United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is the latest lawsuit involving Kenneth Wooldridge's
time as a board member on the Macon Electric Cooperative
(MEC). Wooldridge spent 35 years as an MEC board member
before being ousted under extremely contentious circumstances
after he started dating MEC employee Kathryn Smith. The
relationship was disclosed to board members, but after Smith
was denied a raise and began complaining of discrimination,
various board members decided Wooldridge needed to go.
Because of his relationship with Smith, Wooldridge was
excused from certain closed meetings where the board members
discussed Smith's allegations with MEC counsel Andrew
Sporleder. Wooldridge surreptitiously recorded these
meetings, listened to the recordings, and then provided them
to Smith and her attorney, defendant George Smith, to assist
them in Smith's prosecution of a discrimination claim
filed her lawsuit in this Court, Smith v. Macon Electric
Cooperative, et al., Case Number 2: 16 CV 57 ERW. During
a December 8, 2016 scheduling conference in the
Smith case, attorney Smith first disclosed the
existence of the recordings. He did not, however, disclose
who made the recordings. The 14 audio recordings were later
produced to MEC by attorney Smith pursuant to court order on
January 27, 2017. [Doc. # 76-1 in Case No. 2: 16 CV 57 ERW].
It was not revealed that Wooldridge made the tapes until he
filed an affidavit in the Smith case on April 13,
2017. [Doc. # 69-3 in Case No. 2: 16 CV 57
time it was learned that Wooldridge had made the tapes, he
had filed a discrimination lawsuit of his own against MEC,
Wooldridge v. Macon Electric Cooperative, et al.,
Case Number 2: 16 CV 87 HEA (the Wooldridge case).
Wooldridge named as defendants MEC, individual board members,
and MEC manager (and alleged harasser of Kathryn Smith) Doug
Drake. Sporleder was not named as a defendant. Attorney Smith
also represented Wooldridge. Wooldridge brought federal
claims of retaliation under Title VII and the ADEA, as well
as state law claims for retaliation and discrimination under
the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) and defamation.
Wooldridge claimed that he was subject to retaliatory
treatment and discrimination because he opposed MEC's
unlawful treatment of Smith. The retaliatory and
discriminatory treatment about which he complained included
being excluded from the same board meetings he secretly
defendants in the Wooldridge case filed their
answers on February 6, 2017, before learning of the tapes.
[Docs. # 31-40 in Case Number 2: 16 CV 87 HEA]. After the
existence of the tapes came to light in the Smith
case and it was finally determined that Wooldridge made the
tapes, defendants in the Wooldridge suit moved for
sanctions against Wooldridge for his illicit taping of closed
board meetings. The presiding judge in that case, the
Honorable Henry E. Autrey, agreed that sanctions were
warranted for Wooldridge's conduct, and he accordingly
dismissed Wooldridge's complaint with prejudice
“based upon [Wooldridge's] repeated willful
interception of attorney-client conversations over an
extended period of time and the improper use of his position
as a Board member of the disclosure of a privileged
communication.” [Doc. # 83 in Case Number 2: 16 CV 87
HEA]. Wooldridge did not appeal that dismissal. See
Wooldridge v. Macon Electric Coop, Case No 2:16CV87 HEA,
2018 WL 4333609 (E. D. Mo. Sept. 11, 2018).
the dismissal of the Wooldridge case by Judge
Autrey, the MEC, its individual board members (Laure Baker,
Harold Beach, Larry Robuck, George Saunders, Kemper Walker,
Glenda Wood), Drake, and Sporleder filed the instant case
against Wooldridge and attorney Smith, asserting federal
question jurisdiction under the Federal Wiretap Act, 18
U.S.C. § 2510, et seq. They also bring state law claims
against both defendants arising from the unauthorized taping
of MEC board meetings. The state law claims include breach of
fiduciary duty, invasion of privacy and fraud against
Wooldridge, and a conspiracy claim against Wooldridge and
and attorney Smith have each filed motions to dismiss the
complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Attorney Smith has also filed a separate motion for summary
judgment. Wooldridge's motion and attorney Smith's
motions raise the same legal arguments and will accordingly
be addressed together. Defendants argue that MEC, Drake, and
the board members should have raised their claims as
compulsory counterclaims in the Wooldridge case, and
their failure to do so bars them from raising them
Defendants also argue that all of the plaintiffs' claims
(including Sporleder's) are barred by the doctrines of
res judicata and collateral estoppel and should be dismissed.
I will deny the motions, as these claims are not barred by
the doctrines of collateral estoppel or res judicata and they
were not required to be brought as compulsory counterclaims
to Wooldridge's suit.
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint
so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally
flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby
sparing the litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and
trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles,
244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678,
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)).
determining whether summary judgment should issue, the Court
must view the facts and inferences from the facts in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 587 (1986); Littrell v. City of Kansas City,
Mo., 459 F.3d 918, 921 (8th Cir. 2006); Woods v.
DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir.
2005). The moving party has the burden to establish both the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that it is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c);
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247
(1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Enterprise Bank v. Magna Bank, 92 F.3d 743,
747 (8th Cir. 1996).
13(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs
compulsory counterclaims. It provides in relevant part that
“[a] pleading must state as a counterclaim any claim
that-at its time of service-the pleader has against an
opposing party if the claim: (A) arises out of the
transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the
opposing party's claim . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 13(a).
See Southern Constr. Co. v. United States ex rel.
Pickard, 371 U.S. 57, 60 (1962) (Rule 13(a) was
“designed to prevent multiplicity of actions and to
achieve resolution in a single lawsuit of all disputes
arising out of common matters.”). The Eighth Circuit
Court of Appeals “has recognized the ‘logical
relation' test as one of four that federal courts have
applied” to determine if a counterclaim is compulsory.
Tullos v. Parks, 915 F.2d 1192, 1195 (8th Cir. 1990) (citing
Cochrane v. Iowa Beef Processors, 596 F.2d 254, 264
(8th Cir. 1979)); Stockdall v. TG Investments, Inc.,
129 F.Supp.3d 871, 877 (E.D. Mo. 2015).
argue that the claims of all plaintiffs except Sporleder are
barred because they should have been brought as compulsory
counterclaims in the Wooldridge case. According to
defendants, plaintiffs' claims in this case and the
claims raised in the Wooldridge case arise out of
the same transaction or occurrence because both cases concern
the board's treatment of Wooldridge and Wooldridge's
employment with MEC. Defendants arguments are unavailing, as
the only relationship between the claims raised in the
Wooldridge case and those raised in the instant case
is that they both involve similar parties and
Wooldridge's time on the MEC Board. Yet a modicum of
factual commonality does not demonstrate that plaintiffs'
claims were compulsory counterclaims in the
Wooldridge case. Additionally, the operative facts
surrounding defendants' misconduct were not discovered
until well after the Wooldridge case - and
defendants' answers - were filed. Moreover,
Wooldridge's employment discrimination claims do not
arise out of the same operative facts as his surreptitious
recording of MEC board meetings, which form the basis of
plaintiffs' claims here. Therefore, plaintiffs'
claims in this case are not barred under Fed. Civ. P. Rule
principles of fairness also dictate against a finding that
plaintiffs' claims were compulsory counterclaims in the
Wooldridge case. Defendants did not affirmatively
disclose who made the tapes or attorney Smith's
involvement with the tapes until April of 2017, well after
MEC and MEC's board members filed their answers in
February of 2017. Given the manner in which defendants'
misconduct came to light during the Wooldridge case,
it would be manifestly unjust to have required the plaintiffs
to have brought the claims raised here as ...