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Azze v. Dade Medical College, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

March 6, 2017

MARIA D. AZZE, et al., Plaintiffs,



         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF No. 53]. In this action, Plaintiffs (eighty-one in number) allege violations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (“WARN Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 2101 et seq., and the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. The Plaintiffs also assert claims for unpaid wages in violation of Florida law and for negligence. The claims arise from mass layoffs by the Defendants[1](which took place on October 30, 2015) upon the failure of the entity known as “Dade Medical College, ” and from Defendants' alleged failure to pay the Plaintiffs' wages in the weeks leading up to those layoffs.

         In the instant motion, Plaintiffs seek partial summary judgment on one issue[2]related to their FLSA claim: that the three individual Defendants named herein-Ernesto Perez, the Chairman of Dade Medical College; Chris Gressett, the CEO of Dade Medical College at the time of its closing; and Jason Hanford, the CFO of Dade Medical College at the time of its closing (collectively, the “Individual Defendants”), who each appear in this action pro se-are the Plaintiffs' “employers” under the FLSA. The Individual Defendants have filed responses in opposition to the motion [ECF Nos. 56, 57 & 60].[3]The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs, the record in this case, and the applicable law and is otherwise fully advised in the premises. For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiffs' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


         Summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “is appropriate only if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Alabama v. North Carolina, 560 U.S. 330, 344 (2010). “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         An issue is “genuine” when a reasonable trier of fact, viewing all of the record evidence, could rationally find in favor of the nonmoving party in light of his burden of proof. Harrison v. Culliver, 746 F.3d 1288, 1298 (11th Cir. 2014). And a fact is “material” if, “under the applicable substantive law, it might affect the outcome of the case.” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259-60 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Where the material facts are undisputed and all that remains are questions of law, summary judgment may be granted.” Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v. Sec'y of U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 818 F.3d 1122, 1138 (11th Cir. 2016).

         The Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. SEC v. Monterosso, 756 F.3d 1326, 1333 (11th Cir. 2014). However, to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, “the nonmoving party must offer more than a mere scintilla of evidence for its position; indeed, the nonmoving party must make a showing sufficient to permit the jury to reasonably find on its behalf.” Urquilla-Diaz v. Kaplan Univ., 780 F.3d 1039, 1050 (11th Cir. 2015).

         Where, as here, the moving party bears the burden of proof at trial:

that party must show affirmatively the absence of a genuine issue of material fact: it must support its motion with credible evidence . . . that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. In other words, the moving party must show that, on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.

United States v. Four Parcels of Real Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1438 (11th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (citations, internal quotation marks, and alterations omitted). The nonmovant, in order to avoid summary judgment must

come forward with evidence sufficient to call into question the inference created by the movant's evidence on the particular material fact. Only if after introduction of the non-movant's evidence, the combined body of evidence presented by the two parties relevant to the material fact is still such that the movant would be entitled to a directed verdict at trial-that is, such that no reasonable jury could find for the non-movant-should the movant be permitted to prevail without a full trial on the issues.

Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993).

         Before proceeding further, the Court instructs that it “places great emphasis upon, and implores the parties to be mindful of, the fact that local rules have ‘the force of law.'” State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. B&A Diagnostic, Inc., 145 F.Supp.3d 1154, 1158 (S.D. Fla. 2015) (quoting Hollingsworth v. Perry, 558 U.S. 183, 191 (2010)). Southern District of Florida Local Rule 56.1 requires that “[a] motion for summary judgment and the opposition thereto shall be accompanied by a statement of material facts as to which it is contended that there does not exist a genuine issue to be tried or there does exist a genuine issue to be tried, respectively, ” S.D. Fla. L.R. 56.1(a). A statement shall, inter alia, “[b]e supported by specific references to pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits on file with the Court.” Id. R. 56.1(a)(2). Furthermore, a statement of material facts submitted in opposition to a motion for summary judgment “shall correspond with the order and with the paragraph numbering scheme used by the movant.” Id. R. 56.1(a). Local Rule 56.1(b), which governs the effect of a nonmovant's failure to controvert a movant's statement of undisputed facts, provides: “All material facts set forth in the movant's statement filed and supported as required above will be deemed admitted unless controverted by the opposing party's statement, provided that the Court finds that the movant's statement is supported by evidence in the record.” Id. R. 56.1(b) (emphasis added). This rule “serves a vital purpose in ‘help[ing] the court identify and organize the issues in the case.'” B&A Diagnostic, 145 F.Supp.3d at 1158 (quoting Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1303 (11th Cir. 2009)). “It also preserves scarce judicial resources by preventing a court from ‘having to scour the record and perform time-intensive fact searching.'” Id. (quoting Joseph v. Napolitano, 839 F.Supp.2d 1324, 1329 (S.D. Fla. 2012)).

         Given the purpose that these rules serve, “litigants ignore them at their peril.” Caban Hernandez v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 486 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2007). The Plaintiffs filed a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in support of their Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 52]. The Individual Defendants filed no response to the Plaintiffs' Statement in conjunction with the filing of their (identical) individual oppositions to the Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon con- sideration, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs' Statement is supported as required and substantially complies with all requirements of Local Rule 56.1-with one exception. Paragraph 30 states that “Chris Gresset would hire and fire employees, operate the company, provide training, determine what contracts the company might get into and had the authority to sign on behalf of the company.” [ECF No. 52 ¶ 30] (all errors [sic]). While each of the other thirty-four paragraphs in the Plaintiffs' Statement contains a citation ...

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