United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
LAURA GREEN, et al. PLAINTIFFS
PLATINUM RESTAURANTS MID-AMERICA, LLC DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Renewed Motion
to Dismiss Defendant's Counterclaim (DN 128). For the
reasons set forth below, the motion is
class of similarly situated servers, cocktail servers, and
bartenders (collectively “Plaintiffs”)-filed this
action against their employer, Platinum Restaurants
Mid-America, LLC (“Defendant”), alleging that
Defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) and Kentucky Wage and Hours Act
(“KWHA”) when it forced them to participate in a
tip pooling agreement (the “TPA”) under which it
shared their tips with non-tipped employees. (Fourth Am.
Collective Action ¶¶ 46-56, DN 119). Plaintiffs
contend that based on the invalidity of the TPA, they are
entitled to various forms of relief, including monetary
damages equal to the difference between the wage Defendant
paid them ($2.13 per hour) and the applicable minimum wage
($7.25 per hour). (Fourth Am. Collective Action ¶¶
response, Defendant asserted a counterclaim for unjust
enrichment against certain Plaintiffs-namely, the bartenders.
(Def.'s Answer & Countercl. ¶¶ 1-76, DN
120). Defendant specifically claims that the servers and
other tipped employees paid a share of their nightly tips to
the bartenders under the TPA. (Def.'s Answer &
Countercl. ¶ 21). Accordingly, Defendant asserts that,
if the TPA is invalid, the bartenders will owe the servers a
debt in an amount equal to the tips they received under the
pooling agreement, and, if Defendant is required to pay the
servers damages based on the invalid TPA, Defendant would
effectively be discharging that debt-thereby conferring a
benefit upon the bartenders at its own expense. (Def.'s
Answer & Countercl. ¶¶ 77-78, 80). Thus,
Defendant concludes, “it would be inequitable for [the
bartenders] to retain the tips they received under the
[TPA].” (Def.'s Answer & Countercl.
now move the Court to dismiss Defendant's counterclaim,
alleging that it fails to state a claim on which relief can
be granted. (Pls.' Renewed Mot. Dismiss, DN 128
[hereinafter Pls.' Mot. Dismiss]). Defendant has
responded, and Plaintiffs have submitted a reply. (Def.'s
Resp. Pls.' Renewed Mot. Dismiss, DN 132 [hereinafter
Def.'s Resp.]; Pls.' Reply, DN 135). The subject
motion is thus ripe for adjudication.
action arises under the laws of the United States and the
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” and is subject to dismissal if it “fail[s] to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering
a motion to dismiss, courts must presume all factual
allegations in the complaint to be true and make all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem
Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th
Cir. 2008) (citing Great Lakes Steel v. Deggendorf,
716 F.2d 1101, 1105 (6th Cir. 1983)). “But the district
court need not accept a bare assertion of legal
conclusions.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA,
LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Traverse Bay
Area Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Mich. Dep't of
Educ., 615 F.3d 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim becomes
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). On the other hand, a
claim is implausible if “no law supports” it.
Southfield Educ. Ass'n v. Southfield Bd. of
Educ., 570 F. App'x 485, 487 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561-64).
asserts a counterclaim is for unjust enrichment/equitable
subrogation. To state a claim for unjust enrichment under
Kentucky law, a party must present facts supporting three
elements: “(1) [a] benefit conferred upon defendant at
plaintiff's expense; (2) a resulting appreciation of
benefit by defendant; and (3) inequitable retention of
benefit without payment for its value.” Guerin v.
Fulkerson, 354 S.W.3d 161, 165 (Ky. App. 2011) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (citing Jones v. Sparks,
297 S.W.3d 73, 78 (Ky. App. 2009)). In addition, to prevail
on a claim for equitable subrogation, a party must show,
among other things, that he has or will pay the debt of
another. Bryan v. Henderson Elec. Co., 566 S.W.2d
823, 825 (Ky. App. 1978). A claim for equitable subrogation
“prevent[s] unjust enrichment by assuring that the
person who in equity and good conscience is responsible for
the debt is ultimately answerable for its discharge.”
In re Air Crash Disaster, 86 F.3d 498, 549 (6th Cir.
1996) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks
omitted) (citation omitted).
argue that Defendant's counterclaim is not cognizable,
and, therefore, must be dismissed. (Pls.' Mot. Dismiss
5-12). Specifically, they aver that Defendant cannot satisfy
the first element of its claim because the bartenders never
received a benefit “at Defendant's
expense”-rather, the benefit the bartenders received
(the tips) came at the expense of other employees. (Pls.'
Mot. Dismiss 10 (emphasis removed)). Defendant counters that
Plaintiff misunderstands its claim. In particular, Defendant
contends that the bartenders will receive a benefit
at its expense “if it is required to reimburse [the
servers] for a debt”-namely, the tips the ...