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Lisa Hicks v. Averydrei

August 17, 2011

LISA HICKS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
AVERYDREI, LLC AND CHANCEFELLING, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:07-cv-01215-JMS-DML-Jane E. Magnus-Stinson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kanne, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED MAY 13, 2011

Before CUDAHY, FLAUM, and KANNE,Circuit Judges.

Lisa Hicks worked for Chance Felling and his hotel management company, Avery Drei, LLC, as a security guard and then as a desk clerk during the construction and operation of a new hotel in the Indianapolis area. After being terminated from her job as a desk clerk, Hicks sued Felling and Avery Drei (the "Defendants") seeking unpaid wages, overtime pay, and accrued vacation pay. The district court granted the De- fendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law on Hicks's vacation pay claim and a portion of their similar motion on her overtime pay claim. The jury returned a verdict in the Defendants' favor on the remaining portion of her overtime wages claim. Hicks appeals, challenging both the district court's denial of her pretrial motion to prevent the Defendants' introduction of belated evidence of cash payments and its interpretations of the law in granting the judgments as a matter of law. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Hicks began working for Felling as a security guard at the site of a hotel construction project in July 2006. She was an hourly employee, and Felling regularly paid her in cash for her services. Once the hotel opened in October 2006, Hicks transitioned to working as a front desk clerk. Felling was the owner and manager of Avery Drei, the company that operated the hotel, so he continued to serve as Hicks's employer at her new job. As a desk clerk, she received her hourly wages by check instead of cash. The parties disagree, however, about her overtime pay at that job. Hicks alleges she was never paid for overtime work at either her hourly rate or at an overtime rate. Felling alleges that he gave Hicks cash payments for overtime earnings, even though he neither requested nor authorized her to work overtime. For reasons immaterial to this appeal, the Defendants terminated Hicks's employment in April 2007, after less than a year of work with the hotel.

In September 2007, Hicks sued the Defendants in a proposed class action to recover compensation allegedly owed for the work she and similarly situated employees performed at the hotel. After her former co-worker was dismissed from the suit and her counsel abandoned attempts to certify a class (despite twice requesting and receiving extensions of time to file motions for class certification), Hicks proceeded in the case as the sole plaintiff seeking three forms of compensation. In Count I she claimed the Defendants owed her overtime wages pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. In Count II she sought payment of earned but unpaid hourly wages pursuant to Indiana's Wage Payment Statute, Indiana Code § 22-2-5-1 et seq. Finally, in Count III she sought payment of accrued vacation pay under Indiana's Wage Claims Statute, Indiana Code § 22-2-9-1 et seq. The case festered for three years, with little activity on the docket until February 2010, when the case was set for trial in June 2010.

Also in February 2010, Hicks sent a letter to Defendants' counsel requesting them to supplement responses to discovery requests originally answered in 2008. The Defendants failed to supplement their responses in accordance with Hicks's request in a timely manner, leading the district court to grant Hicks's motion to compel in May 2010. The Defendants then supplemented their responses to the interrogatories and requests for production specified by Hicks. But they also included an unsolicited supplemental response to Hicks's Interroga-tory Number 12. That interrogatory requested that the Defendants identify each instance and the amount of cash payments made to Hicks during her employment, and the Defendants had originally responded in 2008 with seven instances of cash payments made in August and September 2006, when Hicks was working as a security guard. In responding to the motion to compel on June 1, 2010, the Defendants indicated they had made six additional cash payments to Hicks between December 8, 2006, and April 6, 2007, when Hicks was working as a desk clerk.

Hicks promptly (still on June 1, 2010) moved in limine to bar the introduction of any evidence of the alleged additional payments during trial. She argued that the tardy disclosure mandated exclusion under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because it severely prejudiced her case preparations. The district court was not convinced by her counsel's assertion that indulging this disclosure-a "meretwenty days" before trial-amounted to "trial by ambush." After discussing Hicks's motion to exclude in its final pre-trial conference on June 17, 2010, the district court ruled that the Defendants could introduce evidence of the payments during trial.

Trial commenced on June 21, 2010. When Hicks rested her case the following day, the Defendants moved for directed verdicts in their favor on Hicks's FLSA overtime and Indiana Wage Claims vacation pay claims. The district court granted the motion in part, having determined that the evidence presented by Hicks could not, as a matter of law, support a jury verdict in her favor. On the same day, the jury returned a verdict against Hicks on the remainder of her overtime wages claim (the only claim remaining in the trial), and the district court subsequently entered judgment on that verdict.

Hicks timely filed a notice of appeal and then moved for a waiver of transcription fees. The Defendants opposed the motion, arguing that she did not fulfill the district court's request that she proffer reasons why her issues on appeal were not frivolous. The district court requested additional briefing from Hicks regarding the necessity of a transcript to appeal the directed verdict on part of her FLSA claim, but it denied the motion as to any portions of the transcript relating to her vacation pay claim, as it found that claim to be frivolous and without any evidentiary foundation. Hicks moved for reconsideration of the court's vacation pay decision and submitted information regarding her FLSA appeal. The district court waived the transcription fee for the testimony relevant to her FLSA claim, but denied Hicks's motion for reconsideration, noting that Hicks "herself testified at trial that she was not entitled to vacation pay." Hicks then procured only a partial transcript (comprising only those portions for which the transcription fee was waived), and she submitted only a portion of that partial transcript to this court in support of her appeal.

II. ANALYSIS

Hicks presents three issues on appeal. First, she con-tends that the district court erred by denying her motion to exclude evidence of additional cash payments the Defendants allegedly made to her. Second, she contends that the district court erred in granting a directed verdict in the Defendants' favor on part of her FLSA claim for two reasons: the district court erred in its enterprise coverage determination, and there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find that the Defendants were within the FLSA's coverage. Third, she contends that the district court erred in granting a directed verdict in the Defendants' favor on ...


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