United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
Decided: May 16, 2014.
For Edward Earl Thompson, Plaintiff, Counter Defendant: Eric Laurence Doggett, Doggett Law Offices, Raleigh, NC.
For Blessed Home Incorporated, Felicia N. Onuorah, Amobi R. Onuorah, Defendants: John S. Austin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Austin Law Firm, PLLC, Raleigh, NC; Ihuoma Igboanugo, Law Offices of John Eluwa, Raleigh, NC.
For Blessed Home Incorporated, Counter Claimant: John S. Austin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Austin Law Firm, PLLC, Raleigh, NC.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This matter is before the Court on the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment [DE 38]. The motion is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, the plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.
Plaintiff Edward Thompson initiated this action by filing a verified complaint on January 30, 2013 alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (" NCWHA" ), and the North Carolina Retaliation Employment Discrimination Act (" REDA" ), and alleging common law wrongful discharge against public policy. Plaintiff named Blessed Home, Inc. (" Blessed" ), his corporate employer, and Felicia N. Onuorah (" Felicia" ) and Amobi R. Onuorah (" Amobi" ), Blessed's sole owners and officers, as defendants. Plaintiff alleges that he was not paid minimum wage, overtime, or for all hours worked, and that he was terminated fro his position as a habilitation technician at a group home in retaliation for complaining about defendants' unlawful pay practices and for participating in a U.S. Department of Labor (" DOL" ) investigation into those pay practices.
Defendants filed an answer claiming that Blessed is exempt from the FLSA pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(15) and (b)(21). Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint and defendants filed an amended counterclaim in response which included a counterclaim for abuse of process. Plaintiff then filed a second verified amended complaint with leave of the Court.
Plaintiff now moves to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, on defendants' abuse of process counterclaim, for summary judgment on defendants' claimed FLSA exemption affirmative defense, and for partial summary judgment as to the issues that Blessed is subject to the FLSA and that defendants Felicia and Amobi are employers and proper defendants for plaintiff's claims under the FLSA and NCWHA.
A motion for summary judgment cannot be granted unless there are no genuine issues of material fact for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party must demonstrate the lack of a genuine issue of fact for trial and if that burden is met, the party opposing the motion must " go beyond the pleadings" and come forward with evidence of a genuine factual dispute. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The Court must view the facts and the inferences drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Conclusory allegations are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (" [T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." ) (emphasis in original). " [T]here must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Id. at 252. Therefore the inquiry asks whether reasonable jurors could find for the plaintiff by the preponderance of the evidence. Id. Plaintiff must produce " significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint" or provide " specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 249-50. The Court will not consider " unsupported assertions," or " self-serving opinions without objective corroboration." Evans v. Technologies Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 962 (4th Cir. 1996).
I. ABUSE OF PROCESS COUNTERCLAIM.
[A]buse of process is the misuse of legal process for an ulterior purpose. It consists in the malicious misuse or misapplication of that process after issuance to accomplish some purpose not warranted or commanded by the writ. It is the malicious perversion of a legally issued process whereby a result not lawfully or properly obtainable under it is attended (sic) to be secured.
Stanback v. Stanback, 297 N.C. 181, 254 S.E.2d 611, 624 (N.C. 1979) (quotation omitted) overruled on other grounds by Dickens v. Puryear, 302 N.C. 437, 276 S.E.2d 325 (N.C. 1981). " Abuse of process requires both an ulterior motive and an act in the use of the legal process not proper in the regular prosecution of the proceeding." Id. (quotation omitted). " The ulterior motive requirement is satisfied when the plaintiff alleges that the  action was initiated by defendant or used by him to achieve a collateral purpose not within the normal scope of the process used. The act requirement is satisfied when the plaintiff alleges that once the  proceeding was initiated, the defendant committed some wilful act whereby he sought to use the existence of the proceeding to gain advantage of the plaintiff in respect to some collateral matter." Id. (citation ...