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Pope v. City of Providence

Superior Court of Rhode Island

May 15, 2014

SEAN POPE, FRANK MANFREDI and EMMY KMET, on behalf of themselves and all persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PROVIDENCE, by and through its Treasurer, JAMES J. LOMBARDI, III; HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF PROVIDENCE, PAUL A. TAVARES, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Executive Director, STEPHEN J. O'ROURKE, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Executive Director, HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF PROVIDENCE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, NICHOLAS RETSINAS, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, THOMAS RYAN, NICHOLAS NARDUCCI, JOHN IGLIOZZI, KEVIN JACKSON, ROBERTO PATINO, GILBERTA TAYLOR, DOLORES CASCELLA, DOROTHY WATERS, HILLARY SILVER and ROGER GIRAUD, Individually and in their Official Capacities as Members of the Board of Commissioners for the Housing Authority of the City of Providence and MUTUAL OF AMERICA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

Providence County Superior Court

For Plaintiff: Amato A. DeLuca, Esq. Shad M. Miller, Esq. Louise A. Herman, Esq.

For Defendant: Jeffrey M. Padwa, Esq. Megan K. Maciasz, Esq. Martin K. DeMagistris, Esq. Stacey P. Nakasian, Esq. Peter L. Altieri, Esq.

DECISION

SILVERSTEIN, J., Justice.

Before the Court is Defendant Mutual of America Life Insurance Company's (MOA) Motion to Dismiss Complaint pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). MOA requests that the Court dismiss the Corrected Amended Class Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Other Relief (Complaint) as against MOA for failure to state a claim. Plaintiffs[1]object to the Motion to Dismiss Complaint, arguing that the Complaint properly states a claim against MOA.[2]

I. Facts & Travel

Plaintiffs were all employees of the Housing Authority of the City of Providence (PHA).[3]Plaintiffs were paid wages and other compensation by the PHA on a weekly basis. Deducted from Plaintiffs' total compensation were contributions required to be made to Plaintiffs' retirement savings accounts. Additionally, PHA made employer contributions to the retirement accounts, which contributions were considered part of the Plaintiffs' total compensation. PHA was to remit these contributions to MOA, which in turn was to deposit the contributions into the Plaintiffs' respective retirement accounts established by the MOA Defined Contribution Pension Plan (the Plan). Plaintiffs and all PHA employees were required to participate in the Plan as a condition of employment.

Additionally, the Plan provided that Plaintiffs could borrow funds from MOA. To obtain a loan, Plaintiffs were required to obtain a loan application from MOA. Subsequently, MOA was responsible for processing, approving and servicing the loan requests. The Plan dictates that the employees' retirement savings accounts were security for any loan. Repayment of the loan was to occur by PHA deducting substantially equal installments from employees' weekly compensation and then remitting said deduction to MOA to apply to the outstanding loan balance. According to the Plan, loans bore a rate of interest and were subject to fees and charges as determined by and payable to MOA. Additionally, the outstanding balance of the loan was secured by placing a hold on an equivalent amount in employees' retirement savings account.

Plaintiffs became aware that PHA was not timely transmitting the funds withheld from Plaintiffs' compensation to MOA, in order for MOA to deposit the funds into Plaintiffs' accounts. Sometime in January 2013, Plaintiffs informed both PHA and MOA of their concerns that the funds were not being forwarded promptly.

As a result of the failure to timely remit funds to MOA, Plaintiffs have filed a putative class action Complaint on behalf of themselves and similarly situated employees. The Complaint alleges/seeks a Declaratory Judgment (Count I), Violation of Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act (RIMWA) G.L. 1956 § 28-12-1, et seq. (Count II), Violation of RIMWA § 28-14-1, et seq. (Count III), Violation of Civil Recovery for Crimes and Offenses G.L. 1956 § 9-1-2 (Count IV), Conversion (Count V), Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Count VI), Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (Count VII), Breach of Contract (Count VIII), and Unjust Enrichment (Count IX).[4] One of the originally named Defendants, City of Providence, by and through its Treasurer, James J. Lombardi, III, has been dismissed by agreement as to all claims against it. MOA now seeks dismissal of all claims made against it.

II Standard of Review

"The sole function of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint." McKenna v. Williams, 874 A.2d 217, 225 (R.I. 2005) (quoting Rhode Island Affiliate, ACLU, Inc. v. Bernasconi, 557 A.2d 1232, 1232 (R.I. 1989)) (internal quotations omitted). In determining whether to grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, this Court "'assumes the allegations contained in the complaint to be true and views the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs.'" Giuliano v. Pastina, 793 A.2d 1035, 1036 (R.I. 2002) (quoting Martin v. Howard, 784 A.2d 291, 297-98 (R.I. 2001)). However, "[a]llegations that are more in the nature of legal conclusions rather than factual assertions are not necessarily assumed to be true." Doe v. E. Greenwich Sch. Dep't, 899 A.2d 1258, 1262 n.2 (R.I. 2006). Furthermore, "[a] motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only when it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts that could be proven in support of the claim." Siena v. Microsoft Corp., 796 A.2d 461, 463 (R.I. 2002) (citing Bruno v. Criterion Holdings, Inc., 736 A.2d 99, 99 (R.I. 1999)).

The United States Supreme Court has adopted the view that a complaint must allege facts that "raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Under this federal standard, a plaintiff's factual allegations contained in a complaint must be specific enough to cross "the line from conceivable to plausible[.]" Id. at 570. For a motion to dismiss under federal procedure, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

Alternatively, our Supreme Court has found that "it is clear that the new Federal standard cannot be blended with the traditional Rhode Island standard." Chhun v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 84 A.3d 419, 422 n.5 (R.I. 2014). Instead, our Supreme Court left "the Twombly and Iqbal conundrum for another day." Id. at 423. Without further guidance, this Court will ...


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