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Cuff v. Trans States Holdings

July 8, 2010

DARREN CUFF, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRANS STATES HOLDINGS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendants Trans States Holdings ("Trans States Holdings" or "TSH") and GoJet ("GoJet") each move to dismiss the claims against them. Trans States Holdings alleges that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. GoJet alleges that Plaintiff Cuff failed to state a claim against it upon which relief can be granted. Although these motions were filed by separate parties and are based on separate grounds for dismissal, they will be decided together because resolution of these motions depends on common issues of fact and law. The Motions to Dismiss are denied for the reasons stated herein.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Darren Cuff ("Cuff") was employed as "Regional Manager - United Express Operations" at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois from October 22, 2006 until his termination on January 11, 2010. Cuff alleges that his termination violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (the "FMLA").

The dispute in both Motions to Dismiss centers around which of the Defendant(s) employed Cuff. The Complaint alleges that Trans States Holdings ("TSH"), Trans States Airlines ("TSA"), and GoJet Airlines ("GoJet") are an integrated employer or joint employers such that all three employed Cuff for purposes of FMLA liability. In support of this theory, the Complaint states that TSH hired Cuff, and that Cuff supervised employees, attended employee meetings, drafted binding policies, and served as the O'Hare contact person for both TSA and GoJet. The Complaint also states that Cuff was directly supervised and eventually terminated by Ed Trowbridge ("Trowbridge"), who worked for TSH as the Managing Director, Customer and Ground Services.

TSH and GoJet both move to dismiss on the grounds that they never employed Cuff and were not a joint employer or part of an integrated employer. More specifically, TSH claims that it has no business or employees in Illinois so personal jurisdiction is lacking, while GoJet argues it should be dismissed from the case as a nonparty because Cuff failed to state a claim that GoJet is a joint or integrated employer.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A federal district court exercising federal question jurisdiction can gain personal jurisdiction over a defendant if jurisdiction would not violate federal due process requirements and the defendant is "amenable to service of process" by the court. United States v. Martinez de Ortiz, 910 F.2d 376, 381-82 (7th Cir. 1990). Due process requires that each defendant have sufficient contacts with the United States so that the exercise of jurisdiction does not violate "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Id. at 382. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k) governs amenability to process, and states in relevant part:

Serving a summons or filing a waiver of service establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant:

(A) who is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located;... [or]

(C) when authorized by a federal statute.

Once a defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2), the burden of demonstrating personal jurisdiction falls on the plaintiff. Cent. States, Se. and Sw. Areas Pension Fund v. Reimer Express World Corp., 230 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2000). In cases where the parties submit written materials to support their arguments, all factual disputes are resolved in plaintiff's favor and the plaintiff "need only make out a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction." Purdue Research Found. v. SanofiSynthelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint fails to satisfy Rule 8's pleading requirements of "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." For a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in a complaint but is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief ...


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