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Ferebee v. International House of Pancakes

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 26, 2016

RENEE FEREBEE
v.
INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PANCAKES[1]

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this employment discrimination case is: a motion to remand filed by Plaintiff Renee Ferebee (“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 13); and a motion to dismiss and for attorneys’ fees and costs filed by Defendant Uni-Hop, Inc. (“Defendant”) (ECF No. 10).[2] The relevant issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s motion to remand will be denied. Defendant’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A more detailed factual background may be found at Ferebee v. International House of Pancakes, No. DKC-13-3817, 2015 WL 5052728 (D.Md. Aug. 25, 2015).[3] In June 2013, Plaintiff applied for a job at an IHOP restaurant in Oxon Hill, Maryland owned by Defendant. Defendant ultimately did not hire Plaintiff, which Plaintiff contends was because of her age. (See ECF No. 2, at 1).

In July 2013, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that she was discriminated against by Defendant in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C §§ 621 et seq. (ECF No. 2, at 4). This EEOC charge was also the basis of Plaintiff’s prior suit against Defendant. See DKC-13-3817, ECF No. 1-2, at 2. In the prior suit, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County on November 4, 2013, seeking relief of five million dollars. See Ferebee, 2015 WL 5052728 at *2. Following removal to this court and discovery, the undersigned entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff on August 25, 2015. Id. at *7. Plaintiff filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which was dismissed for failure to prosecute. See DKC-13-3817, ECF No. 58.

On November 12, 2015, Plaintiff, again proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in the District Court of Maryland for Prince George’s County, commencing this action. (ECF No. 2). The complaint contains the same allegations that were put forth in the prior suit, but seeks only $30, 000 in damages. The state court records indicate that Defendant was served on November 30. According to Defendant, the complaint and summons were mailed to the incorrect address, and thus Defendant contends that it has not been properly served. (ECF No. 1, at 1-2). Nonetheless, Defendant obtained a copy of the state court file and timely removed the action to this court on December 22. (Id.). On December 29, Defendant filed the pending motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 10). On January 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed the pending motion to remand. (ECF Nos. 13; 14).[4] Defendant filed a reply in support of its motion to dismiss (ECF No. 15) and a response in opposition to Plaintiff’s motion to remand (ECF No. 16). Plaintiff has not filed a reply in support of her motion, and the time in which to do so has passed.

II. Motion to Remand

A. Standard of Review

Under 28 U.S.C § 1441(a), “a civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants.” The burden of demonstrating jurisdiction, and the propriety of removal, rests with the removing party. Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 815 (4th Cir. 2004). On a motion to remand, the court must “strictly construe the removal statute and resolve all doubts in favor of remanding the case to state court, ” indicative of the reluctance of federal courts “to interfere with matters properly before a state court.” Barbour v. Int’l. Union, 640 F.3d 599, 615 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc), abrogated by statute on other grounds by 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)(B).

B. Analysis

Defendant removed this action on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 2). It is difficult to discern Plaintiff’s argument for remand, but she appears to assert that removal is not appropriate “because . . . dismissal has already been set in the District Court of Maryland in Greenbelt” and “Plaintiff filed again, in the lower court (small claims), for a lower amount, in which Plaintiff saw another avenue for retaining her judgment against the defendant.” (ECF No. 13, at 1).

Pursuant to § 1331, federal district courts have “original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” Federal question jurisdiction arises only from “those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates a cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question to federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983). Here, Plaintiff’s complaint alleges age discrimination in violation of the ADEA, a federal statute.[5] For actions removed under federal question jurisdiction, unlike those removed for diversity jurisdiction, there is no minimum amount in controversy. Thus, the fact that Plaintiff now seeks only $30, 000 does not strip this court of jurisdiction over an action brought under the ADEA. Similarly, Plaintiff’s desire to proceed in state court is not a proper basis to remand a properly-removed action. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion to remand will be denied.

III. Motion to Dismiss


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