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Stockdall v. TG Investments, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

December 30, 2015

JERRY STOCKDALL, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
TG INVESTMENTS, INC., et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          For Jerry L Stockdall, Christina L Stockdall, Plaintiffs, Counter Defendants: Michael A. Williams, LEAD ATTORNEY, John Francis Doyle, WILLIAMS DIRKS, LLC, Kansas City, MO.

         For TG Investments, Inc., George Shipman, Tina Shipman, Defendants: Harold F. Glass, LEAD ATTORNEY, MILLINGTON AND GLASS, Springfield, MO.

         For TG Investments, Inc., Counter Claimant: Harold F. Glass, LEAD ATTORNEY, MILLINGTON AND GLASS, Springfield, MO.

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         MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

         E. RICHARD WEBBER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant TG Investments, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment on Count V of the Amended Complaint [ECF No. 38] and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment on Defendant TG Investments, Inc.'s Counterclaim [ECF No. 44].

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit originated when Plaintiffs Jerry Stockdall and Cristina Stockdall (" Plaintiffs" ) filed a complaint against Defendants TG Investments, Inc., Tina Shipman, and George Shipman (" Defendants" ) alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq, and the Missouri Minimum Wage Law (" MMWL" ), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 290.500 et seq, and asserting tort claims of slander/defamation, and conversion. On October 20, 2014, Defendant TG Investments, Inc. (" TGI" ) filed a Counterclaim against Plaintiffs asserting claims of conversion and damage to property and business. On November 4, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint asserting the same counts as the original complaint and adding a count against Defendants for FLSA retaliation. Defendants filed an Amended Counterclaim against Plaintiffs on November 20, 2014, asserting claims of conversion, unjust enrichment and restitution, negligence, and tortious interference.

         TGI filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on Count V of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint asserting Plaintiffs cannot establish a claim for FLSA retaliation because no retaliatory action was taken while Plaintiffs were employed, it was required to assert its counterclaim, and its counterclaim is not baseless. In Count V of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege TGI retaliated against Plaintiffs for filing the instant lawsuit by asserting baseless counterclaims against them to deter them from asserting their rights.

         In Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment on TGI's Counterclaim, Plaintiffs assert the counterclaim fails as a matter of law because TGI has failed to produce sufficient evidence to satisfy the elements of the various claims. In Count I of TGI's Counterclaim, TGI alleges Plaintiffs are liable for conversion because Mr. Stockdall took possession of cash from hotel guests and kept the money rather than accounting to TGI for the amount. In Count II, TGI alleges Plaintiffs were unjustly enriched by keeping money guests paid for hotel rooms and failing to account to TGI for the amount. In Count III, TGI alleges Plaintiffs were negligent by damaging furniture, furnishings and fixtures in the hotel rooms they stayed in while managers of the hotel. In Count IV, TGI alleges Plaintiffs tortuously interfered with ongoing guests and customers who would otherwise have stayed at the hotel by stealing money guests paid for hotel rooms and by allowing drug users to occupy and use hotel rooms. The undisputed facts are as follows.

         The Chateau Inn and Suites (" Chateau" ) is a hotel located in Cuba, Missouri. TGI is a Missouri corporation that operates the Chateau, which is owned by Colonial Corporation. George Shipman is TGI's president and runs its day-to-day operations. Tina Shipman is George Shipman's daughter-in-law. Ms. Shipman did a variety of tasks for Mr. Shipman, similar to that of a personal assistant. Beginning May 2, 2013, the Stockdalls were hired as " live-in managers" of the Chateau. On January 3, 2014, Ms. Shipman terminated the Stockdalls'

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employment.[1] Upon termination, the Stockdalls moved out of the hotel.

         After this termination, Ms. Shipman filed a police report accusing the Stockdalls of stealing money from the Chateau. On or about January 30, 2014, the Stockdalls voluntarily went to the Cuba Police Department to discuss Ms. Shipman's theft accusation with the investigating officer, Detective Mike Sherman. The Stockdalls reported to police they allowed Tina Shedd, her husband and two children, to stay in the hotel for several months without paying. The Stockdalls also let Mr. Stockdall's mother-in-law and a child stay in the hotel three or four times without paying. They have not been contacted by the Cuba Police Department since that day. They have not been charged with any crime since they were accused by Ms. Shipman.

         The Stockdalls were terminated on January 3, 2014, four days prior to the day they allegedly rented a room to Shirely Reid Stevens and stole her cash payment.[2] Nick Gabriella took over as manager of the Chateau after the Stockdalls were terminated. Mr. Gabriella worked the front desk of the Chateau on January 7, 2014, the day Ms. Stevens paid for a room.

         The Stockdalls occupied two rooms in the hotel while they were employed. Mr. Shipman asserts Mr. Gabriella took pictures of the rooms before the Stockdalls occupied the rooms and after they occupied the rooms but they have not been produced. There are no documents, such as checks, ledgers, or anything else, showing payments made to make repairs to the room. There is no documentation of costs associated with painting the Stockdalls' room.[3] There is no evidence the Stockdalls did drugs on the property beyond that of employees' rumors.[4] The names of the two companies who allegedly stopped patronizing the Chateau due to the Stockdalls' alleged drug activity are unknown to Defendants.

         II. STANDARD

         A court shall grant a motion for summary judgment only if the moving party shows " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). By definition, material facts " might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law," and a genuine dispute of material fact is one " such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). If the non-moving party has failed to " make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's

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case, . . . there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other ...


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