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Timmons v. P F Enterprises, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 10, 2016

Sonja Jeanne Timmons, individually and as mother and natural guardian of K.M.T., J.B.H., and M.J.H, Plaintiff,
v.
P F Enterprises, Inc., and Parker Family Enterprises, Inc., Defendants, and Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, Jerrold D. Parker a/k/a Jerry Parker, and Don Paplow d/b/a Don's Plumbing and Heating, Defendants and Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
Troy Haugen, Third-Party Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOAN N. ERICKSEN United States District Judge

         With the consent of all defendants that had made an appearance in state court, Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation (MERC) removed four actions from state court on the basis of the jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2012). See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (2012). After their removal, the actions were consolidated. With the exception of Jerrold D. Parker, Plaintiff settled with each defendant that has appeared.[1]

         In an Order dated October 12, 2016, the Court questioned whether the four actions were removable on the basis of the jurisdiction under § 1331. See Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010) (“Courts have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party challenges it.”); Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006) (“The objection that a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised by a party, or by a court on its own initiative, at any stage in the litigation, even after trial and the entry of judgment.” (citation omitted)). The Court cited Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Manufacturing, 545 U.S. 308, 314 (2005), Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v. Singh, 707 F.3d 583, 589-91 (6th Cir. 2013), Delgado v. M. Lipsitz & Co., Civil No. 3:13-4324-N, 2014 WL 11456820, at *2-3 & n.1 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 28, 2014), and Elliot v. City of Holly Springs, Civil No. 3:10-01-GHD-JAD, 2010 WL 2505599, at *3 (N.D. Miss. June 14, 2010), and granted the parties an opportunity to submit memoranda that address whether the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff and Parker submitted memoranda.

         Plaintiff's memorandum

         The substance of Plaintiff's memorandum occupies approximately 1.5 pages. Plaintiff did not discuss any of the cases cited in the October 12 Order. Instead, Plaintiff acknowledged the reservations about subject-matter jurisdiction she expressed in the Rule 26(f) Report, which states:

Plaintiffs' Complaints allege violations of a Minnesota Statute (Minnesota Statute § 299f.57), which states, in part, that the federal safety standards adopted as a part of 49 CFR Part 192 are adopted as minimum safety standards for the state of Minnesota. When plaintiffs were considering where to bring their lawsuits against the defendants, and although they would have liked to directly file their lawsuits in this court, they did not feel that violations of a Minnesota Statute using federal regulations as minimum safety standards in the state of Minnesota was a sufficient federal question to confer jurisdiction to this court. While plaintiffs are not adverse at all to litigating their Complaints in this court and have not sought remand of these cases to Minnesota state court, they are concerned that: (a) this court, after further review concerning whether a federal question herein is of the nature and type that would confer jurisdiction of these cases with this court, might determine that such a federal question does not exist in these cases and (b) based upon that determination, later might remand this case to the Minnesota state court, causing a delay in their ability to proceed to trial of their Complaints as quickly as possible.

         After acknowledging her statements in the Rule 26(f) Report, Plaintiff asserted that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction:

After significant written discovery, the depositions of numerous fact witness and party by and between the parties herein, and after significant expert witness discovery and depositions by the parties, plaintiff came to a different conclusion regarding whether the Court originally had and continues to have federal question jurisdiction of this case. More specifically, plaintiff has concluded that the federal regulatory provisions alleged in her Complaints, as adopted by Minnesota Statute, were such an important and integral part of her case against MERC and CP Chem that they conferred federal question jurisdiction to this Court of her claims against those defendants and conferred supplement[al] jurisdiction of her purely state law claims against those defendants, against Parker, and against defendant Don Paplow . . . pursuant to 28 USC § 1367.

         Plaintiff concluded her memorandum by asserting that resolution of her claims against MERC and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP will leave Parker as the sole remaining defendant, [2] that her claims against Parker do not involve a federal question, and that the Court will have to decide whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims against Parker. Plaintiff did not advocate for or against the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over the claims against Parker.

         Parker's memorandum

         Parker asserted that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction. After acknowledging that the Supreme Court “has held that a case asserting a state law claim with an embedded federal question is subject to federal jurisdiction” under certain circumstances, Parker summarized Elliott, which is one of the cases cited in the October 12 Order, and asserted that the case was properly removed on the basis of a federal question:

In the present case, Plaintiffs have alleged that MERC failed to abide by the regulations set forth in Minnesota Statute § 299f.57, which adopted the federal standards of 49 C.F.R. Part 192. Moreover, Plaintiffs specifically alleged MERC violated 49 C.F.R. §§ 192.625 and 192.616 when it failed to properly odorize the natural gas it delivered to Plaintiffs' residence and that such violations were a proximate cause of Plaintiffs' damages. Since Plaintiffs' claim for relief clearly relies upon MERC's alleged violation of . . . federal regulations adopted in Minnesota, this case was properly removed on the basis of federal question subject-matter jurisdiction.

         Parker maintained that the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims against him and that the Court may not approve Plaintiff's settlements with MERC and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP ...


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