Pounds et al v. Lockheed Martin Corporation et al
ORDER DENYING 5 Motion to Dismiss, and DENYING 13 Motion to Remand. the case may proceed in its entirety. Signed by US District Judge Terrence W. Boyle on 10/2/2014. (Fisher, M.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
JAMES M. POUNDS, III and wife,
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, et al.,
This matter is before the Court on 12 of the named defendants' motion to dismiss [DE 5],
and plaintiffs motion to remand [DE 13]. The motions are now ripe for adjudication. For the
reasons stated herein, the motions are DENIED.
Plaintiffs, James Pounds, III and his wife, Michelle Pounds, filed this action against 14
corporate entities seeking damages allegedly arising out of an exposure to chemicals that James
suffered in the course and scope of his employment with LINC Government Services, LLC,
while performing maintenance on military vehicles at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. [DE 1-1 at~~
32--46]. Lockheed Martin Corporation ("Lockheed") is the parent corporation of each of the 12
defendants moving to dismiss ("subsidiary defendants"). [DE 6 at 5]. Plaintiffs allege that
complete diversity between all defendants and plaintiff does not exist. [DE 13 at 2].
Because the motion to remand concerns a jurisdictional issue, the Court first considers
whether or not it has diversity jurisdiction over this matter. NJT, Inc. v. Molson Breweries USA,
Inc., 848 F. Supp. 2d 54, 56 (E.D.N.C. 1994) (citation omitted).
MOTION TO REMAND.
An action is removable to federal court only if it could have been brought in federal court. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). A civil action may be brought in federal court "where the matter in
controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between
citizens of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction
is on the party seeking removal. Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., Inc., 29 F.3d 148,
151 (4th Cir. 1994). Removal jurisdiction must be strictly construed and if federal jurisdiction is
doubtful, remand is necessary. !d.
Here, defendant Lockheed filed the notice of removal [DE 1] in this case and in support
of removal Lockheed claimed that it is incorporated and maintains a principal place of business
in Maryland. [DE 1 at~ 6(b)]. However, plaintiffs contend that while the remaining defendants
consented to removal, the only allegations concerning the citizenship of the other defendants
come from the complaint in which plaintiffs allege that each of the defendants maintain a
principal place ofbusiness and registered agent in North Carolina. [DE 1-1
just as a plaintiffs complaint sufficiently establishes diversity jurisdiction if it
alleges that the parties are of diverse citizenship and that the matter in controversy
exceeds, exclusive of interest and costs, the sum specified by 28 U.S.C. § 1332, so
too does a removing party's notice of removal sufficiently establish jurisdictional
grounds for removal by making jurisdictional allegations in the same manner. Of
course, on a challenge of jurisdictional allegations, [t]he party seeking removal
bears the burden of demonstrating that removal jurisdiction is proper. But this
burden is no greater than is required to establish federal jurisdiction as alleged in a
Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors Chassis, Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 200 (4th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted);
see also Vandevender v. Blue Ridge of Raleigh, LLC, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75486 (E.D.N.C.
Jun. 2, 2014); Strawn v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293 (4th Cir. 2008).
For the purposes of diversity jurisdiction, "a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen
of every State ... by which it has been incorporated and of the State ... where it has its principal
place of business." Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co., 739 F. 3d 163, 170 (4th Cir. 2014)
(alterations in original). "[A] corporation's principal place of business is its 'nerve center."' Id
The corporation's "nerve center" is the corporation's "principle place of business" where "the
corporation's high level officers direct, control, and coordinate the corporation's activities." Id
at 170-71 (citing Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 80 (2010)). This is usually the
corporation's headquarters. Id at 171.
Defendants have submitted an affidavit of Valerie Shea-Zabella, paralegal manager for
the missiles and fire control business area of Lockheed. The affidavit shows that the CEO, CFO,
Secretary, and Treasurer of Lockheed and the subsidiary defendants are not centered in North
Carolina and that none of the significant corporate decisions and corporate policies that direct,
control, and coordinate Lockheed or its subsidiary defendants' activities occur in North Carolina.
This is sufficient to show that the nerve centers for these defendants are not located in North
Carolina and is sufficient proof of diversity of citizenship. Accordingly the Court finds that
complete diversity of citizenship exists here and denies the motion to remand.
MOTION TO DISMISS.
A Rule 12(b)( 6) motion challenges the legal sufficiency of a plaintiffs complaint.
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). When ruling on the motion, the Court
"must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007)). Although complete and detailed factual allegations are not required, "a plaintiffs
obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). "Threadbare recitals ofthe elements
of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Similarly, a court need not accept
as true a plaintiffs "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Eastern
Shore Mkts. v. JD. Assocs. Ltd., 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). A trial court is "not bound to
accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The 12 subsidiary defendants move to dismiss on the grounds that none of them had any
contractual or other relationship with James or his employer. In short, these defendants claim to
have no relationship to the case and that they were not involved in any of the facts and
circumstances ofthe case.
The complaint clearly alleges that these 12 defendants are alleged to have acted in
concert or independently from each other and Lockheed. [DE 1-1 at 'J 61]. Further, the complaint
alleges that the individuals responsible for the wrongful action against plaintiffs were the
respective employees, officers, servants, and agents of the defendants and, while performing
such actions and omissions, were at all times herein acting within the scope of their employment
with defendants, under defendants' control, and in furtherance of defendants' interests. [DE 1-1
'I! 36]. Paragraph 31 of the complaint reads "[t]hroughout this Complaint, ... any allegation
made against any of the Defendants or Defendant Lockheed are made against all of the
Defendants and in the alternative against each entity." [DE 1-1 at
'J 31]. To require plaintiffs to
restate each of the five claims for relief fourteen times to account for each defendant would be an
exercise in unnecessary redundancy that the law does not require. Further, defendants' argument
that a contract only existed between James's employer and Lockheed is of no consequence at this
time. The complaint does not reference or include any contract and therefore the existence of
such a contract is irrelevant. The focus here is on the allegations in the compliant which are
sufficient to allege claims upon which relief may be granted against all defendants in favor of
plaintiffs. Plaintiffs have alleged, at a minimum, that each defendant, both collectively and in the
alternative, transported military vehicles under their exclusive custody and control from the
Middle East to the Fort Bragg facility; held exclusive control over those military vehicles that
James worked on; knew about the dangerousness of the toxic substance and failed, or refused, to
warn James about the danger; and then destroyed the evidence. This is sufficient under Rule
Defendants also object to plaintiffs' veil-piercing claim, but in doing so mainly rely on
the contract again. For similar reasons as previously discussed, their reliance is misplaced. At
this stage, plaintiffs' pleadings on the matter of piercing the corporate veil are sufficient to
withstand defendants' motion to dismiss. As there are no remaining grounds on which the Court
can grant defendants' motion to dismiss, it is denied.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss is DENIED and the motion to remand is
DENIED. The case may proceed in its entirety.
SO ORDERED. This the
day of October, 2014.
T RRENCE W. BOYLE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDG
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