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Wright v. Balise Motor Sales Co.

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk, Business Litigation Session

April 18, 2017

Derek Wright et al. on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated
v.
Balise Motor Sales Company et al. [1] No. 136807

          Filed April 19, 2017

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT

          Kenneth W. Salinger, Justice of the Superior Court.

         Derek Wright previously sold cars at Balise Hyundai in Hyannis, Massachusetts, for Cape Hy, Inc. Nathaniel Towse sold cars in West Springfield, Massachusetts for Balise Motor Sales Company. Wright and Towse claim that they are owed unpaid overtime, Sunday premium pay, and minimum wages. They assert a variety of statutory claims as well as common-law claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment or quantum meruit. They seek to assert the same claims on behalf of a putative class of similarly situated salespeople.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss the four common-law claims and to compel a more definite statement as to the scope of the putative class. The Court will allow the partial motion to dismiss but deny the motion for a more definite statement.

         The Court concludes that Defendants are entitled to dismissal of the common-law claims because the facts alleged in the complaint do not plausibly suggest that Defendants entered into an implied contract to pay hourly wages of any kind. Instead, the complaint indicates that the parties understood that all salespeople would be paid commissions only. The existence of an implied contract to pay commissions bars Plaintiffs' claims for unjust enrichment or quantum meruit.

         1. Motion to Dismiss

          To survive a motion to dismiss under Mass.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must allege facts that, if true, would " plausibly suggest[ ] . . . an entitlement to relief." Lopez v. Commonwealth, 463 Mass. 696, 701, 978 N.E.2d 67 (2012), quoting Iannacchino v. Ford Motor Co., 451 Mass. 623, 636, 888 N.E.2d 879 (2008), and Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). For the purpose of deciding the pending motion to dismiss, the Court must assume that the factual allegations in the complaint and any reasonable inferences that may be drawn in Plaintiffs' favor from the facts alleged are true. See Golchin v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 460 Mass. 222, 223, 950 N.E.2d 853 (2011). In so doing, however, it must " look beyond the conclusory allegations in the complaint and focus on whether the factual allegations plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Maling v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, 473 Mass. 336, 339, 42 N.E.3d 199 (2015), quoting Curtis v. Herb Chambers I-95, Inc., 458 Mass. 674, 676, 940 N.E.2d 413 (2011).

         1.1. Implied Contract Claim

         In Count VI, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants breach an implied contract with Plaintiffs by failing to pay them an amount at least equal to Plaintiffs' statutory entitlement to a lawful minimum wage for all the hours they worked plus time-and-a-half for any hours they worked on Sundays and for any overtime they worked in excess of forty hours per week.

          " In the absence of an express agreement, a contract implied in fact may be found to exist from the conduct and relations of the parties." Sullivan v. O'Connor, 81 Mass.App.Ct. 200, 212, 961 N.E.2d 143 (2012), quoting LiDonni, Inc. v. Hart, 355 Mass. 580, 583, 246 N.E.2d 446 (1969).

         The facts alleged in the complaint would support a finding that Plaintiffs had an implied contract with the corporate defendants, but do not plausibly suggest that Defendants had impliedly agreed to pay amounts equal to the minimum hourly wage, overtime, and Sunday pay required by statute. To the contrary, the complaint alleges Defendants had a policy of paying salespeople " based solely on commissions that they earned from selling vehicles" and not paying any additional amounts if needed to compensate salespeople for overtime, Sunday pay, or a minimum hourly wage. According to the complaint, Defendants paid salespeople a weekly draw, with the understanding that any amounts paid though the draw would be deducted from future commissions earned on sales. The course of conduct alleged in the complaint may have violated statutory pay requirements, as Plaintiffs claim in Counts I though V. But a policy and practice of paying commissions only, and never compensating salespeople on an hourly basis, cannot give rise to an implied contract to hourly wages that meet certain standards.

         Since the facts alleged do not plausibly suggest that Defendants had implicitly agreed through their conduct to pay Plaintiffs on an hourly basis, the implied contract claim must be dismissed.

         1.2. Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

         In Count IX, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Under Massachusetts law, this covenant " is implied in every contract." See Weiler v. PortfolioScope, Inc., 469 Mass. 75, 82, 12 N.E.3d 354 (2014), quoting Uno Restaurants, Inc. ...


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