplement]; (3) potential prejudice in allowing the [supplement]; and (4) the availability of a continuance to cure such prejudice.” S & W Enters., 315 F.3d at 536 (citation, internal quotation marks, and brackets omitted). The court considers the four factors holistically and “does not mechanically count the number of factors that favor each side.” EEOC v. Serv. Temps, Inc., 2009 WL 3294863, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 13, 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.), aff'd, 679 F.3d 323 (5th Cir. 2012). When applying this multi-factor test, the court usually denies motions to amend the scheduling order when the moving party fails to demonstrate that, despite its diligence, it could not have reasonably met the scheduling deadline. See, e.g., Id. (stating that court “remembers at all times that the good cause inquiry focuses on the diligence of the party seeking to modify the scheduling order, ” and finding that movant had failed to satisfy good cause standard of Rule 16(b)(4) where it had not provided plausible explanation for its delay, and that this failure to provide plausible explanation outweighed the other factors in the court's analysis).

         C

         1

         Defendants' explanation for failing to timely supplement their Rule 50 motion consists of the following[2]: the “essence” of their arguments has been preserved in their renewed motion and briefed in their motion to alter or amend and response to Castro's motion to alter or amend; any oversight associated with limited briefing can be corrected by granting leave to supplement; and, although the conduct of counsel does not demonstrate good cause, “it is also true that [g]ranting Defendants' Motion will allow the parties to ensure that all issues are properly sharpened, and analyzed pursuant to the standards of both Rule 50 and Rule 59(e), in anticipation of the Court making its final rulings in this case.” Ds. 3/24/17 Br. at 5. None of these arguments, however, provides the court with an explanation for why, despite their diligence, defendants could not have reasonably met the February 17, 2017 deadline. Moreover, defendants did not object to Castro's motion for entry of a post-trial scheduling order, which specifically included a proposed deadline for filing “supplemental briefing and evidentiary support for renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law.” P. 1/20/2017 Mot. at 4. Defendants failed to supplement their renewed motion by the court-ordered deadline to which they did not object. The court therefore concludes that defendants have failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for their failure to timely supplement their Rule 50(b) motion. This factor weighs against granting defendants' motion for leave to supplement their renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law.

         2.

         The second factor considers the importance of the supplement. Defendants contend that “[t]he importance of granting Defendants' Motion is clear in that no other avenue is available by which no Defendant may file such briefing.” Ds. 3/24/17 Br. at 5. Castro agrees that supplementing defendants' renewed Rule 50(b) motion with briefing and evidentiary support is important, and, in fact, “critical” to defendants' position, but he contends that “the very importance of properly supplementing the Renewed JMOL weighs against Defendants' request.” P. 4/14/17 Br. at 4.

         The court concludes that although the requested relief is important, this factor weighs only slightly in favor of modifying the scheduling order because, as defendants explain in their brief,

[t]he essence of Defendants' arguments, preserved in its Renewed JMOL, and briefed and/or argued in its Motion to Alter or Amend, and its Response to Defendants' Motion to Alter or Amend, is based in an assertion of “no evidence, ” or “insufficient evidence.” Although proving the negative, which lies at the heart of a “no evidence” issue can sometimes be challenging, Defendants did brief the same in its own Motion to Alter or Amend, and in Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend.

Ds. 3/24/17 Br. at 5. In other words, because the arguments in support of defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law are included in their motion to alter or amend the judgment[3]-and because, as the court explains below, the court is willing to consider that briefing in deciding defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law-it is not important that defendants be permitted to supplement their renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law.

         3

         The third factor considers potential prejudice in ...


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