Harrison v. Wellpath Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Senior Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. on 9/7/2021: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this action is REMANDED to the Muhlenberg Circuit Court and this action is CLOSED. cc:counsel; Plaintiff, pro se; Muhlenberg Circuit Court (EAS)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:20-CV-P153-JHM
WELLPATH CORPORATION et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff James Harrison, pro se, filed this action in the Muhlenberg Circuit Court against
Wellpath Corporation, Wellpath employees Dr. Anna D’Amico and Lessye Crafton, the
Kentucky Department of Corrections, and several Kentucky Department of Corrections
employees alleging violations of his First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment
rights and numerous state laws.
On September 9, 2020, Defendants Wellpath, D’Amico, and Crafton removed this matter
from Muhlenberg Circuit Court to federal court on the basis of federal-question jurisdiction. The
remaining Defendants consented to the removal. Defendants Wellpath, D’Amico, and Crafton
then moved the Court to conduct an initial screening of Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A and for an extension of time in which to file an answer or other responsive
pleading, and Plaintiff filed a motion to remand.
By prior Order, the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion to remand because Plaintiff had
clearly asserted federal constitutional claims in the complaint. The Court observed that removal
to federal court from state court is proper for “any civil action brought in a State court of which
the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The
Court observed that district courts have “federal-question jurisdiction” over cases “arising under
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In the same Order,
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the Court granted Defendants’ motion to screen this action under § 1915A and their motion for
an extension of time to file any responsive pleadings.
On July 28, 2021, the Court ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint on a Courtsupplied form. The Order stated that the amended complaint would supersede, i.e., replace, the
amended complaint. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint.
Upon review of the amended complaint pursuant to § 1915A, the Court finds that it now
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this action. Unlike Plaintiff’s original complaint, the
amended complaint contains no references to the United States Constitution or any federal
statute. Rather, all of Plaintiff’s claims in the amended complaint are based upon Kentucky state
law and/or Kentucky policies and procedures. Thus, the Court must now determine whether it
should maintain supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state-law claims now that
the federal claims have been eliminated from this action.
The doctrine of supplemental jurisdiction, as codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1367, grants a
district court broad discretion on whether it may exercise jurisdiction over state-law claims that
are “so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the
same case or controversy.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). “That discretion, however, is bounded by
constitutional and prudential limits on the use of federal judicial power.” Musson Theatrical,
Inc. v. Fed. Exp. Corp., 89 F.3d 1244, 1254 (6th Cir. 1996). Accordingly, if “the district court
has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction,” then the district court “may
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
Another district court in the Sixth Circuit recently considered whether a federal court
should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over remaining state-law claims and remand
an action to state court in a similar situation. Sanchez v. Gregg Pancero, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-75,
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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150582 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 20, 2020). The Sanchez court outlined the
relevant jurisprudence as follows:
“In determining whether to retain jurisdiction over state-law claims, a district court
should consider and weigh several factors, including the ‘values of judicial
economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.’” Gamel v. City of Cincinnati, 625
F.3d 949, 951 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S.
343, 350 (1988)). The Court should “balance those interests against needlessly
deciding state law issues.” Harper v. AutoAlliance Int’l, Inc., 392 F.3d 195, 211
(6th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted). Although there is “no categorical rule
that the pretrial dismissal of federal claims bars a court from deciding remaining
state claims,” Carmichael v. City of Cleveland, 571 F. App’x 426, 434 (6th Cir.
2014), the Sixth Circuit favors remand. This is because “[c]omity to state courts is
considered a substantial interest; therefore, this Court applies a strong presumption
against the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction once federal claims have been
dismissed—retaining residual jurisdiction ‘only in cases where the interests of
judicial economy and the avoidance of multiplicity of litigation outweigh our
concern over needlessly deciding state law issues.’” Packard v. Farmers Ins. Co.
of Columbus Inc., 423 F. App’x 580, 584 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Moon v. Harrison
Piping Supply, 465 F.3d 719, 728 (6th Cir. 2006)).
In addition to “judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity,” the court may
also consider whether “the plaintiff has used ‘manipulative tactics’ to defeat
removal and secure a state forum, such as ‘simply by deleting all federal-law claims
from the complaint and requesting that the district court remand the case.’” Harper,
392 F.3d at 211 (citing Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 357). “If the plaintiff has
attempted to manipulate the forum, the court should take this behavior into
account in determining whether the balance of factors to be considered under the
pendent jurisdiction doctrine support a remand in the case.” Id.
Id. at *4-6.
The Sanchez court then analyzed how the Sixth Circuit had applied these factors in Harper
In Harper, the Sixth Circuit upheld a district court’s decision to retain supplemental
jurisdiction over state law claims based on four factors: (1) the plaintiff engaged in
forum manipulation by voluntarily dismissing his federal-law claims after the case
had been in federal court for eleven months; (2) the parties had completed
discovery; (3) the defendants’ summary judgment motions were ripe for decision;
and (4) the district court had already invested significant time in the litigation and
was familiar with the facts. 392 F.3d at 211-12. Conversely, in Gamel, although
the district court found that the plaintiffs clearly engaged in forum manipulation,
the Sixth Circuit found no abuse of discretion when the district court relied on the
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following factors to remand the state law claims to state court: (1) the plaintiffs
retracted their federal claims four days after the defendant removed; (2) the court
had not overseen discovery; (3) there was no potentially dispositive summary
judgment motion filed at the time the motion to remand was filed; and (4) judicial
economy would not have been served by exercising supplemental jurisdiction over
the state law claims. 625 F.3d at 952-53.
Sanchez, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS at *6-7.
Like the courts in Gamel and Sanchez, upon consideration of 28 U.S.C. § 1367, and the
Carnegie-Mellon factors, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
remaining state-law claims in this action. In reaching this determination, the Court first notes
that Defendants have not yet filed answers or other responsive pleadings in this action and no
dispositive motions have been filed. Second, because the federal-law claims are no longer at
issue, neither judicial economy nor comity would be served by exercising supplemental
jurisdiction over the remaining state-law clams. And, lastly, Plaintiff has not used manipulative
tactics to defeat the removal of this action – Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint of his
own accord; the Court directed him to file a superseding, amended complaint, and he complied.
Thus, the Court concludes that the interests of “judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and
comity” weigh in favor of remand.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this action is REMANDED to the
Muhlenberg Circuit Court and that this action is CLOSED.
September 7, 2021
Plaintiff, pro se
Counsel of Record
Muhlenberg Circuit Court
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