Westchester Fire Insurance Company v. Star Leasing Company et al
ORDER dismissing case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Clerk is directed to terminate all pending motions and CLOSE this case. Signed by Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle on 7/17/2021. (NPC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
WESTCHESTER FIRE INSURANCE
COMPANY a/s/o EDDIE’S
Case No: 8:21-cv-1589-KKM-TGW
STAR LEASING COMPANY and
TOTAL QUALITY LOGISTICS LLC,
Plaintiff Westchester Fire Insurance Company, as subrogee of Eddie’s Trucking,
LLC, brings claims for breach of contract and negligence arising from an incident
involving a trailer Eddie’s Trucking rented from Defendants to transport 1,512 cases of
beer from Tampa, Florida, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2019. (Doc. 1). On July 6,
2021, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause as to why this action should not be
dismissed due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 6). Upon review of
Plaintiff’s response and the Complaint, this case is dismissed because the Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and therefore have an obligation
to inquire into their subject matter jurisdiction regardless of whether the parties have
challenged its existence. See Kirkland v. Midland Mortg. Co., 243 F.3d 1277, 1279–80 (11th
Cir. 2001). Here, as the bases for jurisdiction, Plaintiff cites 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which
provides that federal district courts have jurisdiction over civil actions involving a
federal question, and 28 U.S.C. § 1337, which provides that federal district courts have
jurisdiction over actions “arising under any act of Congress regulating commerce or
protecting trade and commerce against restraints an monopolies.” Both provisions,
however, require a cause of action arising under federal law, which is notably absent
here. Indeed, Plaintiff brings claims only for breach of contract and negligence—actions
arising under state law. To make matters worse, even if Plaintiff wished to invoke this
Court’s diversity jurisdiction which enables this Court to hear state law claims, 1 the
sought-after damages, $26,995.58 plus costs and interest, are far below the $75,000
amount in controversy required by statute. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Plaintiff contends that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction because the
trailer lease is subject to federal law and because Defendants have leased a vehicle to be
used in interstate commerce. But merely being subject to federal law in the course of
business is not enough to confer jurisdiction onto this Court. The cause of action must
arise under federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. While Plaintiff correctly points out that
Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce under current Supreme Court
precedent is broad, Congress’s power to legislate under Article I of the Constitution is
It appears that the parties are sufficiently diverse to meet the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
not the same question as whether federal courts have jurisdiction under Article III of
the Constitution. While Congress may have properly regulated the trailer in this case,
its power to do so has no bearing on this Court’s jurisdiction unless and until a plaintiff
brings a claim under one of those properly enacted laws.
Plaintiff cites the Graves Amendment, a federal tort reform statute that exempts
the owners of motor vehicles leased and operated in interstate commerce from certain
vicarious liability suits, as potentially preempting any tort claims against Plaintiff, the
lessor of the trailer in the instant action. See 49 U.S.C. § 30106. But there are no tort
claims pending against Plaintiff to preempt, and even if one might arise in response, the
Court is bound to determine jurisdiction “on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded
complaint.” Dunlap v. G&L Holding Group, Inc., 381 F.3d 1285, 1290 (11th Cir. 2004).
Because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s state law
claims, this action is DISMISSED without prejudice. The Clerk is directed to
terminate all pending motions and CLOSE this case.
ORDERED in Tampa, Florida, on July 17, 2021.
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