United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE
case arises out of a multi-fatality automobile accident.
Plaintiffs, family members of the decedents, have asserted
claims of negligence and wrongful death against multiple
Defendants: Yvenet Mayette, the driver of the tractor-trailer
involved in the accident; Nationwide Solutions, LLC,
Mayette's employer and owner of the tractor-trailer;
Bridge Transport Co. Inc., Blue Marlin Logistics, LLC, and
Blue Marlin Logistics Group, Inc., the alleged brokers of the
transportation agreement covering the shipment Mayette was
transporting; and Stein Fibers, Ltd., the shipper whose
products were being transported by Mayette. (Am. Compl. at
¶¶ 29, 35, 64, ECF No. 20.) Defendants removed the
case from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City to federal
court on December 1, 2017. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.)
While considering the parties' motions, the Court
identified an apparent defect in federal subject matter
jurisdiction and directed any party asserting that the Court
nonetheless retained jurisdiction to submit briefs to that
effect. (Letter Order, Aug. 21, 2018, ECF No. 59.) Stein
Fibers, the sole non-diverse defendant, submitted a brief in
support of jurisdiction. (Stein Mem. in Supp. Subject Matter
Jurisdiction, ECF No. 60 [“Stein S.M.J. Mem.”].)
have an independent obligation to determine whether
subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party
challenges it.” Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559
U.S. 77, 93 (2010). Therefore, the Court need not await a
party's motion to inquire into the basis of its subject
matter jurisdiction. No. hearing is required. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth
below, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Accordingly, the case will be remanded to the Circuit Court
for Baltimore City.
Complaint alleges that, on January 10, 2015, a car driven by
Zarissa Ayres and a tractor-trailer driven by Defendant
Mayette were involved in a highway collision in Queen
Anne's County, Maryland. (Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 24,
29-30.) According to the Complaint, Zarissa Ayres, who was
eight months pregnant at the time, and four passengers,
Jordan Nicole Ayres, Jonathan Stratton-Ayres, Travis
Stratton, and Regina Ayres, all died as a result of injuries
sustained in the collision. (Id. at ¶ 31;
see also Id. at ¶ 13.)
individually and in their respective capacities as
administrators of the decedents' estates, filed an
Original Complaint on September 26, 2017. (Case Docket at 1,
Ex. 1 to Stein Mot. Dismiss Compl., ECF No. 12-1.) It alleged
seven counts against Defendants: negligence, against Mayette
(Count I); negligent entrustment and maintenance, against
Nationwide (Count II); negligent hiring, training, retention,
and supervision, against Nationwide (Count III); negligent
hiring, monitoring, and retention, against Bridge Transport,
both Blue Marlin entities, and Stein Fibers (Count IV);
agency liability for the allegedly negligent acts of Mayette
and Nationwide, against Bridge Transport, both Blue Marlin
entities, and Stein Fibers (Count V); and wrongful death,
against all defendants (Counts VI and VII). (Compl. at 7-23,
ECF No. 2.)
November 11, 2017, Plaintiffs amended their complaint. (Case
Docket at 3.) The Amended Complaint added one new Plaintiff,
Brian Stone, the father of Zarissa Ayres's unborn child.
(Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 13-14.) It also added counts on
his behalf related to the death of the unborn child.
(Id. at ¶¶ 31, 85-98.)
to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs Bessie Stratton, Leon
Ayres, and Zanetta Ayres are residents of Virginia
(id. at ¶¶ 1, 8-9); Plaintiff Gregory Cobb
is a resident of Maryland (id. at ¶ 3); and
Plaintiff Brian Stone is a resident of New York (id.
at ¶ 13). According to the Amended Complaint, Defendant
Mayette is a foreign national and resident of Delaware
(id. at ¶ 17); Defendant Nationwide is an
Illinois limited liability corporation (id. at
¶ 16); Defendants Bridge Transport and both Blue Marlin
entities are corporate residents of Georgia (id. at
¶¶ 18-20); and Defendant Stein Fibers is a New York
corporation (id. at ¶ 21).
December 1, 2017, after Plaintiffs had filed their Amended
Complaint, but before it was served on all Defendants,
Defendants removed the case to federal court, relying on the
Original Complaint and purporting diversity jurisdiction.
(Notice of Removal at ¶ 3; see also Case Docket
at 3 (docketing a request to reissue summons as to the
Amended Complaint on November 30, 2017, but no entries
indicating service of process prior to the Notice of
Removal).) Approximately six weeks after removal, counsel for
Defendants alerted the Court to the existence of the Amended
Complaint, and it was docketed accordingly. (Correspondence
re Am. Compl., Jan. 19, 2018, ECF No. 17.) During the months
following removal, the parties filed various motions.
(See Stein Mot. Dismiss Compl., ECF No. 11
[“Stein First Mot. Dismiss”]; Pl. Mot. Amend, ECF
No. 25; Joint Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 27 (filed by Defendants
Mayette and Nationwide); Stein Mot. Dismiss Am. Compl., ECF
No. 37.) However, none of these motions, and none of the
briefs filed in support or opposition to them, raised the
question of subject matter jurisdiction.
August 21, 2018, the Court alerted the parties that complete
diversity appeared to be lacking, because Plaintiff Stone was
alleged to be a New York resident and Defendant Stein Fibers
was alleged to be a New York corporation. (Letter Order at
1.) The Court ordered any party arguing in support of federal
subject matter jurisdiction to submit briefs to that effect.
(Id. at 2.) Defendant Stein Fibers filed a brief in
support of the Court's jurisdiction. (Stein S.M.J. Mem.
at 1.) Stein Fibers does not dispute the lack of diversity
between itself and Plaintiff Stone, but, rather, argues that
it was fraudulently joined. (Id.) Accordingly, Stein
Fibers argues that this Court should retain jurisdiction
under the doctrine of fraudulent joinder and dismiss the
claims against it, after which, all remaining parties would
be diverse. (Id.) No. other party submitted a brief
in support of the Court's jurisdiction.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only
that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is
not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)
(citations omitted); see also Wheeling Hosp., Inc. v.
Health Plan of Upper Ohio Valley, Inc., 638 F.3d 577,
583-84 (4th Cir. 2012). Federal courts must “presume
‘that a cause lies outside [its] limited jurisdiction,
. . . and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon
the party asserting jurisdiction.'” Barbour v.
Int'l Union, 640 F.3d 599, 605 (4th Cir. 2011) (en
banc) (quoting Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377),
superseded on other grounds by 28 U.S.C. §
action brought in a state court may be removed to federal
court only if the district court would have had original
jurisdiction over it. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
The primary bases of the federal courts' original subject
matter jurisdiction are federal question jurisdiction,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and diversity
jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “If
at any time before final judgment it appears ...