United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
Rosa Maria Bello Martagon, and Juan Jorge Marin Hernandez, Plaintiffs,
Alejandro Murillo and Overnight Cleanse LLC, Defendants.
HARRIS TOLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court are the parties' cross-Motions for Summary
Judgment. Doc. 38; Doc. 39. For the reasons that follow,
Defendants' motion is DENIED and
Plaintiffs' motion is GRANTED.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 2018, Plaintiffs filed the operative complaint,
alleging that: (1) since 2008, Defendants employed Plaintiffs
to perform overnight commercial cleaning every night at two
restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; (2) although
Plaintiffs generally worked ten hours per day for seven days
a week, they were not paid time-and-a-half for their overtime
hours; (3) in January 2018, Defendant Murillo
(“Murillo”) agreed to pay Plaintiff Martagon $3,
400.00 per month and Plaintiff Hernandez $4000.00 per month
for cleaning two Capital Grille locations; (4) from January
through March 2018, Plaintiffs generally cleaned the Dallas
Capital Grille kitchen between midnight and 5:00 a.m. and
cleaned the Plano Capital Grille kitchen and seating area
from 5:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.; (5) despite repeated promises,
Defendants did not pay Plaintiffs in either February or March
2018; and (6) Plaintiffs were employees of either Murillo or
Defendant Overnight Cleanse, LLC (“Overnight
Cleanse”) during the period relevant to this dispute.
Doc. 8 at 2-7.
filed suit against Defendants under the Fair Labor Standards
Act (“FLSA”) for minimum wage and overtime
violations. Doc. 8 at 8. Plaintiffs also invoked the Texas
Minimum Wage Act (“TMWA”) and asserted claims for
(1) breach of contract and, in the alternative, quantum
meruit for the period from February through March 2018; and
(2) perpetration of fraud by an alter ego, insofar as Murillo
used Overnight Cleanse to perpetrate an actual fraud on
Plaintiffs by procuring their continued labor with false
promises that they would be paid. Doc. 8 at 8-10. Defendants
now move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs'
claims, Doc. 38, and Plaintiffs have cross-moved for partial
summary judgment on their breach of contract claim, Doc. 39.
judgment shall be granted when the record shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). A dispute regarding a material fact
is “genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the court is required to view all facts and
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party
and resolve all disputed facts in favor of the nonmoving
party. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536,
540 (5th Cir. 2005). Once the moving party has made an
initial showing that there is no evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case, the party opposing the motion
must come forward with competent summary judgment evidence
showing the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475
U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
PARTIES' ARGUMENTS AND ANALYSIS
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
reciting the law governing summary judgment proceedings,
Defendants essentially reargue the merits of their previous
motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Doc. 38-1 at 4
(“Plaintiffs' amended complaint does not comply
with the fair notice pleading requirements” and
“does not show a plausible right to relief”);
Doc. 38-1 at 5 (“[D]espite having had the opportunity
to replead, Plaintiffs do not add any factual assertions to
support their claim or even address these basic elements of a
wage claim.”); Doc. 38-1 at 8-9 (reciting breach of
contract elements and asserting that “Plaintiffs do not
include these basic allegations, ” which warrants
dismissal); Doc. 38-1 at 9-10 (arguing that Plaintiffs'
fraud claim “violates Rule 9, which requires
particularity in pleading fraud claims.”). Even if such
allegations were appropriately raised in the summary judgment
context, the Court will not again address them, having
already denied Defendants' motion to dismiss on the same
bases. SeeDoc. 54.
also argue in a conclusory manner that they are entitled to
summary judgment because (1) “[Plaintiffs] cannot meet
their burden of proof on the essential elements” of
their claims; (2) “Plaintiffs are independent
contractors;”; (3) Plaintiffs “cannot provide
sufficient evidence on the elements of their breach of
contract claim”; (4) “without any evidence on any
essential claims, summary judgment should be granted”
on Plaintiffs' quantum meruit/unjust enrichment claim;
and (5) “Plaintiffs lack evidence of any essential
element of their fraud claims and summary judgment should be
granted.” Doc. 38-1 at 7-10. The only supporting
evidence to which Defendants generally point is Murillo's
deposition testimony, which they argue supports the
“uncontroverted” propositions that
“Plaintiffs are not employees” and that Murillo
has “conclusively established” his affirmative
“good-faith” defense that he acted in reliance on
unspecified “regulations, orders, and rulings.”
Doc. 38-1 at 6-7.
Plaintiffs respond to each of Defendants' points, they
first assert that Defendants failed to meet their burden
under Rule 56(c) because they make only conclusory statements
rather than cite to any evidence of record that entitles them
to relief. Doc. 76 at 2-4. The Court agrees. The United
States Supreme Court has made clear that “a party
seeking summary judgment always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if
any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 323-24.
this initial burden, “[i]t is not enough for the moving
party to merely make a conclusory statement that the other
party has no evidence to prove his case.” Ashe v.
Corley, 992 F.2d 540, 543 (5th Cir. 1993) (citation
omitted). At a minimum, the moving party must “point[ ]
out that there is no evidence to support a specific
element of the nonmovant's claim.” Austin
v. Kroger Texas L.P., 864 F.3d 326, 335 n.10 (5th Cir.
2017) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original). In other
words, “[s]imply filing a summary judgment motion does
not immediately compel the party opposing the motion to come
forward with evidence demonstrating material issues of fact
as to every element of its case.” Russ v. Int'l
Paper Co., 943 F.2d 589, 591-92 (5th Cir. 1991). Rather,
the party moving for summary judgment must cite to evidence
that affirmatively demonstrates the absence of a material
issue of fact. See Ashe, 992 F.2d at 543-44
(holding that the movant had not met its summary judgment
burden because it failed to point out an absence of proof on
any factual issues, and its motion was more akin to a Rule
Defendants have not cited to any evidence that tends to
illustrate the absence of a material fact on any of
Plaintiff's claims. Id. Indeed, Defendants only
briefly cite to Murillo's deposition testimony twice.
Docs. 38-1 at 6; 38-2 at 37-38. They do so the first time for
the supposedly “uncontroverted” proposition that
“Plaintiffs are not employees.” Doc. 38-1 at 6.
This proposition, however, is anything but
“uncontroverted.” In fact, the polar opposite