Lopez v. Triangle Fire, Inc. et al, No. 1:2015cv22209 - Document 76 (S.D. Fla. 2017)

Court Description: ORDER Denying Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter Of Law Based Unpon Insufficient Service. Signed by Senior Judge James Lawrence King on 6/9/2017. (jw)

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Lopez v. Triangle Fire, Inc. et al Doc. 76 Case 1:15-cv-22209-JLK Document 76 Entered on FLSD Docket 06/09/2017 Page 1 of 6 U NITED STATES D ISTRICT CO URT SOUTH ERN DISTRICT O F FLOR IDA M IAM IDIVISIO N CA SE NO.15-22209-C1V-KING O SV A LD O LO PEZ, Plaintiff, TRIANGLE FIRE,INC.,RAQUEL CANO, and ORLANDO ALFONSO , Defendants. ORDER DENYING DEFENDA NTS'M OTION FOR JUD GM ENT A S A M A TTER O F LAW BASED UPO N IN SU FFICIENT SERVICE THIS M ATTER comesbeforetheCourtupon Defendant'smotion forjudgmentasa m atterOflaw pursuantto Rule50 oftheFederalRulesofCivilProcedure,fled during the trialofthismatteratthecloseofPlaintiffs'case-in-chief.DE 70.The Courthasadditionally consideredPlaintiff'sresponsein opposition tothemotion (DE 73),aswellasDefendants' reply in supportofthemoticm (DE 74). 1.INTROD UCTION Through the instantm otion,Defendantsseek reliefbased upon,inter alia,the affirm ative defense ofinsufficiency ofservict ofprocess,which wasraised in Defendants' tsrstresponsivc pleading,li.e.,Defendants'initialanswer,and subsequently in Defendants' answerto the am ended complaint. 2For hispart,PlaintiffconcedesD efendantsraised the 1Forthereasonsstated inopen courton June8,2017,theCourtalready rejectedDefendants' remainingargumentsinsupportofjudgmentasamatteroflaw. 2see DE 8;seealso DE 15. Dockets.Justia.com Case 1:15-cv-22209-JLK Document 76 Entered on FLSD Docket 06/09/2017 Page 2 of 6 insufficiency ofprocessdefense in theiranswers,butarguesthe Courtshould deny the m otion and tind thatDefendantswaived thisaftsrm ativedefensethrough theirconductin this Case. lI.LE G A L ST A N D A R D O N M O TIO N FO R JU D G M EN T A S A M A TTER O F LA W A judgmentasamatterof1aw iswarranted only itlilfduring atrialbyjury apartyhas been fully heard on an issue and there isno legally sufscientevidentiary basisfora reasonablejuryto fbnd forthatparty onthatissue.''Fed.R.Civ.P.50(a)(1).W hen evaluating Rule 50 m otions,courtsm ustconsidera1lofthe evidenceand reasonable inferencesarising therefrom in the lightmostfavorableto thenonm oving party.Beckwith v.Cl' /.pofDaytona selc/' /Shores,Fla.,58F,3d 1554,1560 (1lth Cir.1995). 111.DISCUSSIO N Asan initialm atter,the Courtwould pointoutthatinsuficientservice isa waivable defenseundertheFederalRules,whichisexplicitintheRule12(h)(1)statementthata failureto tim ely and properly raise orassertthisdefenseresultsin itswaiver.Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(1);seealsoFed.R.Civ.P.12(b).Assuch,insuficientserviceisnotnecessarilyafatal flaw in acaseinthewaythatalackofsubjectmatterjurisdictionwouldbe. Turning to the case athand,nearly tw oyearshavepassed since Defendantsfirst raised thisdefense in theirinitialanswer,and in a1lofthattim eD efendantsneversought reliefbased on the allegedly insufscientservice.During thosetwo years,Defendantsacted asthough personaljurisdictionoverthem had beenproperlyperfected.Thisisnotasituation where any Defendantlacked notice oforthe opportunity to fully participate in thisaction. AllDefkndantsprom ptly appeared in thiscaseand answered thecom plaintfifteen daysafter Case 1:15-cv-22209-JLK Document 76 Entered on FLSD Docket 06/09/2017 Page 3 of 6 the complaintw asfiled,and each Defendanthasactively participated in thism atterthrough each stage oflitigation allthew ay through trial. During thenearly tw o yearssince Defendantssrstanswered the com plaintand appeared in thiscase,itw ould have been simple forPlaintiffto curethe service issue if Defendantshad moved forreliefbased upon thisdefenseand broughtthism atterto issue, but instead Defendantssatback and allowed tim eto pass,resulting in m oreand m ore of Plaintiff sclaim falling outside the statuteoflim itations.3Yet, during allthistim e, Defendantsnevertook the aftsrm ativestep offiling a m otion to seek reliefbased upon this defense.W ith respectto thisdefense,the groundsforwhich havebeen presentand complete theentiretim e thism atterhasbeen pending,Defendantsignored the Court-m andated deadlinefortheslingofdispositivemotionscontainedinitsscheduling order(DE 9). Furthermore,in fwt?pretrialstipulations(DE 31;DE 44),Defendantsstipulatedtothe Court'sjurisdiction overthismatlerwithoutraisingany personalJ'urisdiction issuesand otherw ise failed to raisethisissue in thepretrialstipulationsoratthe pretrialconference despitethefactthatthepretrialstipulation requiresthepartiestolistiCAIIUndisposedof M otionsor OtherM attersRequiring Action by theCourt''and the Courtexplicitly askedthe partiesduring thepretrialeonference iftherew ereany pending issuesrem aining to be resolved.Seeid.(emphasissupplied). 3The statuteoflim itationsforwillfulviolationsofthe FairLaborStandardsActisthree years,and the statutesoflim itationsin Florida forbreach oforalcontractand quantum meruitarefouryears.lftheCourtweretodismissthisactionwithoutprejudicetoday,a1lbut fourmonthsofPlaintiff'sem ploym entw ith Defendantswould falloutsidethestatuteof lim itationsforFLSA ,and al1butone yearand fourm onthswould falloutsidethe statutesof limitationsforbreach oforalcontractand quantum m eruit. Case 1:15-cv-22209-JLK Document 76 Entered on FLSD Docket 06/09/2017 Page 4 of 6 ThatDefendantshave had notice of,and haveactively participated in,thiscase from itsinceptiontwoyearsago isplain.Indeed,Defendants:i)engaged in substantialdiscovery andtookdepositions,ii)attended aCourt-orderedsettlementconference,iii)tlledamotion forsummaryjudgment(whichmadenomention ofthisissue),iv)attended apretrial conference(andmadenomentionofthisissue),v)attendedfwo calendarcalls(andmadeno mention ofthisissue),vi)filedarenewedmotion forsummaryjudgment(andmadeno mentionofthisissue),andvii)allowedcitizensofthisDistricttobecalled in fortwodaysof trial(withoutevenattempting to alerttheCourttothispending defenseuntilthecloseof Plaintifpscase-in-chieg.TheCourtisalso acutely awareofthefactthatDefendantswere seeking,through theirmotionsforsummaryjudgment,afavorableruling on anexemption issuew hich,in defense counsel'sown w ords,isSûvery im portant''to Defendantsandtheir industry,yetthemotionswerefiled atatimewhen Defendantsapparently believed(but withheldfrom theCourt)thattheCourtlackedpersonaljurisdiction overthem . ThecasescitedbyDefendantsinsupportoftheirmotionforjudgmentasamatterof law are factually and procedurally inappositeto the instantm atter.See Schnabelv.W ells, 922F.2d726(11th Cir.1991)(dismissingaction forinsufscientserviceatsummary judgmentstageaftercasehadbeenpending foronlytenmonths);seealso Oldheld v.Pueblo DeBahiaLoria,S.A.,558F.3d 12010(11thCir.2009)(settingasidedefaultjudgm entand instructing distrietcoul'tto dismisseastwheredefendantwasnotproperly served);seealso Clarkv.City ofzebulon,l56F.R.D.684 (N.D.Ga.1993)(dismissingaetion forinsuffcient serviceatsummaryjudgmentstageaftercasehadbeen pending foronly tenmonths);see also Barrv.One Touch D irect,LLC,No.15-CV -2391, DE 78(M . D.Fla.April22,2016) Case 1:15-cv-22209-JLK Document 76 Entered on FLSD Docket 06/09/2017 Page 5 of 6 (dismissing actionforinsufficientserviceatmotionto dismissstageaftercasehadbeen pending foronly six months). Therefore,based upon the circum stancespresentin thiscase,theCourtconcludes, as theSecondCircuitdidin thematterofDatskow v.Fe/e#yne,Inc.,899F.2d 1298(2d Cir. 1990)(Newm an,J.),thatDefendantshavewaived theirinsufficiency ofservicedefensteven though kithe defensew asasserted in a tim ely answer.''1d.at1303;seealso Rentzv, Sw# Transp.Co.,Inc.,185F.R.D.693,697-701(M .D.Ga.1998).Likethedefendantin D atskow,Defendantscould haveand should have soughtreliefbased on inadequacy of service long before they did.Defendants'lengthy participation in thiscaseand substantial engagementofthelitigationmachinery al1thewaythrough discovery,summaryjudgment, pretrialconference,calendarcall,and Plaintiffs case-in-chiefattrialw arrantsthe conclusion thattheaffirm ative defense ofinsufficientservice ofprocesshasbeen w aived. To allow asuceessfulassertion ofthisdefenseaftertwo yearsoflitigation,based upon Defendants'nom inalwritten preservation ofthe defense by raising itin their answ ers, would be inequitableto Plaintiff.Insuftlcientservice ofprocessis aw aivabledefenseunder Rule 12 oftheFederalRulesofCivilProcedure,and the Courttsndsithasbeen waived by Defendants'conduct.Therefore,the Rule 50 m otion is denied with respectto thesufsciency ofservice issue. lV.CO NCLUSIO N Therefore,itisO RDERED,ADJUDG ED ,and DECR EED thatDefendants'm otion forjudgmentasamatteroflaw pursuanttoRule50oftheFederalRulesofCivilProcedure (DE 70)be,andthesameis,herebyDENIED. Case 1:15-cv-22209-JLK Document 76 Entered on FLSD Docket 06/09/2017 Page 6 of 6 DO NE AND O RDERED in Cham bers atthe Jam es Lawrence King FederalJustice Building and United StatesCourthouse,M iam i,Florida,this9th day ofJune,2017. JAM ES LA W N CE KING UN ITED STATES DISTRICT GE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FL RIDA cc: A Ilcounselofrecord 6

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