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Slaughter v. RMLS Hop Ohio, L.L.C.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 13, 2019

SHAKURA SLAUGHTER, Plaintiff,
v.
RMLS HOP OHIO, L.L.C., et al., Defendants.

          Kiraberly A. Jolson Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Romulus Holdings LLC's ("Defendant Romulus") Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8). Plaintiff has responded (ECF No. 9) and Defendant Romulus has replied (ECF No. 12). Thus, the matter is ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant Romulus' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8), thereby DISMISSING the Complaint as against Defendant Romulus.

         I.

         Plaintiff Shakura Slaughter ("Plaintiff') was employed as a server at IHOP in Hillard, Ohio from December of 2018 to July of 2018. (Am. Compl. ¶ 10., ECF No. 10.) She was also employed as a server at IHOP in Reynoldsburg, Ohio from December of 2018 to March of 2019. (Id.) On September 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant Romulus and Defendant RMLS Hop Ohio, LLC ("Defendant RMLS") alleging violations of Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), and the Ohio Constitution on behalf of herself, on behalf of those similar situated as an FLSA collective action, and on behalf of other members of a class of persons who assert claims under the laws of Ohio, as a class action. (Id. at ¶¶ 55, 61, 70, 77.)

         On September 22, 2019, counsel for Defendant Romulus sent counsel for Plaintiff a letter. (Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, Ex. A, ECF No. 8.) The letter stated that Defendant Romulus "is not a property party to the litigation. It does not own or operate any restaurants, and does not employ servers, nor does it have any subsidiaries who do so, either directly or by any subsidiary entities. Consequently, the claims against Romulus Holdings LLC should be dismissed voluntarily." (Id.) The letter also contained information regarding Defendant RMLS which is relevant to Plaintiffs minimum wage claims. (Id.)

         Subsequent to the September 22 letter, the parties' counsel exchanged several emails. (See Def.'s Reply at Exs. 1, 2, ECF No. 12.) Plaintiffs counsel asked Defendant Romulus' counsel for Plaintiffs pay records as well as further information on Plaintiffs time spent working non-tipped duties. (See Id. at Ex. 1.) Defendant Romulus' counsel provided the requested documents and information. (Id.) Defendant Romulus' counsel also asked Plaintiffs counsel to stipulate to an extension of time to answer in order to give Plaintiff more time to review the information and consider dismissing the case. (Id.) Plaintiff never responded to this request. (Id.)

         On October 28, 2019, Defendant Romulus filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Def.'s Mot. Dismiss at 1-2.) The motion also included a request for attorney's fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1927. (Id. at 11-13.) OnNovember 12, 2019, Plaintiff simultaneously filed a response agreeing to dismiss her claims against Defendant Romulus and an amended complaint no longer including Defendant Romulus and instead including Defendant Jane Doe Company No. 1. (PL's Resp. at 1, ECF No. 9; Am. Compl. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff, however, opposed the request for attorney's fees. (Id.)

         II.

         The Motion to Dismiss Defendant Romulus is unopposed. The Court grants this motion as to the dismissal of Defendant Romulus. The remaining issue is whether Defendant Romulus' counsel is entitled to attorney's fees.

         III.

         28U.S.C. § 1927 provides:

Any attorney or other person admitted to conduct cases in any court of the United States or any Territory thereof who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the Court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.

         In the Sixth Circuit, "Section 1927 sanctions are warranted when an attorney objectively falls short of the obligations owed by a member of the bar to the court and which, as a result, causes additional expense to the opposing party." Red Carpet Studios Div. v. Source Advantage Ltd., 465 F.3d 642, 646 (6th Cir. 2006). The conduct must exceed simple or inadvertent negligence. Swan v. Ruben,485 U.S. 934, 984 (1988); Hogan v. Jacobsen,823 F.3d 872, 876 (6th Cir. 2016) (noting that "sanctions may be imposed without a finding that the lawyer subjectively knew that the conduct was inappropriate, but the conduct must exceed inadvertence or negligence that frustrated the trial judge"). Importantly, "the mere finding that an attorney failed to undertake a reasonable inquiry into ...


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