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M.D.Ga.: Settlement Agreements Entered Into Without Benefit Of Counsel Not Binding; Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss Denied
Dowling v. Athens Ahmed Family Restaurant, Inc.
Plaintiffs April Dowling, William Smith, and Debra Scott initiated this action against Defendants, seeking to recover minimum wage and overtime compensation allegedly withheld from them by Defendants in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. After filing the lawsuit, all three Plaintiffs terminated their relationship with legal counsel, received money from Defendants in an attempt to satisfy their FLSA claims, and expressed disinterest in continuing the litigation. Therefore, Defendants contended that all three Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendants should be dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, opposed the dismissal of any FLSA claims and request that the Court not approve any alleged settlements. Before the Court were: (1) Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice April Dowling’s Claims against Defendants and Approve Settlement Agreement between Dowling and Defendants (Doc. 37, hereinafter Mot. to Dismiss Dowling) and (2) Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Debra Scott’s and William Smith’s Claims against Defendants (Doc. 38, hereinafter Mot. to Dismiss Scott & Smith). For the following reasons, Defendants’ motions are denied.
The Court denied Defendant’s Motion to dismiss applying the framework from Lynn’s Foods, requiring the Plaintiffs to return any money received under the “settlements.” Interestingly, the Court did note, that if the Plaintiffs failed to return the money paid to them, it would revisit the Motion to Dismiss:
“Since these claims remain pending for adjudication or proper settlement, the Court orders Plaintiffs Dowling, Smith and Scott to return any money paid to them by Defendants in the attempted settlement of their claims if they have not already done so. That money shall be returned to Defendants within 21 days of the date of this Order. If that money is not returned as ordered, the Court will reconsider its decision not to dismiss these Plaintiffs’ claims.”