SMITH et al v. POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INC. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 10 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INC., 12 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by HOFFMANS SPORTS & TURF. An appropriate order will be entered dismissing this case without prejudice. Signed by Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti on 11/21/2017. (smc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
GARY D. SMITH, JR. and
POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INC., and
HOFFMANS SPORTS & TURF,
CIVIL ACTION No. 17-238 Erie
Plaintiff Gary D. Smith (“Gary”) and his wife Julie Smith (collectively, “plaintiffs”)
commenced this federal civil action against defendants Polaris Industries, Inc. (“Polaris”) and
“Hoffmans Sports & Turf” (“Hoffmans”)1 after Gary sustained injuries that were allegedly
caused by a defective all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”). Plaintiffs contend that the subject ATV was
manufactured by Polaris and sold by Hoffmans.
As set forth in the complaint (ECF No. 1), plaintiffs are citizens of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶4.) Polaris is a corporate citizen of the State of Minnesota, while
Hoffmans is a corporate citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶¶2-3.) Plaintiffs
asserted only state law claims against the defendants. In their complaint, they alleged that “[t]his
Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(a)(1) because the
Plaintiffs are citizens of Pennsylvania and at least one of the Defendants are citizens of
It appears that “Hoffmans Sports and Turf” is actually a registered fictitious name for “Hoffman Auto & Truck
Repair, Inc.,” the latter being a corporate citizen of Pennsylvania. (See Def.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 2 n.1,
ECF No. 13.) For the sake of simplicity, the court will refer to the entity simply as “Hoffmans.”
Minnesota, and the matter in controversy exceeds $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.” (Id.
Polaris and Hoffmans each moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction on the ground that complete diversity of citizenship is lacking. As defendants
correctly point out, 28 U.S.C. §1332 requires that complete diversity exist as between the two
sides in a dispute – that is, it “applies only to cases in which the citizenship of each plaintiff is
diverse from the citizenship of each defendant.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68
(1996); see Bumberger v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 952 F.2d 764, 767 (3d Cir. 1991) (“[D]iversity
jurisdiction does not exist unless each defendant is a citizen of a different State from each
plaintiff.”) (quoting Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978) (alteration
and emphasis in original)).
Plaintiffs now concede that diversity jurisdiction is lacking because both they and
Hoffmans are Pennsylvania citizens. They request that the court dismiss the action without
prejudice so that they can refile their state law claims in the appropriate state court in accordance
with 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §5103.2 To effectuate the timely transfer of this matter to state court and
Pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §5103(b),
(1) . . . In order to preserve a claim under Chapter 55 (relating to limitation of time), a litigant who timely
commences an action or proceeding in any United States court for a district embracing any part of this
Commonwealth is not required to commence a protective action in a court or before a magisterial district
judge of this Commonwealth. Where a matter is filed in any United States court for a district embracing
any part of this Commonwealth and the matter is dismissed by the United States court for lack of
jurisdiction, any litigant in the matter filed may transfer the matter to a court or magisterial district of this
Commonwealth by complying with the transfer provisions set forth in paragraph (2).
(2) Except as otherwise prescribed by general rules, or by order of the United States court, such transfer may
be effected by filing a certified transcript of the final judgment of the United States court and the related
pleadings in a court or magisterial district of this Commonwealth. The pleadings shall have the same effect
as under the practice in the United States court, but the transferee court or magisterial district judge may
require that they be amended to conform to the practice in this Commonwealth. Section 5535(a)(2)(i)
(relating to termination of prior matter) shall not be applicable to a matter transferred under this subsection.
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §5103(b)(1) and (2).
preserve the federal filing date for statute of limitations purposes, plaintiffs seek orders directing
the clerk of court to prepare “a certified transcript of the final judgment” and “related pleadings”
(ECF Nos. 15-1 and 15-2). See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §5103(b)(2).
Polaris insists that, because subject-matter jurisdiction is lacking, the only permissible
order this court may enter is one that dismisses the case with prejudice. Polaris characterizes the
plaintiffs’ proposed orders as “impermissible” because they would “direct the Clerk of Courts to
assist in the transfer of the matter to a state court.” (Def.’s Reply Br. at 1, ¶4, ECF No. 16.)
Polaris’ argument has merit to the extent it recognizes that a dismissal of this action –
rather than a transfer to state court – is the appropriate disposition. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3)
(“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must
dismiss the action.”); Moravian Sch. Advisory Bd. of St. Thomas, V.I. v. Rawlins, 70 F.3d 270,
291 (3d Cir. 1995) (“[T]he plain language of Rule 12(h)(3) makes clear that, where it appears at
the outset that the district court is without subject matter jurisdiction, it is powerless to do
anything but dismiss the action.”); McLaughlin v. Arco Polymers, Inc., 721 F.2d 426, 432 (3d
Cir. 1983) (observing in dicta that “[t]here is a serious question” whether “the district court
[would be authorized] to transfer a state law claim to state court in the absence of any colorable
federal claim to which it could have been pendent.”).
Polaris is mistaken, however, in suggesting that the dismissal of plaintiffs’ action must be
“with prejudice.” On the contrary, when subject-matter jurisdiction is lacking, the dismissal
must be entered “without prejudice.” See Siravo v. Crown, Cork & Seal Co., 256 F. App'x 577,
580–81 (3d Cir.2007) (“[W]e conclude that the District Court was correct to dismiss this case for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. However, it should not have done so with prejudice. Where a
district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, its disposition of such a case will . . . be without
prejudice.”) (emphasis and ellipses in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted);
Mullen v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., No. 2:14-CV-00917, 2015 WL 3457493, at *11 (W.D. Pa. May 29,
2015) (where court concluded that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, it could not
accommodate the defendant’s request for an order dismissing the action with prejudice) (citing
Siravo, 256 F. App’x at 580–81), appeal dismissed, Case No. 15-2540 (3d Cir. Nov. 3, 2015).
With respect to plaintiffs’ request that this court direct the Clerk of Court to prepare “a
certified transcript of the final judgment” and “related pleadings,” Polaris objects that such an
order would be tantamount to assisting in the transfer of plaintiffs’ case. Although the court is
not persuaded by this argument, the point is moot. No such order is necessary because plaintiffs
can obtain a certified court order upon request to the Clerk of Court, provided they pay the
requisite fees. See http://www.pawd.uscourts.gov/fee-schedule. In light of the foregoing, an
appropriate order will be entered dismissing this case without prejudice.
Dated: November 21, 2017
/s/ Joy Flowers Conti
Joy Flowers Conti
Chief United States District Judge
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?