Brown v. Apple Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM & ORDER [DISMISSING CASE AS FRIVOLOUS]: The Court grants Plaintiff's 2 application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 solely for the purpose of this Memorandum and Order. While the Court would ordinarily allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his pleading, it need not afford that opportunity where, as here, it is clear from the face of the Complaint that the claims are frivolous. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 12(h)(3) of the Fede ral Rule of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), the Court dismisses the Complaint because it lacks subject matter jurisdiction and is frivolous. The Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for the purpose of any appeal. SO ORDERED by Judge Margo K. Brodie, on 4/11/2017. C/mailed. (Forwarded for Judgment.) (Latka-Mucha, Wieslawa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
--------------------------------------------------------------RONALD L. BROWN / IAM PORTABLE
HYBRID TRAILER GROUP, INC.,1
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
APPLE INC., CORPORATE CON EDISON, IBM
CORPORATION INC., GLOBAL FOUNDRIES,
NYC MEDIA PROGRAMMING, PATRIOT
SOLAR, MPEG LA, LLC, ENDEAVOR
ROBOTICS INC., TURRET STEEL INC.,
GOOGLE NETWORK INC., NIKON NETWORK,
GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY,
QUALCOMM INC., LIGHTPATHS LIGHT INC.,
SEVEN INTERNATIONAL GROUP, FUZE INC.,
VERIZON WIRELESS INC., STRIA LITHIUM,
MICROSOFT INC., RUSTY CLARK / ADVANCE
STRIPPING EQUIPTMENT, EASTMAN INC.,
DON MEEKER, CRM SEARCH INC.,
--------------------------------------------------------------MARGO K. BRODIE, United States District Judge:
Plaintiff Ronald L. Brown, proceeding pro se, commenced the above-captioned action on
January 17, 2017, against twenty-three Defendants. The Court grants Plaintiff’s application to
As a non-attorney litigant, Plaintiff may not represent a corporation. Pridgen v.
Andresen, 113 F.3d 391, 393 (2d Cir. 1997) (“[I]t is well established that a layperson may not
represent a corporation.” (citing Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. Continental Record Co., 386 F.2d
426, 427 (2d Cir. 1967) (per curiam)). Thus, the Court treats pro se litigant Brown as the only
proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 solely for the purpose of this
Memorandum and Order.2 For the reasons discussed below, the Court dismisses the Complaint.
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff and Defendant NYC Media Programming entered
into a contract on December 15, 2011 and sometime thereafter Defendant breached that contract.
(Compl. 4, Docket Entry No. 1.) In describing how NYC Media Programming failed to comply
with its contractual obligations, Plaintiff alleges:
The final release can be used to settle this matter of its unpaid
royalties, that have arise from public domain disclose franchise, in
an joint partnerships, public contractual domain agreement, made
with the breach of contractors. Collect on it owed infringe benefits,
on § 503. Remedies for several billions infringement late benefits;
is the appropriate legal steps, to take in concerning of the breached
of the disclose franchises, buy-in non-exclusive agreements.
(Id. at 4.) Plaintiff seeks “company royalties, as punitive money-damage and late payment
penalties.” (Id.) The eighty-six pages attached to the Complaint include, among other
documents, a business certification application assistance agreement on behalf of IAM Portable
Trailer Group, Inc.; a Delaware franchise tax invoice for 2015 billed to IAM Portable Hybrid
Trailer Group, Inc.; and several other exhibits, some of which are not legible.3 (See generally
id.) None of the exhibits appear to reference an executed contract between Plaintiff and NYC
Although Plaintiff presents conflicting information in his request to proceed in forma
pauperis, Plaintiff states that he is unemployed and has significant financial obligations. The
Court therefore grants his request. DiGianni v. Pearson Educ., No. 10-CV-206, 2010 WL
1741373, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 30, 2010) (noting that whether a plaintiff qualifies for in forma
pauperis status is within the discretion of the district court).
Plaintiff simultaneously filed a separate action against some of the same Defendants
alleging civil rights violations. See Brown v. Turret Steel, No. 17-CV-368 (E.D.N.Y. filed Jan.
Standard of review
A complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Matson v. Bd. of Educ., 631 F.3d 57, 63 (2d Cir.
2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Although all allegations contained
in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is “inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court must be mindful that a plaintiff’s
pleadings should be held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976)); see Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (noting that even after
Twombly, the court “remain[s] obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally”).
Nevertheless, the Court is required to dismiss sua sponte an in forma pauperis action if
the Court determines it “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief
may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see also Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007).
In addition, if the Court “determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the
Court must dismiss the action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3); see also Cortlandt St. Recovery Corp.
v. Hellas Telecomms., S.À.R.L., 790 F.3d 411, 416–17 (2d Cir. 2015) (A district court may
dismiss an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) when the court
“lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it . . . .” (quoting Makarova v. United
States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000))).
The Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may not hear cases if they lack
subject matter jurisdiction over the issues presented. Lyndonville Sav. Bank & Trust Co. v.
Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700–01 (2d Cir. 2000). The statutory provisions for federal subject matter
jurisdiction are contained in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332. Federal question jurisdiction provides
federal courts jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties
of the United States.” Bounds v. Pine Belt Mental Health Care Res., 593 F.3d 209, 215 (2d Cir.
2010) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1331). A plaintiff properly invokes section 1331 jurisdiction when
he pleads a colorable claim “arising under” the Constitution or laws of the United States. Under
the diversity jurisdiction statute, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over state law
claims where the plaintiff and defendant are of diverse citizenship, and “the matter in
controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a); see also Bayerische Landesbank, N.Y. Branch v. Aladdin Capital Mgmt. LLC, 692
F.3d 42, 48 (2d Cir. 2012). For purposes of diversity of citizenship, a corporation is a citizen of
its state of incorporation and the state of its principal place of business. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(c)(1); see also Bayerische Landesbank, 692 F.3d at 48.
Here, Plaintiff invokes section 1332 as the sole basis for subject matter jurisdiction.
(Compl. 1.) However, the face of the Complaint demonstrates that complete diversity is lacking.
Section 1332 requires complete diversity of citizenship between plaintiffs and defendants. See
Pa. Pub. Sch. Emps.’ Ret. Sys. v. Morgan Stanley & Co., 772 F.3d 111, 117–18 (2d Cir. 2014)
(“Subject matter jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332, which requires ‘complete diversity,’
i.e. all plaintiffs must be citizens of states diverse from those of all defendants.” (citation
omitted)); St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Univ. Builders Supply, 409 F.3d 73, 80 (2d Cir.
2005) (“Diversity is not complete if any plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant.”
(citation omitted)). Based on the addresses of Plaintiff and Defendants in the Complaint, both
Plaintiff and four of the Defendants, Con Edison Inc., Media Programming Services, Lightpath
Lights Inc., and Version Wireless Inc., are located in New York. (Compl. 6–7.) Accordingly,
Plaintiff is not diverse from the Defendants, and the Court cannot exercise diversity jurisdiction.
See Pa. Pub. Sch. Emps.’ Ret. Sys., 772 F.3d at 117–18; Lovejoy v. Watson, 475 F. App’x 792,
792 (2d Cir. 2012) (“The complaint alleged that [the plaintiff] and the defendant resided in New
York, thereby precluding diversity jurisdiction.”); Univ. Builders Supply, 409 F.3d at 82 (holding
that two nondiverse plaintiffs destroyed diversity).
Therefore, the Court dismisses the Complaint against Defendants because Plaintiff fails
to state a claim that would confer jurisdiction upon this Court pursuant to its diversity
jurisdiction.4 See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b); Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3); see also Jenkins v.
Murphy, 356 F. App’x 500, 500–01 (2d Cir. 2009) (affirming sua sponte dismissal for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction over a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim because defendant was a private actor
and there was no basis for diversity jurisdiction).
Action is dismissed as frivolous
“An action is frivolous when either: (1) the factual contentions are clearly baseless, such
as when allegations are the product of delusion or fantasy; or (2) the claim is based on an
Plaintiff has not and cannot invoke the Court’s federal question jurisdiction because he
only alleges a claim for breach of contract. Seagate Logistics, Inc. v Angel Kiss, Inc., 699 F.
Supp. 2d 499, 503 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (finding no federal question jurisdiction for a breach of
contract claim where the plaintiff did not demonstrate the breach of contract claim arose “under
the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States.”). There is nothing on the face of the
Complaint to suggest that Defendants violated any federal statute, or that any question involving
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States is implicated by Plaintiff’s breach of
contract claim. Thus, the Court cannot exercise federal question jurisdiction over the action.
indisputably meritless legal theory.” Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437
(2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d
Cir. 1990) (per curiam)). The Supreme Court has noted that:
[T]he in forma pauperis statute, unlike Rule 12(b)(6) [of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure] “accords judges not only the authority to
dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but
also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint’s factual
allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327
(1989)). “[A] finding of factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the
level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts
available to contradict them.” Denton, 504 U.S. at 33. Plaintiff does not allege any set of facts
that give rise to a breach of contract claim but instead claims a breach of contract that “arise[s]
from public domain disclose franchise, in an joint partnerships, public contractual domain
agreement, made with the breach of contractors.” (Compl. 4.) The Court finds that the
allegations are “factually frivolous.” Livingston, 141 F.3d at 437.
While the Court would ordinarily allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his pleading,
Cruz v. Gomez, 202 F.3d 593, 597 (2d Cir. 2000), it need not afford that opportunity where, as
here, it is clear from the face of the Complaint that the claims are frivolous.
Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure and 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), the Court dismisses the Complaint because it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction and is frivolous. The Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any
appeal would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for the
purpose of any appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444–45 (1962).
MARGO K. BRODIE
United States District Judge
Dated: April 11, 2017
Brooklyn, New York
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?