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Ghosh v. Neurological Services of Queens

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 3, 2015

SIDDHARTH N. GHOSH, Plaintiff,
v.
NEUROLOGICAL SERVICES OF QUEENS, P.C. and DR. JATINDER S. BAKSHI, M.D., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

I. LEO GLASSER, Senior District Judge.

On March 4, 2013, plaintiff Siddharth N. Ghosh commenced this action against Neurological Services of Queens, P.C. ("Neurological Services") and Dr. Jatinder S. Bakshi, M.D. ("Dr. Bakshi"; together, "defendants"), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq.; multiple sections of the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), Art. 6 § 190, et seq. and Art. 19 § 650, et seq.; and common law. Defendants have not responded to the Complaint, and plaintiff now moves for a default judgment, pursuant to Rule 55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking compensatory, liquidated, and punitive damages, along with interest, costs, and attorney's fees. For the following reasons, that motion is DENIED and this case is DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND

Except where otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from the Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) and plaintiff's affidavit in support of this motion (Dkt. No. 15-1), as well as their accompanying exhibits. Plaintiff is a citizen of India and a resident of New Jersey who holds a Master of Science degree from Long Island University and is certified to practice as a physical therapist in New York. On January 18, 2010, Neurological Services hired plaintiff as a physical therapist, offering him a one-year contract with a yearly salary of $70, 000.00, eight hours of paid vacation for every four hundred hours worked in a six-month period, and a stipend of up to $1, 000.00 per year (plus expenses) for continuing education classes or seminars (contingent on Neurological Service's approval of the course content). Neurological Services also assisted plaintiff in applying for and obtaining an H-1B work visa. Plaintiff's employment agreement with Neurological Services was counter-signed by Dr. Bakshi, who was the sole shareholder and operator of the company. Although that agreement expired in January of 2011, Neurological Services continued to employ plaintiff and pay him the same salary.

In May of 2011, Neurological Services began to delay paying plaintiff regularly. The last paycheck he received was dated December 30, 2011, but issued for the pay period between July 16, 2011 and July 30, 2011. Plaintiff nevertheless continued to work for the company until mid-March of 2012, when he arrived for work only to find the office doors locked and the space completely empty. Plaintiff called Dr. Bakshi, who acknowledged that he had closed down Neurological Services without notifying plaintiff.

Had plaintiff received checks during the period between August 1, 2011 and March 15, 2012 for the usual amount that Neurological Services had paid him, he would have earned $47, 788.05 before taxes and withholdings. Additionally, plaintiff never received vacation pay or a stipend for any continuing professional education classes at any time during the two years he worked for the defendants. Although plaintiff made repeated requests of Dr. Bakshi for the amount he believed he was owed after Neurological Services unexpectedly closed down, his requests were ignored and this litigation ensued. The Clerk of Court noted defendants' default on January 22, 2014 (Dkt. No. 11) and plaintiff filed this motion on November 6, 2014 (Dkt. No. 15).

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth a two-step process for obtaining a default judgment: first, the clerk of court enters the party's default pursuant to Rule 55(a), and second, if the defaulting party fails to set aside the entry of default pursuant to Rule 55(c), the plaintiff must apply for a default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b). See Finkel v. Universal Elec. Corp., 970 F.Supp.2d 108, 118 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing Enron Oil Corp. v. Diakuhara, 10 F.3d 90, 95-96 (2d Cir. 1993)).

The plaintiff has the burden of establishing entitlement to a default judgment, which is not obtained as a matter of right. See id. at 119 (citing, inter alia, Erwin DeMarino Trucking Co. v. Jackson, 838 F.Supp. 160, 162 (S.D.N.Y. 1993)). Courts must "supervise default judgments with extreme care to avoid miscarriages of justice." DeMarino Trucking, 838 F.Supp. at 162. Thus, while the defaulting defendant is deemed to have admitted all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint pertaining to liability, "a district court has discretion... to require proof of necessary facts and need not agree that the alleged facts constitute a valid cause of action." Au Bon Pain Corp. v. Artect, Inc., 653 F.2d 61, 65 (2d Cir. 1981). Additionally, allegations in the complaint pertaining to damages are not deemed admitted and require an independent evidentiary determination. E.g., id.; Greyhound ExhibitGroup, Inc. v. E.L.U.L. Realty Corp., 973 F.2d 155, 158 (2d Cir. 1992).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff demands $47, 775.00 in unpaid salary, $1, 918.00 in unpaid vacation pay, $2, 000.00 in unpaid continuing professional education stipends, and any other statutory liquidated damages or interest available to him. See Pl.'s Ex. H at 1-3. He believes he is entitled to that money pursuant to four separate theories of recovery, and asks the Court for relief under "only one" of them, be it the FLSA's minimum-wage provisions, or the NYLL's unpaid-wage provisions, or breach of contract, or quantum meruit. Pl.'s Mem. at 21-22. While plaintiff is "not entitled to recover twice for the same injury, ... to the extent [his] allegations allow recovery under both state and federal law, the law providing for the greatest recovery will govern the calculation of damages." Wicaksono v. XYZ 48 Corp., No. 10 Civ. 3635, 2011 WL 2022644, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 2, 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), rep't & rec. adopted, 2011 WL 2038973 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2011). The Court must therefore determine whether the theories plaintiff relies upon actually support his claims, and, if more than one does, which among them provides for the greatest recovery.

I. Federal Claims & Jurisdictional Concerns

This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over claims that arise under the "Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331's "federal question" authority. The sole federal question this case presents is whether plaintiff is entitled to recover under the FLSA. If he is, the Court may exercise supplemental ...


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