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Carpenter v. Brentwood Bwi One, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 29, 2015

JANICE CARPENTER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BRENTWOOD BWI ONE, LLC, et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ELLEN L. HOLLANDER, District Judge.

On March 27, 2015, plaintiffs Janice Carpenter, Aziz A. Matar, Melody Isaac, Thomas V. Jones, and Sarah Jones filed suit in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, against defendants Brentwood BWI One, LLC ("Brentwood") and JMC Mechanical Services, Inc. ("JMC"). See ECF 2 ("Complaint"). Plaintiffs seek to recover damages for injuries allegedly sustained as a result of a carbon monoxide leak that occurred in February 2014 at the Westin Hotel at Baltimore Washington International Airport, located in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. Id. ¶ 1.

Plaintiffs are "residents" of Maryland and Michigan. ECF 1 ¶ 3 ("Notice of Removal"). Brentwood is an LLC organized under the laws of Virginia, and JMC is a Maryland corporation. Id. ¶¶ 4, 5. In particular, the Complaint includes four counts. Carpenter and Matar have sued Brentwood for negligence (Count I); Carpenter and Matar have brought a respondeat superior negligence claim against Brentwood (Count II); Carpenter, Matar, Isaac, and Thomas Jones have sued JMC for negligence (Count III); and Sarah Jones has sued JMC for Loss of Consortium (Count IV). Id. ¶¶ 53-85.

JMC removed the action to this Court on May 19, 2015. ECF 1. Removal is founded solely on the basis of supplemental jurisdiction. Id. ¶¶ 9, 12. In particular, in the Notice of Removal, JMC asserts that because the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over a pending related case, McKisset v. Brentwood BWI One, LLC, et al., Case No. WDQ-14-1159, the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the case sub judice. ECF 1 ¶¶ 6, 12.

McKisset is a class action suit, and it arises from injuries sustained as a result of the same carbon monoxide leak that is the subject of the litigation in this case. Id. ¶¶ 6, 7. According to the Notice of Removal, McKisset was removed to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Id. ¶ 6. Moreover, McKisset involves the same two defendants named in this case. Defendant thus asserts that McKisset "concern[s] the same operative facts and will require an adjudication of the same liability issues" as the case at bar. Id. ¶ 8.[1] In addition, JMC posits: "Judicial economy requires that this Court exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the issues contained herein." Id. ¶ 16.

For the reasons that follow, I conclude there is no basis for subject matter jurisdiction in the case at bar. Therefore, I must remand the case to the State court.

In Home Buyers Warranty Corp. v. Hanna, 750 F.3d 427, 432 (4th Cir. 2014), the Fourth Circuit said: "Fundamental to our federal system is the principle that [f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.'" (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)) (alteration in Hanna ); see United States ex rel. Voyyuru v. Jadhov, 555 F.3d 337, 347 (4th Cir. 2009). Thus, a federal district court may only adjudicate a case if it possesses the "power authorized by Constitution and statute." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205 (2007). If a party seeks to proceed in federal court, it "must allege and, when challenged, must demonstrate the federal court's jurisdiction over the matter." Strawn v. AT & T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296 (4th Cir. 2008). Indeed, "if Congress has not empowered the federal judiciary to hear a matter, then the case must be dismissed." Hanna, 750 F.3d at 432.

Notably, a federal court has "an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party challenges it." Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010). Moreover, "[a] court is to presume... that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper." United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377). This is because "jurisdiction goes to the very power of the court to act." Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors Chassis, Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir. 2008). Therefore, "before a federal court can decide the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction of the court." Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155 (1990)).

Of import here, "[s]ubject matter jurisdiction cannot be forfeited or waived, and can be raised by a party, or by the court sua sponte, at any time prior to final judgment." In re Kirkland, 600 F.3d 310, 314 (4th Cir. 2010); see McCulloch v. Velez, 364 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2004) ("It is black-letter law that a federal court has an obligation to inquire sua sponte into its own subject matter jurisdiction."); see also Snead v. Board of Educ. of Prince George's County, 815 F.Supp.2d 889, 893-94 (D. Md. 2011). And, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3), "the court must dismiss the action" if it determines that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See also Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506-07 (2006).

Section 1441(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code provides that removal is proper only when the federal district court has "original jurisdiction" over the state court case. Congress has conferred jurisdiction on the federal courts in several ways. To provide a federal forum for plaintiffs who seek to vindicate federal rights, Congress has conferred on the district courts original jurisdiction over civil actions that arise under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Exxon Mobil Corp., 545 U.S. at 552; 28 U.S.C. § 1331; see also U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2 ("The Judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made....") This ground does not apply here.

In addition, "Congress... has granted district courts original jurisdiction in civil actions between citizens of different States, between U.S. citizens and foreign citizens, or by foreign states against U.S. citizens, " so long as the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Exxon Mobil Corp., 545 U.S. at 552; see 28 U.S.C. § 1332. This so-called diversity jurisdiction "requires complete diversity among parties, meaning that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from the citizenship of every defendant." Cent. W. Virginia Energy Co., Inc. v. Mountain State Carbon, LLC, 636 F.3d 101, 103 (4th Cir. 2011); see Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. 267 (1806). Diversity jurisdiction is not satisfied here. This is because several plaintiffs and one defendant are domiciled in Maryland.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), the court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over related state law claims within an action. Section § 1367(a) provides (emphasis added):

[I]n any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution.

According to the plain language of § 1367(a), in order for a court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, there must already be an independent basis for original jurisdiction within the same action. In other words, "[s]upplemental jurisdiction is not a source of original subject-matter jurisdiction, and a notice of removal may therefore not base subject-matter jurisdiction on supplemental jurisdiction, even if the action the defendant seeks to remove on that basis is related to another action over which the federal district court already has subject-matter jurisdiction, and even if removal would be efficient." 29A KARL OAKES, FED. PROC., L. ED. § 69:19. Put another way, supplemental jurisdiction does not create an independent basis for removal to federal court. Syngenta Crop Prot., Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 34 (2002) ("Ancillary jurisdiction... cannot provide the ...


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