SCOT CARLEY, On Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff - Appellee
CREST PUMPING TECHNOLOGIES, L.L.C., Defendant-Appellant
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Texas
KING, HAYNES and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
HAYNES, Circuit Judge:
Pumping Technologies, LLC ("Crest") appeals the
magistrate judge's denial of its motions for judgment as a
matter of law and a new trial. A jury returned a verdict in
favor of Scot Carley and Brandon Brown (collectively,
"Plaintiffs"), former employees of Crest, finding
that Crest wrongfully denied them overtime pay in violation
of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). On
appeal, Crest argues that the trial court erred in not
granting it judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL") or
a new trial, because it was exempt from FLSA's overtime
payment requirements. Crest also argues that it should have
received a new trial because, inter alia, the court
improperly placed the burden on Crest to prove that the
SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act ("Corrections
Act") did not except Plaintiffs from the Motor Carrier
Act ("MCA") exemption.
the magistrate judge incorrectly placed the burden of proof
on Crest as to the Corrections Act's applicability, and
Plaintiffs presented no evidence to meet their burden of
proving the weight of the vehicles they operated, we VACATE
and RENDER JUDGMENT for Crest.
is a corporation providing downhole cementing and pump down
services for complex unconventional and conventional oil
wells. Crest employed Plaintiffs as cementers. Carley was
employed by Crest from February 18, 2014, to June 10, 2014,
while Brown was employed by Crest from February 18, 2014, to
October 19, 2014. After leaving their positions, Plaintiffs
filed this claim under FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-19,
specifically alleging a failure to adequately compensate for
overtime work as required under 29 U.S.C. § 207(a).
Crest answered, alleging, inter alia, that Plaintiffs were
exempt from the overtime pay requirements of FLSA under the
MCA exemption. The parties have stipulated to the requisite
facts establishing the MCA exemption; therefore, the issue is
whether Plaintiffs were otherwise not subject to the
exemption, as explained below.
September 12-14, 2016, a jury trial was held to determine
Crest's liability. Plaintiffs called defense witness
David Crombie, founder and president of Crest. He testified
that cementers used only Ford F-350 vehicles for their jobs,
as those vehicles were required to carry the weight necessary
for work. Crombie testified that he located the vehicle
assigned to Carley and that it was an F-350 with a gross
vehicle weight rating ("GVWR") of 11, 500
pounds. He made the determination based upon (1) the
doorplate and (2) calling the manufacturer and providing the
vehicle's VIN number. He testified that Crest had sold
the vehicle assigned to Brown, but that it was an F-350
identical to Carley's. Crombie stated that he had
provided the VIN number to the manufacturer to determine that
its GVWR was also 11, 500 pounds. No competent contrary
evidence as to GVWR was presented.
questioned Crombie about an Internet Registration Renewal
that Crest had submitted to the Texas Department of Motor
Vehicles for an F-350, in which Crest represented that
Plaintiffs' vehicles' "empty weight" was
7600 pounds and their "gross weight" was 9600
pounds. Crest's counsel asked Crombie to clarify the
meaning of "gross weight" as compared to GVWR, and
Crombie explained that the two measurements are different.
Thus, the evidence of the vehicles' "gross
weight" was not evidence of their GVWR.
close of Plaintiffs' evidence, Crest moved for JMOL under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). Crest argued, inter
alia, that the Corrections Act did not except Plaintiffs from
the MCA exemption because the Corrections Act only applies if
the GVWR of the vehicles operated by Plaintiffs was 10, 000
pounds or less. Because Plaintiffs had not refuted
Crest's evidence that Plaintiffs' vehicles had a GVWR
of 11, 500 pounds, no reasonable juror could conclude that
Plaintiffs were not subject to the MCA
exemption. The court denied the motion. At the close
of the evidence, Crest reiterated its JMOL motion, which the
court again denied.
charge conference, the parties disputed the allocation of the
burden of proof with respect to the Corrections Act. Crest
argued that the jury charge should place the burden on
Plaintiffs, as employees, to prove that the Corrections Act
excepts them from the MCA exemption. However, the court left
the charge as written, requiring Crest to prove that the
Corrections Act did not apply to Plaintiffs.
jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs, finding that
Crest did not prove that Plaintiffs were exempt from overtime
compensation under the MCA exemption. The magistrate judge
subsequently entered final judgment for Plaintiffs. Crest
timely moved for JMOL under Rule 50(b) and argued, in the
alternative, for a new trial under Rule 59(a). Crest's
motion for a new trial stated, inter alia, that the
jury's conclusion regarding the MCA exemption was against
the great weight of the evidence and that the burden of proof
should not have been placed on it with respect to the
Corrections Act. The court denied both motions. Crest timely
appealed both denials.
Standard of Review
review de novo the district court's denial of a motion
for judgment as a matter of law, applying the same standard
as the district court." Heck v. Triche, 775
F.3d 265, 272 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Foradori v.
Harris, 523 F.3d 477, 485 (5th Cir. 2008)). "A
motion for judgment as a matter of law in a case tried by a
jury, however, 'is a challenge to the legal sufficiency
of the evidence supporting the jury's verdict.'"
Id. at 272-73 (quoting Hiltgen v. Sumrall,
47 F.3d 695, 699 (5th Cir. 1995)). Therefore, the standard of
review is "especially deferential, " and "we
draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all credibility
determinations in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party." Id. at 273 (quoting Flowers v. S.
Reg'l Physician Servs. Inc., 247 F.3d 229, 235 (5th
Cir. 2001), and Foradori, 523 F.3d at 485). We
review a trial court's decision to deny a new trial for
abuse of discretion. Pryor v. Trane Co., 138 F.3d
1024, 1026 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam).
207 of FLSA requires an employer to pay overtime compensation
to employees working more than forty hours a week, subject to
certain statutory exemptions. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); 29
U.S.C. § 213(a)-(b). Crest's motions here relate to
exemptions to FLSA's overtime requirement in § 207.
The Supreme Court recently clarified that courts are to give
FLSA exemptions "a fair reading, " as opposed to
the narrow ...