GLASS v. FEDEX CORPORATION, et al
ORDER denying 7 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction; granting 14 request for jurisdictional discovery. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE CLAY D LAND on 2/9/2018. (CCL)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
NORMA GLASS, as Temporary
Administrator of the Estate of
Roger Phillip Glass, III,
FEDEX CORPORATION; FEDEX
FREIGHT, INC.; and FEDEX
CASE NO. 3:17-CV-143 (CDL)
O R D E R
Presently pending before the Court is Defendants’ motion to
dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on the
See Rooker v. Fid. Tr. Co., 263 U.S.
413 (1923); D.C. Ct. App. v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).1
the reasons set forth below, the Court denies that motion (ECF
Plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery to
respond to Defendants’ contention that this Court also lacks
Resolution of this motion has been prolonged with Defendants even
agreeing at one point to withdraw the motion. But because the motion
raises issues of subject matter jurisdiction that arguably cannot be
waived, the Court has determined that it must decide the issues.
Plaintiff’s son, Roger Phillip Glass III, was struck and
Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action in the State Court of
operating the vehicle for Defendants FedEx Corporation, FedEx
Freight, Inc., and FedEx Freight Corporation.
not dispute that Fleming was operating the tractor-trailer in
Defendants did not dispute that the state court had personal
jurisdiction over FedEx Freight, Inc.
FedEx Corporation and
FedEx Freight Corporation did, however, argue that the state
dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against them on that ground.
state court granted the motion, concluding that Plaintiff had
jurisdiction over these two Defendants.
See generally Order
Granting Mot. to Dismiss, Glass v. FedEx Corp., ST-15-CV-0435
(State Ct. of Athens-Clarke Cty. June 6, 2017), ECF No. 17-5.
The state court also denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel
responses to her discovery requests related to the issue of
Order Den. Mot. to Compel,
FedEx Corp., ST-15-CV-0435 (State Ct. of Athens-Clarke Cty. June
9, 2017), ECF No. 17-6.
And the state court denied Plaintiff
permission to take an immediate appeal of the order dismissing
Plaintiff’s claims against FedEx Corporation and FedEx Freight
Corporation for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Order Den. Mot.
for Certificate of Immediate Review, Glass v. FedEx Corp., ST15-CV-0435 (State Ct. of Athens-Clarke Cty. June 15, 2017), ECF
Plaintiff thus could not appeal that order.
Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the remainder of the state court
action and filed this action in federal court asserting the same
With regard to personal jurisdiction, Plaintiff alleges
in this action that FedEx Corporation, a Delaware corporation
with its principal place of business in Tennessee, transacted
including FedEx Freight[, Inc.] and FedEx Freight Corp.,” and
transaction of business in Georgia. Compl. ¶¶ 15-33, ECF No. 1.
Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in
Tennessee, transacted business in Georgia and that Plaintiff’s
claims arise out of its transaction of business in Georgia.
motion to dismiss this federal action, arguing that the Court
In the alternative, these Defendants argue that the
Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over them based on
the factual record.2
Plaintiff contends that the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine does not apply, and she seeks jurisdictional discovery
so she can investigate these Defendants’ contacts with Georgia
action against FedEx Corporation and FedEx Freight Corporation
exercise personal jurisdiction over these two Defendants in the
state court action.
The state court decided that it could not
exercise personal jurisdiction over these two Defendants because
Plaintiff had the initial burden of alleging “sufficient facts to
make out a prima facie case of jurisdiction” in this action. Diamond
Crystal Brands, Inc. v. Food Movers Int’l, Inc., 593 F.3d 1249, 1257
(11th Cir. 2010) (quoting United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260,
1274 (11th Cir. 2009)). Then, the defendants challenging jurisdiction
have the burden to submit evidence in support of their position. Id.
The Defendants submitted an affidavit regarding the relationship
between FedEx Corporation, FedEx Freight Corporation, and FedEx
Freight, Inc., see Eslami Aff., ECF No. 7-2, which they contend
establishes that this Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over
FedEx Corporation and FedEx Freight Corporation.
So, the burden
Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc., 593 F.3d at 1257
(quoting Mazer, 556 F.3d at 1274). Plaintiff asserts that she cannot
rebut Defendants’ affidavit without some jurisdictional discovery.
the record before it did not reveal sufficient contacts with
Georgia, although the state court denied Plaintiff’s motion to
compel responses to her jurisdictional discovery requests and
did not allow Plaintiff to conduct jurisdictional discovery to
investigate these two Defendants’ contacts with Georgia.
jurisdiction in the federal district courts “over those cases
that are essentially an appeal by a state court loser seeking to
relitigate a claim that has already been decided in a state
Target Media Partners v. Specialty Mktg. Corp., No. 16-
10141, 2018 WL 706524, at *1 (11th Cir. Feb. 5, 2018).
doctrine is rooted in an understanding that Congress[, under
28 U.S.C. §
Court the ability to hear an appeal from a state court” final
judgment or decree.
Id. at *4; accord Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 292 (2005) (“[Section]
1257, as long interpreted, vests authority to review a statecourt judgment solely in [the Supreme] Court.”).
this Court has “original, not appellate, jurisdiction.”
Media Partners, 2018 WL 706524, at *4 (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331,
The Rooker-Feldman bar is “narrow,” and federal courts
must “ensure that litigants whose claims are properly within the
cognizance of the courts are not denied a hearing.”
Id. at *1.
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is based on two U.S. Supreme
Court cases: Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923)
and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S.
In Rooker, parties who lost in state court brought
suit in federal district court to have the state court judgment
“declared null and void.”
Rooker, 263 U.S. at 414.
parties who were denied waivers from a bar admission requirement
by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the District’s
highest court) filed suit in federal district court seeking an
declaration that the D.C. court’s actions violated federal law.
Feldman, 460 U.S. at 468-69.
The Supreme Court concluded that
the district court did not have jurisdiction over the claim for
injunctive relief, which would have required the district court
to “review a final judicial decision of the highest court of a
jurisdiction over the claims that amounted to “a general attack
on the constitutionality” of certain bar rules, although the
Supreme Court did not reach the question whether the doctrine of
res judicata applied to foreclose litigation of those claims.
Id. at 487-88.
Feldman, “the losing party in state
court filed suit in federal court after the state proceedings
judgment and seeking review and rejection of that judgment.”
Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 291.
In other words, the plaintiffs
asked the district court “to overturn an injurious state-court
Id. at 292.
Again, under 28 U.S.C. § 1257, only the
Supreme Court has authority to review a state court’s final
judgment, which is why the district courts lacked jurisdiction
in Rooker and Feldman even though the district courts otherwise
(federal question) or 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity).
doctrine to bar subject matter jurisdiction in two cases: Rooker
The lower courts gradually expanded the doctrine,
Target Media Partners, 2018 WL 706524, at *5 (citing
Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 283).
The Supreme Court emphasized
that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine “is confined to cases of the
kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought by
state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court
commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of
Exxon Mobil, 544 U.S. at 284.3
So, if the
federal plaintiff “present[s] some independent claim, albeit one
that denies a legal conclusion that a state court has reached in
a case to which he was a party . . ., then there is jurisdiction
and state law determines whether the defendant prevails under
principles of preclusion.”
Id. at 293 (alterations in original)
(quoting GASH Assocs. v. Rosemont, 995 F.2d 726, 728 (7th Cir.
Following Exxon Mobil, the Eleventh Circuit applies RookerFeldman “to bar only those claims asserted by parties who have
lost in state court and then ask the district court, ultimately,
to review and reject a state court’s judgments.”
Partners, 2018 WL 706524, at *5; accord Nicholson v. Shafe, 558
F.3d 1266, 1268 (11th Cir. 2009) (“[L]ower federal courts are
state-court judgments.” (quoting Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459,
Thus, the central question for the Court here is
Exxon Mobil was not such a case; it involved parallel litigation in
state court and federal court.
While a pretrial ruling in favor of
the federal court plaintiff/state court defendant was before the
federal Court of Appeals on an interlocutory appeal, the state court
held a jury trial and entered a judgment in that party’s favor.
that point, the federal Court of Appeals concluded, sua sponte, that
federal jurisdiction terminated when the state court entered the
judgment on the jury verdict. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding
that Rooker-Feldman “did not emerge to vanquish jurisdiction” after
the federal court plaintiff/state court defendant won the state court
trial. Id. at 294.
rejection of a state court decision.”
2018 WL 706524, at *5.
Target Media Partners,
Such an invitation exists if Plaintiff’s
claims asserted in this Court were “actually adjudicated by a
state court” or were “‘inextricably intertwined’ with a state
Id. (citing Casale v. Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258,
1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam)).4
They were not.
It is clear that Plaintiff’s wrongful death claims were not
adjudicated by the state court, and it is clear that there was
no state court final judgment against Plaintiff on her wrongful
Cf. South v. Montoya, 537 S.E.2d 367, 369 (Ga.
Ct. App. 2000) (stating that once a trial court determines that
it lacks jurisdiction over the defendant, it “loses jurisdiction
to rule on the merits of the case”).
Defendants do not appear
to deny that there was no final judgment based on the state
court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction; they simply contend
that a state court final judgment is not required for RookerFeldman
A claim is only “‘inextricably intertwined’ if it asks to
‘effectively nullify the state court judgment, or it succeeds only to
the extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues.’” Target
Media Partners, 2018 WL 706524, at *5 (quoting Casale, 558 F.3d at
1260). But “a federal claim is not ‘inextricably intertwined’ with a
state court judgment when there was no ‘reasonable opportunity to
raise’ that particular claim during the relevant state court
proceeding. Id. (quoting Casale, 558 F.3d at 1260). “Thus, the class
of federal claims that” the Eleventh Circuit has “found to be
‘inextricably intertwined’ with state court judgments is limited to
those raising a question that was or should have been properly before
the state court.” Id.
Circuit has held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not apply
when the state court decision at issue is not a “final state
Smith v. HSBC Bank USA, 679 F. App’x 876, 878
(11th Cir. 2017) (per curiam).
In Smith, the Eleventh Circuit
restraining order request was not a “final state court judgment”
to which the
O.C.G.A. § 9-11-54(a) because it was not a decree or order “from
which an appeal lies” given that appeals of orders granting or
denying a temporary restraining order are not authorized under
O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34(a)(7).
Similarly, here, the state court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s
claims against FedEx Corporation and FedEx Freight Corporation
for lack of personal jurisdiction was not a final judgment.
Under Georgia law, dismissal under O.C.G.A. § 9-11-12(b)(2) for
lack of personal jurisdiction is a dismissal without prejudice
dismissal without prejudice means that the plaintiff may refile
the claim with sufficient factual allegations to support the
claim (including a jurisdictional basis for the claim).
since the state court judge only dismissed FedEx Corporation and
FedEx Freight Corporation for lack of personal jurisdiction and
did not dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against the other Defendants,
meaning that “the case is no longer pending in the court below.”
Because the state court’s personal jurisdiction decision was not
O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34(b).
Plaintiff sought to follow that procedure, but the state court
judge denied Plaintiff’s request for a certificate of immediate
Corporation and FedEx Freight Corporation for lack of personal
jurisdiction was not a final state court judgment; Plaintiff’s
wrongful death claims were not actually adjudicated by the state
court, and the claims were not inextricably intertwined with a
state court final judgment.
Since the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
only applies when there is a final state court judgment and
Plaintiff’s wrongful death claims, Rooker-Feldman does not bar
This Court must decide the personal jurisdiction
issue based on the facts before it, which may not be the same as
the facts that were before the state court.5
Rooker-Feldman grounds (ECF No. 7) is denied.
The Court grants
Plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery (ECF No. 14).
Defendants may file a new motion to dismiss for lack of personal
The present motion to dismiss is terminated.
The Court is aware that years before the Supreme Court decided ExxonMobil, a Florida district judge dismissed a federal court action on
Rooker-Feldman grounds because a Florida state court had previously
determined that it did not have personal jurisdiction over two of the
defendants. See generally Bosdorf v. Beach, 79 F. Supp. 2d 1337 (S.D.
Fla. 1999). The Florida district judge acknowledged that the case did
“not fall within the typical Rooker–Feldman framework in that [the
plaintiffs] have not directly challenged the state court’s ruling or
asked this court to direct the state court to do something,” but the
Florida district judge concluded that the “spirit” of the RookerFeldman doctrine warranted its application in that context.
1341. The Florida district judge also acknowledged that there was no
final judgment but concluded that a final judgment was not required
“before giving preclusive effect to a state court order.”
1340. This ruling now has no persuasive value in light of Exxon Mobil
and Smith. Even if it did, Bosdorf is distinguishable from this case
because the Florida district judge emphasized that the plaintiff in
Bosdorf had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the personal
jurisdiction issue in state court and that the plaintiffs’ failure to
obtain jurisdictional discovery in the state court action was caused
by their own inaction and not because the state court denied them an
opportunity to obtain it. Id. at 1342. In contrast, here, Plaintiff
served jurisdictional discovery requests on the FedEx Corporation and
FedEx Freight Corporation and asked the state court to compel
responses to that discovery, but her motion to compel was denied.
Thus, it appears that Plaintiff did not have a full and fair
opportunity to litigate the personal jurisdiction issue in the state
jurisdictional discovery and related dispositive motions.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 9th day of February, 2018.
S/Clay D. Land
CLAY D. LAND
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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