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Radtke v. Caschetta

May 15, 2007

KATHY RADTKE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MARIA CASCHETTA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Kathy Radtke and Carmen Cunningham bring this action against defendants Maria Caschetta, Lifecare Management Partners ("Lifecare"), and Advanta Medical Solutions, LLC ("Advanta"), alleging breach of contract and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Currently pending before the Court are a set of defendants' motions -- a motion to dismiss for improper venue, motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, motion to sever, motion for a more definite statement, and motion to compel arbitration. Upon consideration of the motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court determines that plaintiffs' claims should be severed, defendants' motions regarding Cunningham's claims presently lack merit, and the Court needs additional information regarding the disposition of Radtke's clams. Therefore, for the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion to sever plaintiffs' claims is GRANTED, defendants' motion for a more definite statement is DENIED, defendants' motion to compel arbitration is DENIED without prejudice, and the parties are directed to submit supplemental memoranda concerning the proper remedy for defendants' motions to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed their complaint in this Court on November 29, 2006. According to the complaint, plaintiff Radtke was hired by defendants Caschetta and Advanta in November 2004 as a medical records coder. Radtke worked on-site at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and at Kaiser Permanente in Kensington, Maryland. The complaint alleges that Radtke was not properly paid for overtime, working on holidays, and for her travel expenses. Plaintiff Cunningham was hired by defendants Caschetta and Lifecare in November 2002 as a medical records coder. Cunningham worked on-site at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The complaint alleges that Cunningham was not properly paid for overtime and working on holidays. Both plaintiffs bring claims for these lack of payments under the FLSA and as breaches of their employment contracts.

The complaint also alleges relevant facts about the parties. Radtke and Cunningham are both residents of Maryland. Caschetta is allegedly a resident of Maryland, full owner and officer or director of Advanta, and part owner and officer or director of Lifecare. Lifecare is incorporated in Virginia and registered to do business in the District of Columbia. Advanta is incorporated in Maryland and registered to do business in the District of Columbia.

In response to the complaint, defendants filed a set of five motions: (1) a motion to dismiss Radtke's claims for improper venue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3); (2) a motion to dismiss Radtke's claims for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2); (3) a motion to sever the claims of the plaintiffs under Rule 21; (4) a motion for a more definite statement of the claims under Rule 12(e); and (5) a motion to compel arbitration of Cunningham's claims under the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). In the course of briefing, defendants submitted two pieces of documentary evidence -- an affidavit by Caschetta and a consulting contract between Cunningham and Adventa, signed in October 2003, which includes an arbitration clause.

ANALYSIS

I. Motion to Sever

Claims may be severed if parties are improperly joined.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 21. In determining whether the parties are misjoined, the joinder standard of Rule 20(a) applies. M.K. v. Tenet, 216 F.R.D. 133, 137 (D.D.C. 2002). There are two requirements for joinder under Rule 20(a): "(1) a right to relief must be asserted by, or against, each plaintiff or defendant relating to or arising out of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences, and (2) a question of law or fact common to all of the parties must arise in the action." Id. at 138. Courts employ a case by case approach in evaluating whether particular facts constitute a single transaction or occurrence. Id.; see also Disparte v. Corp. Executive Bd., 223 F.R.D. 7, 10 (D.D.C. 2004) ("In order to satisfy the first prong of this equation, the claims must be logically related."). Additionally, courts should consider whether an order under Rule 21 would prejudice any party, or would result in undue delay. M.K., 216 F.R.D. at 138. The determination of a motion to sever is within the discretion of the Court. Id. at 137.

Defendants move to sever Radtke's claims from Cunningham's claims because the plaintiffs worked for different companies, at different locations, and have alleged different violations of the FLSA. Plaintiffs respond that joinder is appropriate because (1) both plaintiffs were employed by Caschetta, (2) Caschetta has some control of both defendant companies, (3) both plaintiffs were employed for the same task -- medical record coding, and (4) both plaintiffs suffered the same type of harm -- unpaid wages. Defendants have rebutted the first two assertions with Caschetta's affidavit. Caschetta states that she has no ownership interest in Lifecare, is not an officer or director of Lifecare, and is not an employee of Lifecare. Aff. of Maria Caschetta, Defs.' Reply, Ex., at 1. Plaintiff has not responded to these factual assertions, nor has sought discovery in order to rebut them.

Accepting Caschetta's affidavit as undisputed, the Court finds that Caschetta is not related to Lifecare in any way, and thus did not employ Cunningham. This leaves as the only links between plaintiffs' claims the facts that plaintiffs were employed to perform the same type of work and allegedly suffered the same type of injury. Because they worked for separate companies and at different locations, however, plaintiffs claims do not arise out of the same transactions or occurrences. See M.K., 216 F.R.D. at 138. Moreover, as this case is still in the pleadings stage, severing the claims will not unduly prejudice any party or delay proceedings. See id. Therefore, Radtke's claims shall be severed from Cunningham's claims.

II. Motions to Dismiss

Defendants move to dismiss Radtke's claims for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2) and improper venue under Rule 12(b)(3). To determine whether a court has jurisdiction over a defendant, it must first "determine whether jurisdiction over a party is proper under the applicable local long-arm statute and whether it accords with the demands of due process." United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995). A court may find personal jurisdiction over a defendant through either general or specific jurisdiction. Savage v. Bioport, Inc., 460 F. Supp. 2d 55, 58 (D.D.C. 2006). "If a defendant does not reside within or maintain a principal place of business in the District of ...


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