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Hughes-Smith v. Crown Linen Service, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 26, 2014

GIA M. HUGHES-SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
CROWN LINEN SERVICE, INC., and TIMOTHY ALAN SETZER Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Gia Hughes-Smith's ("Plaintiff") Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Order Dated February 20, 2014, [Dkt. 26], and Defendants Crown Linen Service, Inc. and Timothy Setzer's (collectively "Defendants") Motion to Strike Opposition, [Dkt. 27]. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and grant Defendants' Motion to Strike.

I. Background

Plaintiff has filed this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), alleging that Defendants, her former employer and manager respectively, failed to properly compensate her for the hours she worked. (Compl. [Dkt. 1] at 1.) In brief, Plaintiff claims that Defendants unilaterally altered her time records to reflect a lunch break when she "consistently worked through her ½ hour lunch period, " and "Defendants did not pay her at either her straight or overtime rate for any of these ½ hour periods." ( Id. at 3.)

On January 29, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety. [Dkt. 17.] This motion was served on Plaintiff's counsel that same day, and pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7(F) and Rule 6(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the deadline for any opposition was set for February 12, 2014.

At 2:43 PM on February 12, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply. [Dkt. 20.] Plaintiff's motion requested a "one day extension of time" to file her opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (First Mot. for Extension of Time at 1.) As grounds for the request, Plaintiff represented that "additional time may facilitate resolution of this matter." ( Id. ) Plaintiff further represented that Defendants did not oppose this request. ( Id. )

Given the inclement weather approaching the area on February 12, the Court contacted Plaintiff's counsel and informed him that his request for an extension was unlikely to be addressed that afternoon. The Court advised counsel to file an opposition as soon as practicable and his extension motion would be addressed when possible.

On February 14, 2014, one day after Plaintiff's opposition would have been due with the first extension, Plaintiff's counsel filed a Second Motion for a One Day Extension of Time. [Dkt. 21.] Counsel represented that "inclement weather has rendered a meeting between Plaintiff and her counsel difficult or impossible, and that additional time may facilitate resolution of this matter." (Second Mot. for Extension of Time at 1.) Making matters more confusing, the final line of Plaintiff's motion asked for an alternative deadline of "Thursday, February 18, 2014, " a date that does not exist since February 18 fell on a Tuesday. ( Id. )

The extension period requested by Plaintiff in her second motion came and went with no opposition brief filed. Defendants, in the meantime, filed an opposition to Plaintiff's second motion for an extension. (Def. Opp'n [Dkt. 22] at 1.) Interpreting Plaintiff's statement that "additional time may facilitate resolution of this matter" to be a representation that an extension would be useful for settlement purposes, Defendants submitted evidence that neither side had engaged in settlement talks. ( Id. at 2.) Defendants also presented an email showing that the real reason for Plaintiff's motion was counsel's busy trial schedule. ( Id. at 2-3.)

On February 20, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiff's extension requests. (Mem. Op. [Dkt. 23] at 4-5.) Citing the evidence submitted by Defendants, the Court concluded that there were no settlement discussions and "Plaintiff's second request for an extension of time based upon [counsel's] trial calendar" was insufficient. ( Id. at 4.)

Within hours of the Court's ruling above, Plaintiff's counsel filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration along with a Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. 25.] In the Motion for Reconsideration, Plaintiff's counsel contends that the extension requests were never intended to convey that settlement talks were ongoing. (Mot. for Recons. at 1-2.) Rather, counsel maintains that his statement that "additional time may facilitate resolution of this matter" was "to the possibility that the case might be resolved through a voluntary dismissal if, when he met with [Plaintiff], [she] was unable to adequately explain" Defendants' position. ( Id. at 2.) In counsel's own words:

The undersigned counsel represented in Plaintiff's requests for enlargement of time within which to file her response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment that an enlargement of time may "facilitated resolution of this matter." That was a true statement. The background for that statement was counsel's repeated efforts to meet with Plaintiff to prepare an affidavit or declaration in opposition to Defendants' Motion, and his inability to meet with her until the evening of Tuesday, February 19, due to her reported illness and issues related to her employment and the inclement weather. Cousel's trial schedule, as described in more detail below, was also a factor in his difficulties in meeting with Plaintiff[.] Counsel was uncertain that Plaintiff could produce an affidavit or declaration disputing Defendants' Listing of Undisputed Facts, and he could not be certain that she would be able to do so until he could meet with her and review with her timecards and timesheets that she had prepared during the course of her employment with Defendants, records that only she could adequately explain.... In fact, counsel was anticipating that when he was able to meet with Plaintiff, he would be seeking to explain to her the necessity for a voluntary dismissal. In seeking extensions of time, counsel did not believe that it would be in Plaintiff's interest to expressly reveal that a voluntary dismissal was likely until he was certain that she could not dispute Defendants' Undisputed Facts. Counsel did not intend to represent that the parties were engaged in settlement discussions.

( Id. at 1-2.) Counsel concludes that his difficulties contacting Plaintiff combined with his trial schedule constitute excusable neglect sufficient to warrant the belated response. ( Id. at 3.)

On February 21, 2014, Defendants filed their Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Response, arguing that the Court has already ruled Plaintiff's opposition untimely, and that counsel's additional arguments in support of his need for a late filing are ...


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