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Beck v. Access Eforms, LP

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

January 4, 2018




         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss Defendant's Counterclaims (Dkt. #29).[1] The Court, having considered the relevant pleadings, finds that Defendant's motion should be denied.


         Plaintiff Sidney Beck worked as a project specialist for Defendant Access eForms, LP, from February 11, 2010 until she resigned, effective November 14, 2016. Defendant is in the business of providing electronic form management software designed, in part, to eliminate the need for paper forms. In connection with her employment, Plaintiff executed a Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement (“Proprietary Information Agreement”) and also signed an Electronic Data Policy Acknowledgement Form (“Electronic Data Form”), which addressed the email, voicemail and Internet policies of Access eForms.

         On December 29, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Plaintiff alleges that she routinely worked in excess of forty hours per week and was not compensated as required under the FLSA. On September 28, Defendant filed its Amended Answer, Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses (Dkt. #21).[2] Defendant asserts counterclaims against Plaintiff for breach of contract, conversion of property, and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, harmful access to a computer under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 143.001, and misappropriation of trade secrets. On October 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed this motion to dismiss Defendant's (Dkt. #29). On November 9, 2017, Defendant filed its response (#33).[3]

         The Court has an independent duty, at any level of the proceedings, to determine whether it properly has subject matter jurisdiction over a case. Ruhgras AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999); McDonal v. Abbott Labs., 408 F.3d 177, 82 n.5 (5th Cir. 2005) (“federal court may raise subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte”). Therefore, in addition to Plaintiff's 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court will determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over Defendant's counterclaims under 12(b)(1).


         “When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with other Rule 12 motions, the court should consider the 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the merits.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         A federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over civil cases “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, ” or over civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and in which diversity of citizenship exists between the parties. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and must have statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate a claim. Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). Absent jurisdiction conferred by statute or the Constitution, federal courts lack the power to adjudicate claims and must dismiss an action if subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. Stockman v. Federal Election Comm'n, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). “[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction cannot be created by waiver or consent.” Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 919 (5th Cir. 2001).

         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over those cases arising under federal law. U.S. Const. Art. III § 2, cl. 1; 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A case arises under federal law if the complaint establishes that federal law creates the cause of action or the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on the resolution of a substantial question of federal law. Empire Healthchoice Assur., Inc. v. McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 689-90 (2006).

         A motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) should be granted only if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff cannot prove a plausible set of facts in support of its claim. Lane v. Halliburton, 529 F.3d 548, 557 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556-57 (2007)). The Court may find a plausible set of facts by considering: “(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by the undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Lane, 529 F.3d at 557 (quoting Barrera-Montenegro v. United States, 74 F.3d 657, 659 (5th Cir. 1996)). The Court will accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and construe those allegations in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. Truman v. United States, 26 F.3d 592, 594 (5th Cir. 1994). The party asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of proof for a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss. Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161. “A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” CleanCOALition v. TXU Power, 536 F.3d 469, 473 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Home Builders, 143 F.3d at 1010).

         B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that each claim in a complaint include “a short and plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The claims must include enough factual allegations “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state ...

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