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Wall v. Canon Solutions America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 5, 2017

SAMMY WALL, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant,
CANON SOLUTIONS AMERICA, INC. Defendant/Counterclaimant.


          Daniel D. Crabtree United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff/counterclaim defendant Sammy Wall filed this lawsuit against defendant/counterclaimant Canon Solutions America, Inc. (“CSA”) in the District Court of Shawnee County, Kansas. Doc. 1-1. Mr. Wall's Petition asserts various claims, including violation of the Kansas Wage Payment Act and breach of oral and written agreements. Id. CSA removed the case to federal court, asserting diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Doc. 1. CSA's Answer asserts two counterclaims: Count I, unlawful recording of communication in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 52-570d; and Count II, invasion of privacy. Doc. 11. This matter comes before the court on Mr. Wall's Motion to Dismiss CSA's Counterclaim. Doc. 14. CSA filed a Brief in Opposition to Mr. Wall's Motion to Dismiss. Doc. 19. In its Opposition, CSA voluntarily dismissed Count II of its Counterclaim without prejudice. Id. Mr. Wall filed a Reply. Doc. 23. After considering the arguments made by both parties, the court denies Mr. Wall's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Background

         The following facts are taken from CSA's Counterclaim (Doc. 11) and viewed in the light most favorable to it. S.E.C. v. Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640 (10th Cir. 2014) (“We accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the [plaintiff].”) (quotation omitted). CSA is a New York corporation with its principal place of business in Melville, New York. On January 1, 2013, Mr. Wall became an employee of CSA in its Topeka, Kansas office. Mr. Wall alleges that CSA failed to pay him compensation he is owed. CSA denies Mr. Wall's claim.

         CSA asserts a counterclaim against Mr. Wall. CSA contends that Mr. Wall unlawfully recorded communications and invaded its privacy when Mr. Wall and his counsel recorded one or more telephone conversations with CSA's agent and representative, Anthony Marino. CSA and Mr. Marino were unaware that Mr. Wall was recording the conversations. Mr. Marino was located in Connecticut when the communications occurred. CSA seeks to recover damages, including attorneys' fees and costs. CSA also asks the court to order Mr. Wall and his agents to surrender the original and all copies of the recordings they made of CSA employees without their consent.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although this Rule “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, '” it demands more than “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Under this standard, ‘the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.'” Carter v. United States, 667 F.Supp.2d 1259, 1262 (D. Kan. 2009) (quoting Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007)).

         Although the court must assume that the factual allegations in the complaint are true, it is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Id. at 1263 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” are not enough to state a claim for relief. Bixler v. Foster, 596 F.3d 751, 756 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Wall moves to dismiss CSA's counterclaim asserting a violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 52-570d because the Counterclaim purportedly fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). CSA has invoked the court's diversity jurisdiction. In diversity cases, the court applies the law that would apply if the plaintiff had brought the suit in Kansas state court. Snyder v. Am. Kennel Club, 661 F.Supp.2d 1219, 1229- 30 (D. Kan. 2009) (first citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg., Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941); then citing Butt v. Bank of Am., N.A., 477 F.3d 1171, 1179 (10th Cir. 2007)). Here, Kansas is the forum state, and Kansas applies the law of the place of the harm to claims arising under a state statute. See Marten Transp., Ltd. v. Plattform Advert., Inc., No. 14-2464-JWL, 2016 WL 715765, at *9 (D. Kan. Feb. 22, 2016) (recognizing that Wisconsin law ordinarily would govern the statutory claims in this diversity action because Wisconsin was the place where the financial harm was sustained); see also Johnson v. Simonton Bldg. Prod., Inc., No. 08-2198-CM-DJW, 2011 WL 251435, at *8 (D. Kan. Jan. 26, 2011) (concluding that claims brought under the Trade Secrets Acts of Minnesota, Kansas, and West Virginia were governed by Minnesota law because “plaintiff's financial injury was necessarily felt in Minnesota.”).

         Here, CSA asserts Mr. Wall unlawfully recorded conversations with Mr. Marino. Mr. Marino was located in Connecticut when the conversations occurred. Thus, Connecticut is the place of harm, and this conclusion means that Connecticut law controls.

         Mr. Wall contends that applying Connecticut law in this case violates Kansas public policy. Doc. 23 at 2. Indeed, Kansas courts “will not apply the law of another state to a claim if that other state's law is contrary to Kansas public policy.” See Raskin v. Allison, 57 P.3d 30, 33 (Kan.Ct.App. 2002). This exception to the choice of law doctrine requires the public policy to be one “so thoroughly established as a state of public mind so united and so definite and fixed that its existence is not subject to any substantial doubt.” Riddle v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 998 P.2d 114, 119 (Kan.Ct.App. 2000) (citing Palmer v. Brown, 752 P.2d 685 (Kan. 1988)). Kansas courts follow “the prevailing view that the public policy exception in conflict of law theory should be narrowly limited.” Raskin, 57 P.3d at 34 (emphasis added).

         Mr. Wall identifies no public policy interests contravened by Connecticut General Statutes § 52-570d. The Kansas statutes differ from Connecticut law because they require one-party consent to telephone recordings. But, other than pointing out this mere difference, he provides no reason why Connecticut's two-party consent law under ...

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