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Tullock v. City of St. Louis

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

November 7, 2019

DENNIS TULLOCK, ET AL, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RODNEY W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before me on the defendant, City of St. Louis's (the “City”) motion to dismiss Counts II and IV[1] of the plaintiffs' claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The plaintiffs bring a federal claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as well as two related state law contract claims, stemming from the plaintiffs' employment by the City. The plaintiffs' claim they were not properly compensated for their overtime work. The city is moving to dismiss the two state law claims.

         BACKGROUND

         The following information is based on the complaint and construed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs. Dennis Tullock, Mark McLaughlin, and Bernard Crittenden all began working for the City of St. Louis Water Division (the “Water Division”) more than twenty years ago. The city contracted with them to perform certain duties, including installing, maintaining, and repairing water mains and other components of the City's water distribution system. They are compensated on an hourly basis and submit their hours to their supervisors on a weekly or biweekly basis.

         The plaintiffs are currently the only three water maintenance supervisors employed by the city. They have routinely been required to work in excess of 8-hours per day and 40-hours per week. Additionally, they are required to be on call in the evenings, in case there are water emergencies in the city. Although the plaintiffs have been routinely required to work overtime, they were not paid one and one-half times their standard rate for these hours. Based on this failure, the plaintiffs bring these claims for violation of FLSA, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, I must assume the factual allegations of the complaint to be true and construe them in favor of the plaintiff. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). I am not, however, bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 555 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.C. 662, 667, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (quoting Twombly, 555 U.S. at 570). Although “specific facts are not necessary, ” the plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to “give fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         DISCUSSION

         The City moves to dismiss the plaintiffs' state law claims for quantum meruit and unjust enrichment. According to the City, the plaintiffs failed to allege the existence of a valid written contract between the parties as required by Missouri law and the Charter of the City of St. Louis (the “Charter”).[2]

         Under Missouri law, contracts with municipalities must be in writing. Specifically, the law states,

No county, city, town, village, school township, school district or other municipal corporation shall make any contract, unless the same shall be within the scope of its powers or be expressly authorized by law, nor unless such contract be made upon a consideration wholly to be performed or executed subsequent to the making of the contract; and such contract, including the consideration, shall be in writing and dated when made, and shall be subscribed by the parties thereto, or their agents authorized by law and duly appointed and authorized in writing.

R.S.Mo § 432.070. “Moreover, equitable remedies such as estoppel are not available to overcome the requirements of § 432.070, even where the municipal entity has received the benefit of the other party's performance.” Ballman v. O'Fallon Fire Prot. Dist., 459 S.W.3d 465, 467 (Mo.Ct.App. 2015) (internal citations omitted). Therefore, in order to state a claim for unjust enrichment or quantum meruit, the plaintiff must plead that (1) there is a contract between the parties, (2) that the contract is in writing and dated, (3) that the contract is subscribed by the parties or their authorized agents, (4), that the contract is within the scope of the municipality's authority or expressly authorized by law, and (5) that the contract was made solely based on consideration to be performed after its execution. DeMar v. Kansas City, MO., School Dist., 802 S.W.2d 537 (MO Ct. App. 1991).

         Alternatively, substantial compliance with R.S.Mo § 432.070 may be sufficient to establish a valid contract. The doctrine of substantial compliance applies when a formal contract is not written, but the terms of the contract are memorialized in another form that substantially complies with the statue. SeePorter v. City of Lake Lotawana, 651 F.3d 894, 898 (8th Cir. 2011) First Nat'lBank of Stoutland v. Stoutland Sch. Dist. R2, 319 S.W.2d 570, 573 (Mo.1958). In order to establish substantial compliance a party must, at a minimum, show that the municipality had the authority to enter into the contract, that there was valid ...


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