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Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. - 393 F. Supp. 2d 295 (D.N.J. 2005)

Rule:

Even under a more lenient application of Fed. R. Civ. P. 9, a plaintiff must accompany an allegation based on information and belief with a statement of the facts upon which their allegation is based, and, although information and belief pleading is permissible, the complaint should set forth the nature and scope of the plaintiff's efforts to obtain, before filing the complaint, the information needed to plead with particularity. The plaintiff continues to bear the obligation to provide allegations indicating why the charges are not baseless.

Facts:

Plaintiffs are undocumented immigrants who have provided janitorial services at Defendant's retail stores nationwide. Plaintiffs allege that they were harmed by an ongoing "exploitative criminal enterprise" comprised of Wal-Mart and its various maintenance contractors, acting as Wal-Mart's co-conspirators or agents. Plaintiffs claim that the Wal-Mart Enterprise systematically employed, harbored, and trafficked in the labor of immigrants, aided and abetted violation of the immigration laws, failed to pay their wages and overtime and benefits as required, and concealed their profits and practices from detection.

Issue:

(a) Did defendant violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) and civil rights of plaintiffs?; (b) Should the immigrants’ 42 U.S.C.S. § 1985(3) claim be dismissed? and (c)  Should the immigrants’ Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim be dismissed?

Answer:

(a) No (b) Yes (c) No

Conclusion:

The court granted Walmart's motion to dismiss with respect to the immigrants' RICO and civil rights claims, but denied it with respect to the immigrants' FLSA and common law claims. As to the RICO claim (a), the federal district court held that the immigrants' RICO enterprise claim was subject to dismissal because the immigrants failed to allege two underlying predicate acts and the immigrants' RICO conspiracy claim was subject to dismissal because the immigrants failed to allege that Walmart agreed to the commission of at least two predicate acts; (b) the immigrants' 42 U.S.C.S. § 1985(3) claim was subject to dismissal because the immigrants were not members of a protected class; (c) the immigrants' FLSA claims were not subject to dismissal because the immigrants were not barred, by virtue of their undocumented status, from seeking relief under the FLSA and because they alleged sufficient facts to suggest an employment relationship with the store; and the immigrants' allegation that they were locked into their stores during their shifts against their will were sufficient to state a claim for false imprisonment.

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