Barringer v. Whitworth et al
OPINION and ORDER granting Defendant Whitworth's 23 Motion to Dismiss and denying as moot Defendant Whitworth's 22 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Bernard A. Friedman. (JCur)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Civil Action No. 18-CV-11174
HON. BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN
BRENDA CARLSON, and
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANT WHITWORTH’S MOTION TO DISMISS
This matter is presently before the Court on the motion of defendant Whitworth
to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction [docket entry 23]. Plaintiff
has filed a response in opposition. Pursuant to E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2), the Court shall
decide this motion without a hearing.
This is a conversion and defamation action. Plaintiff alleges that in early 2018
he entrusted Whitworth with the care of his pregnant dog, a Chinese Crested named Vogue.
Whitworth agreed to care for Vogue and her anticipated litter of puppies for a short period
of time. While in Whitworth’s care, Vogue had three puppies. When plaintiff did not retrieve
Vogue and the puppies by the agreed upon date, Whitworth notified plaintiff that she had
placed them with Kalamazoo County Animal Services (“KCAS”). The next day, at
plaintiff’s request, defendant Carlson retrieved the dogs from KCAS and agreed to care for
them until plaintiff could pick them up in approximately one week’s time. Before plaintiff
did so, Carlson delivered the dogs to defendant Parker, who allegedly refused to return them
to plaintiff and instead delivered them to an animal shelter in Canada. Additionally, Parker
and Carlson allegedly defamed plaintiff on social media.
Count 1 of the complaint asserts a conversion claim against all three
defendants. Counts 2 and 3 assert claims against Whitworth and Carlson for “claim and
delivery” and breach of contract. Counts 4, 5, and 6 assert claims against Parker for
defamation, tortious interference with a business relationship, and intentional infliction of
emotional distress. Jurisdiction allegedly is based on diversity of citizenship, as plaintiff is
a resident of Arkansas, defendants are residents of Michigan, and more than $75,000 is in
In challenging jurisdiction, Defendant Whitworth argues that plaintiff is not
a resident of Arkansas and that the jurisdictional amount is not met as to her. The Court need
not decide where plaintiff resides, as the motion is easily decided based on the amount in
The value of plaintiff’s claim against Whitworth is essentially nil. According
to the complaint, Whitworth delivered the dogs to KCAS on March 12 and Carlson, at
plaintiff’s request, retrieved them the next day. As Carlson was acting as his agent, plaintiff
constructively regained possession of Vogue and her puppies after a single day. Assuming
that Whitworth is liable to plaintiff on any or all of the claims he asserts against her (i.e.,
conversion, claim and delivery, or breach of contract), the damages flowing from this oneday deprivation is de minimis and plainly does not begin to approach the jurisdictional
threshold. As noted, plaintiff does not allege that Whitworth defamed him.
Plaintiff argues that the $75,000 threshold is met because Parker gave the dogs
to a Canadian shelter, because Parker and Carlson defamed him on Facebook, and because
he has incurred substantial attorney fees. Assuming that these claims against these other
defendants could reasonably be deemed to have a value exceeding $75,000, these amounts
may not be aggregated to meet the jurisdictional minimum. Aggregation of claims by a
single plaintiff against multiple defendants is permitted only when the claims are closely
related and give rise to joint liability. See Middle Tenn. News Co. v. Charnel of Cincinnati,
Inc., 250 F.3d 1077, 1081 (7th Cir. 2001); and Chabrowski v. Litwin, No.
CV-16-03766-PHX-DLR, 2017 WL 2462484, at *1 (D. Ariz. June 7, 2017). When the
claims against various defendants are separate and distinct, “the test of jurisdiction is the
amount of each separate claim and not the aggregate amount of the claims.” Lohden v. State
Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 1:16-CV-00138-GNS, 2017 WL 990465, at *1 (W.D. Ky.
Mar. 14, 2017) (quoting Fechheimer Bros. Co. v. Barnwasser, 146 F.2d 974, 977 (6th Cir.
1945)). See also Siding & Insulation Co. v. Acuity Mut. Ins. Co., 754 F.3d 367, 373 (6th Cir.
2014) (reaffirming Fechheimer as stating the “settled general rule.”).
In the present case, there is no legal or logical connection between Whitworth’s
actions and those of Carlson and Parker. Whitworth’s alleged interference with plaintiff’s
rights to the dogs ended the moment Carlson retrieved them from KCAS, and
Carlson’s/Parker’s subsequent interference with plaintiff’s rights to the dogs had nothing to
do with what Whitworth had done previously. Nor is there any conceivable connection
between Whitworth and the defamation allegedly committed by Carlson and Parker. In short,
the claims against Whitworth are separate and distinct from those against Carlson and Parker,
and there would be no basis for holding Whitworth liable for the actions of the other
Therefore, it would be entirely inappropriate for the Court to exercise
jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims against Whitworth on the grounds that the value of
plaintiff’s claims against Carlson and Parker is jurisdictionally sufficient. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that defendant Whitworth’s motion to dismiss is granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendant Whitworth’s motion for summary
judgment is denied as moot.
Dated: May 31, 2018
s/Bernard A. Friedman
BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record and any unrepresented
parties via the Court's ECF System to their respective email or First Class U.S. mail addresses disclosed on the
Notice of Electronic Filing on May 31, 2018.
s/Johnetta M. Curry-Williams
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