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Miller v. Spence

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 10, 2015

JESSICA MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
EDWIN J. SPENCE, EDWIN J. SPENCE, JR., PORT II SEAFOOD OYSTER BAR, INC., GULF COAST STEAMER, INC., and THE SHRIMP BASKET, INC., Defendants.

ORDER

CALLIE V. S. GRANADE, District Judge.

Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Add Additional Named Plaintiffs (Doc. 25). Plaintiff requests to convert five opt-in plaintiffs to named plaintiffs. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion to amend is due to be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from a complaint which alleges that Defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by denying the plaintiff her lawful wages.[1] (Doc. 1). In their answer, Defendants deny any violation of the FLSA. (Doc. 7 pp. 2-3). Defendants admit that Edwin J. Spence owned the Port II Seafood & Oyster Bar, the Shrimp Basket, and Gulf Coast Steamer. (Doc. 7, p. 1). Defendants also admit that the plaintiff was a server and occasional bartender at Port II Seafood & Oyster Bar (operating as "Mikee's Seafood") from March 2013 to December 2013. (Doc. 7, p. 2).

On November 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Conditional Certification along with sworn declarations and consent forms of two opt-in plaintiffs, Richard Boyett and Rebeka Norwood. (Doc. 11, Exh. 1). The filing also included two opt-in consent forms, but no sworn declarations, from James Franks and Darla Bezerra. (Doc. 11-5, Doc. 11-6).

On January 14, 2015, Plaintiff moved to amend the complaint to add additional plaintiffs. (Doc. 25). Included in the motion were five signed consent forms from the opt-in plaintiffs, Richard Boyett, Rebeka Norwood, James Franks, Darla Bezerra and Amber Race. (Doc. 25, Exh. A). The Plaintiff seeks to convert these five opt-in plaintiffs to named plaintiffs.

On January 22, 2015, Defendants filed a response opposing the motion to amend. (Doc. 28). Defendants argue that the transactions and occurrences amongst the Plaintiff and the five individuals are not substantially similar because they all worked at different restaurants, at different times, with different managers and job duties. (Doc. 28 p. 3). The Court now considers Plaintiff's motion to amend.

DISCUSSION

A. FRCP Rule 15(a)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that leave to amend pleadings "shall be freely given when justice so requires." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). The Eleventh Circuit recognized that Rule 15(a) "severely restricts" a district court's discretion to deny leave to amend. Sibley v. Lando, 437 F.3d 1067, 1073 (11th Cir. 2005). "Unless a substantial reason exists to deny leave to amend, the discretion of the District Court is not broad enough to permit denial." Florida Evergreen Foliage v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co., 470 F.3d 1036, 1041 (11th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). That said, leave to amend can be properly denied under circumstances of "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment." Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc. v. Florida Mowing and Landscape Service, Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1241 (11th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

There is no indication of any bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movants, and the amendment does not appear to be futile. In this case, for the Court to deny the request, the amendment must result in undue prejudice to the opposing party. Defendant asserts that allowing the additional plaintiffs will result in "the same unmanageable situation that the Court should avoid by denying conditional certification." (Doc. 28 p. 2). A hypothetical unmanageable situation for the Court does not demonstrate any type of undue burden to the Defendants themselves. However, in this case, prejudice may arise from the joinder of some of these opt-in plaintiffs without adequate evidence of how their case relates to the named plaintiff. Therefore, the Court must also consider joinder rules.

B. FRCP 20 (a)(1)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 (a)(1) concerns the permissive joinder of plaintiffs to an action. Although the plaintiff does not discuss this rule in her motion (Doc. 25), Defendants argue that the addition of the proposed plaintiffs violates joinder rules. (Doc. ...


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