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Kean v. Board of Trustees of the three Rivers Regional Library System

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

January 26, 2017

LINDA KEAN, Plaintiff,


         Three motions are currently before the Court in this employment compensation dispute: defendant's Motion to Dismiss, plaintiffs Motion to Amend, and plaintiffs Motion for a Protective Order. Docs. 4, 11 & 17. The first is before the district judge while the latter two will be reached here. For the purpose of this Order, the Court will accept as true the facts lifted from the filings cited here.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Three Rivers Regional Library System (Three Rivers) employed Linda Kean as a salaried regional director. Doc. 1 at 2. She resigned on July 22, 2014, and on July 22, 2016, brought this Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) action against Three Rivers for, inter alia, unpaid overtime, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et. seq.[1] Doc. 1 at 1-3. Her chief complaint is that Three Rivers violated its "comp time" promise to her:

Where a [Three Rivers] worker exceeded 40 hours in a work week, that employee could bank "comp time", as he or she could not be paid overtime. [Three Rivers] credited KEAN with comp time for periods where her weekly recorded time exceeded forty hours. It would then apply the comp time where she failed to work forty hours in a week. If KEAN failed to work the requisite hours during a pay period, she suffered a reduction in her pay where she did not have available comp time.

Doc. 1 at 3 ¶ 8.

         Despite its comp time policy, defendant "unlawfully failed and refused to give [plaintiff] comp time credit for all overtime hours worked in violation of the FLSA . . . ." Doc. 1 at 8 ¶ 25. "Other similarly situated employees in the past, including the former director, were paid for their unused comp time when they terminated their position." Doc. 11 at 1 (citing doc. 1 ¶¶ 6-8, 20). She wants "damages in the amount of her respective unpaid overtime compensation plus liquidated damages as provided by the FLSA 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)." Doc. 1, ¶ 26. She also seeks damages for contract-breach, retaliation, [2] and Three Rivers' failure to provide a health-insurance continuation notice. Id. at 9-13.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Nomenclature

         In its Motion to Dismiss, Three Rivers argues that Kean sued an entity incapable of being sued (i.e., she misnamed the defendant) and that her FLSA, overtime, and other claims are time-barred. Doc. 4 at 2. It also raises other defenses (e.g., she was not an exempt FLSA employee and her contract claim is facially flawed). Id. at 3-22.

         Kean opposes that motion, but for good measure moves to amend her Complaint[3] so she can clear up any confusion about defendant's name. Doc. 11. Defendant says its proper name is "the Board of Trustees of the Three Rivers Regional Library System." Doc. 12 at 2. This Court has called it the "Three Rivers Regional Library System" in the past. Haven v. Regional Library System Board of Trustees, 69 F.Supp.3d 1359, 1361 (S.D. Ga. 2014). Keen cites that case and other examples to show that Three Rivers has never been confused about such "name-slippage." In any event, she wants her Amended Complaint's claims to relate back to the date of her Complaint ~ as noted above, she filed this case two years to the day of her resignation, though Three Rivers nevertheless contends that she is too late.[4] Doc. 12 at 3.

         Defendant opposes: "Despite being the Director for nearly five (5) years, and actually reporting to the Board of Trustees, the Plaintiff wrongfully named Three Rivers Regional Library System instead of the Board of Trustees of the Three Rivers Regional Library System as the party Defendant." Doc. 12 at 2. It doesn't want to lose its limitations defense over the misnaming (i.e., it reasons that if the Court agrees that Kean named the wrong defendant, she'll be too late with her claims, due to the statute of limitations, with the "right" defendant). Id. at 2-3.

         This Court does not cotton to "namesmanship." Willis v. Mayor & Alderman of the City of Savannah, 770 F.Supp.2d 1349, 1351 (S.D. Ga. 2011) (civil rights plaintiffs were entitled to amend their complaint to denominate city as defendant in its proper corporate name, where city had history of using its cumbersome, archaic name to trip-up litigants, and there was no evidence of prejudice), cited in Ga. Prac. & PROC. § 4:3 n. 4 (2016-2017 ed.). Here the defendant exploits the same sort of name-clunkiness in an obvious trip-up attempt. It does not claim any sort of identity confusion, only that Kean failed to call it "the Board of Trustees of the Three Rivers Regional Library System, " rather than "The Three Rivers Regional Library System." See also doc. 14 at 2-4 (citing past examples where no such confusion arose).

         In that respect, Kean has moved to amend early enough in this litigation to correct her misstep, [5] and has shown that it was not the function of a deliberate attempt to sow (much less exploit) identity confusion. Nor is there any hint that the defendant will suffer prejudice; not being able to exploit a limitations defense due to misnomer is not recognized as legal prejudice in this context. See Jones v. Waters, 97 F.R.D. 543, 544 (E.D. Pa. 1983) (civil rights case defendant permitted to amend answer to add limitations defense, although a year had elapsed since the original answer had been filed; plaintiff had failed to allege any specific prejudice, and "the proceedings [had] not progressed beyond the pleading stage and no discovery [had] been taken.").

         The Court thus GRANTS plaintiffs motion to amend. Doc. 11. Willis, 770 F.Supp.2d at 1351; Mahdy v. Mason City School District, 2017 WL 25504 at * 2 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 3, 2017) (granting plaintiff who sued the "Mason City School District" leave, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), to instead name the district's Board of Education); Moody v. Co II Shoults, 2016 WL 4443172 at * 1 (M.D. Ga. Aug. 19, 2016). The above-caption has been amended, the Clerk is DIRECTED to amend the docket caption accordingly, and all subsequent filings shall conform.

         B. Kean's Deposition

         Defendant wants to take Kean's deposition in Georgia; she now lives and works in Pennsylvania. Doc. 17 at 1. The parties fought over what she called a short-timed deposition notice requiring her to miss work, drive through potential snow and ice, and have her holiday season squeezed (ultimately for a December 20, 2016 deposition in Savannah, Georgia, formally noticed by Three Rivers). Doc. 17; doc. 18 at 9. They conferred but Three Rivers refused to consider a video deposition, so it noticed the December 20th deposition (triggering Kean's December 19, 2016 Motion for a Protective Order, doc. 17), noted Kean's no-show and eve-of-deposition protective order motion, and now seek costs. Doc. 18 at 1-3. Three Rivers correctly notes that Kean did not move the Court for an Order directing a remote-means deposition, doc. 18 at 3 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(4)), though she seeks one now. Doc. 17 at 8-9.

         "[A] plaintiff generally is subject to deposition in the district in which the suit was brought, even if he or she resides elsewhere. The deposition of a defendant generally will be taken at his or her place of residence or, for corporate parties or witnesses, at the corporation's principal place of business. But these are just general guidelines, and the court may enter a protective order designating a different location (or allowing the witness to testify by remote transmission) in order to ...

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