United States District Court, D. Maryland
DANIEL R. HOHAL, et al., Plaintiffs,
JAMES D. TANGORRE, Defendant.
Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.
R. Hohal and Sarah L. Baia, Esquire (formerly known as Sarah
Merritt) filed suit in the Circuit Court for Dorchester
County against James D. “Salvatorie” Tangorre,
alleging defamation. ECF 2. Tangorre, who is
self-represented, timely removed the case to this Court on
June 6, 2016, asserting federal question and diversity
jurisdiction. ECF 1.
also filed “Defendant's Answer to Complaint,
Affirmative Defenses, Compulsory Joinder and Compulsory
Complaint, ” some 58 pages in length. ECF 6. In that
submission, Tangorre sought to join WestGUARD Insurance
Company (“WestGUARD”) and Stockton, Barker &
Mead, LLP (“Stockton”), Baia's former
employer, as defendants, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
19(a)(1)(A), (B) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 20 (a)(2)(A), (B). ECF 6 at
24-28. In addition, he filed counterclaims against Hohal,
Baia, WestGUARD, and Stockton (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”). Id. at 28-57.
filed a Motion to Remand on July 6, 2016 (ECF 12), supported
by a memorandum of law (ECF-12-1) (collectively,
“Motion to Remand” or “Motion”).
Tangorre opposes the Motion. ECF 19
(“Opposition”). No reply has been filed, and the
time to do so has expired. See Local Rule
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion to Remand.
See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below,
I shall grant the Motion.
Factual and Procedural Background
suit is rooted in a workers' compensation claim filed by
Tangorre in New York in 2011, captioned Tangorre v. Tech
Home Electric, LCC. ECF 2, ¶¶ 1, 10. Hohal, a
Pennsylvania resident, was assigned to Tangorre's
workers' compensation claim in his capacity as a claims
handler with WestGUARD. Id. ¶¶ 2, 3. Baia,
a New York resident and attorney, represented WestGUARD in
Tangorre's worker's compensation claim. Id.
¶¶ 4, 5. Tangorre, a Maryland resident
(id. ¶ 7), was allegedly injured while working
as an electrician in New York. Id. ¶
and Baia filed suit in a Maryland court against Tangorre on
May 5, 2016, claiming defamation per se under Maryland law.
ECF 2. They allege that the insurer, WestGUARD, learned that
Tangorre had covertly returned to work while continuing to
receive indemnity befits from WestGUARD. Id. ¶
11. Thereafter, a three-member panel of the New York
Workers' Compensation Board found that Tangorre had
committed fraud with respect to his claim. Id.
¶¶ 12, 13. It concluded that Tangorre's
“‘misrepresentations [were] material and
egregious.'” Id. ¶ 14 (citation
omitted). Thus, Tangorre was barred from receipt of benefits.
Id. ¶ 15.
August 19, 2013, the Full Board denied Tangorre's
application for review. Id. ¶ 17. The New York
appellate court subsequently affirmed. Id. ¶
19; see Matter of Tangorre v. Tech Home Elec., LLC,
2 N.Y.S.3d 683, 124 A.D.3d 1183 (N.Y.App.Div. 2015)
(affirming the Board).
to the Complaint, Tangorre was upset with the result of his
unsuccessful workers' compensation claim, and posted on
various websites, including LinkedIn and his own blog,
www.WCBinjury.com, a variety of false statements
about Hohal and Baia relating to the workers'
compensation claim. ECF 2 ¶¶ 1, 20. These
statements include, inter alia, that Plaintiffs
filed false, misleading, and fabricated documentation and
letters with the New York Workers' Compensation Board,
filed a false police report, filed a false document with the
Court, and planted false evidence in connection with
Tangorre's workers' compensation claim. Id.
¶¶ 25-41. Hohal and Baia seek $500, 000 each in
compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees,
costs, and a permanent injunction prohibiting defendant from
defaming them. Id. at 9.
6, 2016, Tangorre removed the case to this Court, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a) and 1446. ECF 1 (Notice of
Removal). Under “Grounds for Removal, ” Tangorre
asserts that Hohal, Baia, and Tangorre reside in different
states and that their claim for damages exceeds $75, 000.
Tangorre also asserts that his “blog is protected under
the First Amendment of Freedom of Speech.” Id.
¶¶ 11-14. As noted, Tangorre submitted a
consolidated pleading that contains an answer, a motion to
join WestGUARD and Stockton as defendants, and counterclaims.
ECF 6. His counterclaims against Hohal, Baia, WestGUARD, and
Stockton are predicated on 42 U.S.C. §§1985(2),
(3). Id. According to Tangorre, plaintiffs conspired
to impede, hinder, and obstruct justice in his workers'
compensation claim and to impede his free speech rights.
Id. at 29-30.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and “may not
exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis.”
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545
U.S. 546, 552 (2005). Indeed, 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);
see also Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Astellas
Pharma, Inc., 471 F.3d 544, 548 (4th Cir. 2006). With
regard to removed cases, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) states:
“If at any time before final judgment it appears that
the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the
case shall be remanded.”
noted, Tangorre asserts in his Notice of Removal that this
Court possesses subject matter jurisdiction based on federal
question jurisdiction, also known as “arising
under” jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331. In addition, he ...