United States District Court, D. Arizona
BRIDGET S. BADE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Kristina Rueling has filed a “Motion for Attorneys'
Fees and Costs.” (Doc. 25.) Defendants MOBIT LLC and
James Koch (“Defendants”) have filed an
“Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for
Attorneys' Fees and Costs and Cross-Motion for
Attorneys' Fees.” (Doc. 26.) The motions are fully
briefed. (Docs. 27, 28.) As set forth below, the Court denies
Plaintiff's and Defendants' motions.
complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims for failure to pay
minimum wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, and
failure to make timely payment of wages under the Arizona
Wage Act, Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 23-351, 23-353, and
23-355. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff sought to recover unpaid minimum
wage compensation, liquidated damages, and statutory
penalties for Defendants' alleged violations of the FLSA
(id. at ¶ 2), as well as unpaid wages, treble
damages, and statutory penalties for Defendants' alleged
violations of the Arizona Wage Act. (Id. at ¶
response, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 10.) Defendants argued
that Plaintiff's FLSA minimum wage claim was moot because
a non-party, MOBIT Technologies Ltd., the New Zealand company
that had contracted with Plaintiff, had wired $5, 000 to
Plaintiff's bank account. (Id. at 2.) Defendants
asserted that this amount covered the wages allegedly owed to
Plaintiff under her contract, plus an additional sum.
(Id., Ex. 1 at ¶ 8.)
Court found that Plaintiff's minimum wage claim under the
FLSA was moot because Plaintiff “ha[d] been fully
compensated for all possible damages under the FLSA.”
(Doc. 23 at 10.) Therefore, the Court granted Defendants'
motion to dismiss Plaintiff's FLSA claim. The Court
declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's claim under the Arizona Wage Act and
dismissed this matter in its entirety. (Id. at
Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees
motion for attorney's fees, Plaintiff argues that she is
the prevailing party on her FLSA minimum wage claim, even
though she did not obtain a favorable judgment, and therefore
she is entitled to an award of attorney's fees. (Doc. 25
at 2-3.) In their response to Plaintiff's motion,
Defendants argue that they are not Plaintiff's employers
and therefore she has named the wrong parties as defendants.
(Doc. 26 at 3.) In her reply, Plaintiff argues that
Defendants have waived this argument because they did not
move to dismiss her claims on this basis. (Doc. 27 at 2.)
Finally, Plaintiff argues that the Defendants are liable for
her FLSA minimum wage claims because they were “joint
employers” with non-parties MOBIT Technologies, Ltd.
and Sean McDonald. (Id.) The Court considers these
Plaintiff's Status as Prevailing Party Without a
motion for attorney's fees, Plaintiff asserts that she is
the prevailing party on her FLSA minimum wage claim and
therefore she is entitled to an award of attorney's fees
and costs under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (Doc. 25 at 2-3.)
Relying on Orozco v. Borenstein, Plaintiff asserts
that although she did not obtain a judgment in her favor, she
prevailed on her FLSA claims because the lawsuit she filed
caused Defendants to pay the alleged unpaid wages.
(Id. at 3 (citing Orozco v. Borenstein,
2013 WL 4543836, at *2 (D. Ariz. Aug. 18, 2013)).) In
Orozco, the court dismissed the plaintiff's FLSA
minimum wage claim as moot after the defendant paid the
unpaid wages and liquidated damages. Orozco, 2013 WL
4543836, at *2. The court held that even though plaintiff did
not obtain a favorable judgment on his FLSA minimum wage
claim, he was the prevailing party and entitled to
attorney's fees because the filing of the lawsuit caused
defendants to pay the unpaid wages. Id. In
Orozco, the court addressed circumstances that are
similar to this case. In both cases, after filing suit, but
before a favorable judgment or settlement, the plaintiffs
received full compensation for their claims and their claims
were dismissed as moot. Thus, the court's decision in
Orozco supports Plaintiff's argument that, in
some circumstances, a favorable judgment is not required for
an award of attorney's fees under the FLSA.
Orozco decision, however, does not address the issue
presented in this case- whether Defendants were
Plaintiff's employer and thus can be liable for her FLSA
wage claims or attorney's fees. In Orozco, the
defendants filed an answer and admitted that they employed
the plaintiff, that they were an enterprise engaged in
commerce with an annual gross volume of sales or business of
not less than $500, 000, and that they were an employer.
Orozco v. Borenstein, et al, CV 11-2305-PHX-FJM,
Doc. 11 at ¶¶ 1, 15, and 16. In contrast, in this
case Defendants have consistently asserted that they are not
Plaintiff's employer. Therefore, the Court concludes that
Plaintiff's reliance on Orozco to support her
claim for attorney's fees is misplaced.
their response to Plaintiff's motion for attorney's
fees, Defendants argue that Plaintiff did not prevail on her
FLSA claim because the Court granted Defendants' motion
to dismiss and entered judgment in their favor. (Doc. 26 at 4.)
The Court, however, does not address the parties'
arguments on whether Plaintiff should be considered the
prevailing party in the absence of a favorable judgment.
Instead, as set forth below, the Court concludes that
Plaintiff did not establish an essential element of her FLSA
claim-that Defendants were her employers-and therefore she
did not establish their liability under the FLSA for damages
or attorney's fees.
Defendants Did Not Waive Defenses to Merits of
Plaintiff argues that Defendants waived any argument that
they were not her employers because they did not move to
dismiss the complaint on this basis. (Doc. 27 at 2.)
Plaintiff argues that Defendants should have asserted that
they were not her employer “in the pre-judgment phase
of this lawsuit.” (Id.) Plaintiff does not
provide any support for her suggestion that a defendant who
files a motion to dismiss ...