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Anunka v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 20, 2014

Chidi N. Anunka, Plaintiff,
v.
Greyhound Lines, Inc., Defendant.

ORDER

JOAN N. ERICKSEN, District Judge.

This matter came before the Court on a May 14, 2014, report and recommendation from the magistrate judge that recommended granting Defendant Greyhound Lines, Inc.'s ("Greyhound") motion to dismiss the pro se complaint filed against it by Plaintiff Chidi N. Anunka. Plaintiff objected to the report and recommendation. The Court has conducted a de novo review of the record. See D. Minn. LR 72.2(b). Based on that review, the Court adopts the recommendation of dismissal, for the reasons stated below.

BACKGROUND

With his complaint, Anunka alleges that he incurred certain hotel expenses on July 3, 2009, and October 3, 2009, as a "Greyhound Operator, " for which Greyhound failed to reimburse him, even though it had agreed to do so. The complaint does not specifically identify the cause or causes of action that he asserts, but does refer to a contractual breach, fraudulent actions, and a violation of Minnesota Statutes § 177.24, relating to state minimum wage requirements. The factual allegations are contained in a paragraph that reads as follows:

On July 3, 2009; Plaintiff former Greyhound Lines, Inc. (GLI) Operator scheduled from Minneapolis to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and on October 3, 2009; Plaintiff also was scheduled from Minneapolis to Kansas City, Missouri; on both dates and places Hotels were out of rooms designated for Greyhound Operators. On each occasion, Defendant was informed and Plaintiff was authorized to pay Hotel market rate if available and submit receipts for reimbursement; requests were honored in all States as authorized. Requests since honored and receipts submitted as instructed defendant failed to reimburse expenses; each time plaintiff asked reimbursement defendant responded with Dept. of Transportation log violation intimidations or work suspension, reimbursement denial continued to termination and remained unpaid.

ECF No. 1 at 4. The complaint seeks damages of $475, 000 "[t]o alleviate Plaintiff income loss and damages associated with debt default obligations and bad credit caused by breach of contract in addition to fraudulent practices to evade reimbursement." Id. at 5. Using the check boxes on the complaint form, Anunka identified "diversity of citizenship" and "federal question" as the basis for federal court jurisdiction. Id. at 3. Defendant Greyhound moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) and 12(b)(6).

DISCUSSION

1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

No federal question being apparent on the face of the complaint, and because the submissions in connection with Greyhound's motion to dismiss reflected that the hotel reimbursements at issue amounted to $304.45, the Court gave the parties a chance to address the issue of jurisdiction. See ECF No. 35; see also Jader v. Principal Mut. Life Ins. Co., 925 F.2d 1075, 1077 (8th Cir. 1991) ("Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the threshold requirement in every federal case is jurisdiction."). Both parties made a submission and took the position that jurisdiction exists, although for different reasons.

Anunka's response focuses on his claim that diversity jurisdiction exists. See ECF No. 36. He contends that the failure to reimburse him $304.45 in hotel expenses resulted in him being deprived of income to pay his bills.[1] He states that Greyhound's "loan breach" destroyed his credit worthiness and he has been "denied approximately $2 million in credit and loan requests." Id. at 2. He attaches a collection notice for $826 and multiple letters denying him credit cards and other forms of credit. ECF No. 36-1. But Anunka does not identify any legal theory that would entitle him to collect damages satisfying the $75, 000 jurisdictional amount for diversity jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), resulting from the alleged failure to reimburse him $304.45. See ECF No. 35 at 3 n.2 (discussing Minnesota law on damages for potential claims referenced in the complaint). His submission falls short of his obligation. See Missouri ex rel. Pemiscot County v. Western Sur. Co., 51 F.3d 170, 173 (8th Cir. 1995) (noting that satisfaction of the amount in controversy requirement must be established by a preponderance of the evidence).

For federal question jurisdiction, Anunka points out that the "loan breach" was "committed across state-lines" and implicates "interstate commerce." ECF No. 36 at 2. But such facts do not support federal question jurisdiction on their own. "[F]ederal question jurisdiction extends only to civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.'" Mamot Feed Lot & Trucking v. Hobson, 539 F.3d 898, 902 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1331).

Greyhound makes a different argument in favor of federal question jurisdiction. It contends that Anunka's state law claims are preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. 185, because a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") governed his employment and is implicated by his complaint. But under the well-pleaded complaint rule, a federal question must generally appear on the face of the plaintiff's complaint in order to establish federal question jurisdiction. Thomas v. United Steelworkers Local 1938, 743 F.3d 1134, 1139 (8th Cir. 2014). A federal defense, including the defense of preemption, does not usually create federal question jurisdiction. Johnson v. MFA Petroleum Co., 701 F.3d 243, 247 (8th Cir. 2012). A narrow exception exists under the doctrine of "complete preemption." See id.; Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987) (explaining that the doctrine applies "when the pre-emptive force of a statute is so extraordinary that it converts an ordinary state commonlaw complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule"). For complete preemption based on § 301 of the LMRA, "the state-law claim itself [must be] based on, or dependent on an analysis of, the relevant CBA." Meyer v. Schnucks Mkts., Inc., 163 F.3d 1048, 1050 (8th Cir. 1998); see also Hawaiian Airlines v. Norris, 512 U.S. 246, 260 (1994) (confirming that preemption does not apply if a state law cause of action "involves rights and obligations that exist independent of the CBA").

Although Anunka's complaint does not explicitly refer to the CBA, he subsequently confirmed that it seeks to enforce one of the CBA's provisions. In particular, Article G-24 of the CBA provides that "[a]ll moneys spent by employees, which are chargeable to the Company, will be reimbursed immediately." See ECF 5-1. Anunka's opposition to Greyhound's motion to dismiss invokes that provision and contends that Greyhound failed to honor the obligation created by Article G-24. See ECF No. 11 at 2, 7. Thus his primary breach of contract claim is preempted by § 301 of the LMRA. The other claims fall within the Court's jurisdiction under the supplemental jurisdiction ...


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