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Hamilton-Warwick v. Volkswagen Group of America

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 2, 2018

Amy Hamilton-Warwick, Plaintiff,
v.
Volkswagen Group of America, Daimler Trucks, BMW of North America, LLC, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Netflix, Inc., and United States Environmental Protection Agency, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. For the following reasons, the Motions are granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Amy Hamilton-Warwick brought this lawsuit complaining about the alleged mistreatment of monkeys in an alleged experiment conducted to analyze the effects of diesel exhaust on human health, which she learned about in a Netflix documentary called Dirty Money. She claims that Defendants “acted immorally and illegally under the laws of the United States by abusing and cruely [sic] murdering individuals and animals to demonstrate previously researched and proven circumstances to defraud and further harm U.S. Citizens.” (Compl. (Docket No. 1) at 8.) She admits, however, that no monkeys were killed in these alleged experiments. (Id. at 9.)

         Defendants are Volkswagen Group of America, Daimler Trucks, BMW of North America, the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Netflix. Although the Complaint contains no causes of action, Plaintiff quotes from several statutes: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1801, 3283; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1986; N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 30-6-1, 30-18-1; and Ohio Rev. Code § 959.13. She also cites one federal regulation, 49 C.F.R. § 801.56. Plaintiff asks that the Court find Defendants “guilty of the charges laid out in the attached documents” and order that Defendants “contribute money to fund the recovery of animals to a group much like the World Wildlife Fund.” (Compl. at 4.)

         Although Defendants raise several different arguments in support of their Motions, their common arguments are that Plaintiff lacks standing and that her Complaint fails to state any claims on which relief can be granted. They are correct on both arguments.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standing

         As Plaintiff recognizes, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. And while Plaintiff invokes this Court's diversity jurisdiction under § 1332, another component of federal jurisdiction is the requirement that the plaintiff has standing to bring her claims. Standing “is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement of Article III.” Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). It “is founded in concern about the proper-and properly limited-role of the courts in a democratic society.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). This Court has no jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims unless she has standing.

         To establish standing to bring a case in federal court, Plaintiff must demonstrate that she has personally suffered a concrete and actual injury that is traceable to Defendants' conduct and likely to be redressed by a favorable federal court decision. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560; see also Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984). Plaintiff fails at each step of the standing inquiry.

         First, the only personal injury Plaintiff alleges is that she is upset and “disappointed” by Defendants' alleged conduct. (Compl. at 15.) But her disappointment is not a concrete injury cognizable in federal court. Spokeo, Inc. v. Robbins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1548 (2016) (“A ‘concrete' injury must be ‘de facto'; that is, it must actually exist”).

         While Plaintiff alleges that animals were injured in the testing about which she complains, the Article III “judicial power exists only to redress or otherwise to protect against injury to the complaining party.” Warth, 422 U.S. at 499. In other words, “[t]o meet the injury-in-fact requirement, the party seeking relief must be [herself] among the injured.” Cmty. Stablilization Project v. Cuomo, 199 F.R.D. 327, 331 (D. Minn. 2001) (Montgomery, J.) Because Plaintiff suffered no concrete and particularized injury, she does not have standing to pursue her claims.

         Even had Plaintiff sufficiently demonstrated an injury, she has not established that such injury is traceable to Defendants' conduct. She complains about animal testing at Lovelace's New Mexico facility, ostensibly at the behest of Defendant automobile manufacturers. How Netflix or the EPA are responsible for this conduct is unexplained.

         Finally, Plaintiff's alleged injury simply cannot be redressed by the relief she seeks. She asks that Defendants be held accountable for their behavior and ordered to pay money to a wildlife-protection organization. Such relief will not redress any injury Plaintiff could possibly ...


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