Sharondra Harris et al v. Robert Mark Brannon, Jr et al
ORDER DISMISSING CASE. Signed by Judge S. Thomas Anderson on 6/23/14. (Anderson, S.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
D.C.H., a minor child, by and through
his natural mother and guardian,
SHARONDA E. HARRIS,
ROBERT MARK BRANNON, JR.,
individually and BRANNON
AMANDA K. STRANGE,
MATTHEW V. PORTER,
PORTER & STRANGE, PLLC,
Third-Party Defendants. )
ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF’S CLAIMS AGAINST THE PORTER & STRANGE
DEFENDANTS WITHOUT PREJUDICE AND DISMISSING THIRD PARTY
Before the Court is Defendants Porter & Strange, PLLC; Amanda K. Strange; and Matthew
V. Porter’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (ECF No. 79) filed on May
2, 2014. On May 29, 2014, the minor Plaintiff D.C.H. filed a notice of voluntary dismissal (ECF No.
85) of his claims against these Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss
is DENIED as moot, Plaintiff’s claims against these Defendants are dismissed without prejudice,
and the Third Party Complaint is dismissed without prejudice.
On April 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for legal malpractice under seal, naming
Robert Mark Brannon, Jr., and the Brannon Law Firm as Defendants (hereinafter “the Brannon
Defendants”). On May 20, 2013, the Brannon Defendants filed an Answer, and on October 28,
2013, the Brannon Defendants with leave of Court filed an Amended Answer and a Third Party
Complaint (ECF No. 32) for contribution or indemnity against Porter & Strange, PLLC. Third Party
Defendant Porter & Strange, PLLC filed its Answer to the Third Party Complaint on December 20,
2013. Thereafter, Plaintiff was granted leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, naming Porter
& Strange, PLLC; Amanda K. Strange; and Matthew V. Porter (“the Porter & Strange Defendants”)
By order of the Court, the parties engaged in mediation on January 20, 2014, at which time
Plaintiff was able to reach a settlement with the Brannon Defendants. On March 6, 2014, Plaintiff
filed a petition to approve the minor’s settlement between Plaintiff and the Brannon Defendants. At
a hearing on April 15, 2014, the Court approved the minor’s settlement and entered a consent order
of dismissal as to the Brannon Defendants on June 9, 2014. As a result, Plaintiff has no remaining
claim in this action against the Brannon Defendants. The Brannon Defendants’ Third Party
Complaint against Porter & Strange, PLLC remains.
On May 2, 2014, the Porter & Strange Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction (ECF No. 79). The Porter & Strange Defendants contend that there is no
complete diversity of citizenship in this case. Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint alleges that the minor
Plaintiff resides with his mother who is a resident of the state of Mississippi. Defendant Amanda
K. Strange is also a Mississippi resident. As such, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiff’s claims against the Porter & Strange Defendants. On May 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed a notice
of voluntary dismissal as to the Porter & Strange Defendants, apparently in response to the argument
of the Porter & Strange Defendants that the Court lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claims against
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) permits a plaintiff to voluntarily dismiss a complaint
without a court order by filing a notice of dismissal before the opposing party serves either an answer
or a motion for summary judgment.1 While the Porter & Strange Defendants had filed a Rule
12(b)(1) Motion, these Defendants had not yet filed an answer to Plaintiff’s Second Amended
Complaint against them or a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Therefore, Plaintiff’s notice
of voluntarily dismissal operates as a dismissal without prejudice of all of Plaintiff’s claims against
the Porter & Strange Defendants. Under the circumstances, the Court finds the Porter & Strange
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss to be moot and therefore DENIES the Motion.
In light of Plaintiff’s settlement with the Brannon Defendants and voluntary dismissal of the
Porter & Strange Defendants, Plaintiff has no claims remaining in this action. The only issue left
for the Court’s determination is whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over the Brannon
Defendants’ Third Party Complaint against Porter & Strange, PLLC. “[F]ederal courts have a duty
to consider their subject matter jurisdiction in regard to every case and may raise the issue sua
sponte.”2 At the time Plaintiff initiated this suit, the Court had subject matter jurisdiction over
Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i).
Hampton v. R.J. Corman R.R. Switching Co., 683 F.3d 708, 710–11 (6th Cir. 2012).
Plaintiff’s original claims against the Brannon Defendants by virtue of the parties’ diversity of
citizenship and the amount in controversy. Federal courts have “original jurisdiction of all civil
actions . . . between citizens of different States” when the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.3
“Complete diversity between all plaintiffs and all defendants is required; no plaintiff can be the
citizen of the same State as any defendant.”4 Plaintiff’s initial Complaint alleged that the minor child
and his mother are residents of the state of Mississippi and that the Brannon Law Firm is located in
the state of Tennessee.5 Based on these allegations, the Court had subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiff’s claims against the Brannon Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
As for the third party claim of the Brannon Defendants against Porter & Strange, PLLC, the
Third Party Complaint does not allege a specific basis for the Court’s jurisdiction over the claim.
Because the Court had jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s underlying claims against the Brannon
Defendants, the Court could properly exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Third Party
Complaint. “So long as a court has original jurisdiction over a civil action, § 1367(a) provides a
broad grant of supplemental jurisdiction over other related claims.”6 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1367(a), “in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
Exact Software N. Am., Inc. v. DeMoisey, 718 F.3d 535, 541 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing
Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 89 (2005).
See Second Am. Compl. ¶ 1 (ECF. No. 62). Plaintiff did not actually allege that
Brannon himself was a Tennessee resident. However, the Third Party Complaint alleges that
Brannon is a resident of Tennessee and the Brannon Law Firm is a sole proprietorship. Third
Party Compl. ¶ 4.
DeMoisey, 718 F.3d at 541 (quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545
U.S. 546, 558–59 (2005) (internal punctuation omitted).
shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action
within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article
III of the United States Constitution.”7 In this case the Brannon Defendants’ third party claim for
contribution or indemnity against Porter & Strange, PLLC formed part of the same case or
controversy between Plaintiff and the Brannon Defendants. Therefore, the Court holds that its
jurisdiction over the Third Party Complaint was supplemental and derived only from § 1367(a).
Even so, “supplemental jurisdiction is discretionary, not mandatory.”8 Under 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c)(3), a “district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim . . . if the
district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.”9 Here, the parties have
settled the only claims over which the Court had original jurisdiction, Plaintiff’s legal malpractice
claims against the Brannon Defendants. On June 9, 2014, the Court entered a consent order of
dismissal as to those claims. The only claim remaining is the Third Party Complaint of the Brannon
Defendants against Porter & Strange, PLLC. Because the Court has now dismissed the claims over
which it had original jurisdiction, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
Third Party Complaint. Additionally, the allegations of the Third Party Complaint fail to allege that
any other grounds, including the parties’ diversity of citizenship, exist to give the Court subject
matter jurisdiction over the claims.10 Therefore, the Third Party Complaint is dismissed sua sponte
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
Charvat v. NMP, LLC, 656 F.3d 440, 446 (6th Cir. 2011).
28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
Farmer v. Fisher, 386 F. App’x 554, 557 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that dismissal of a
complaint was required where the pleadings did not allege citizenship of the parties and so failed
to allege “an adequate basis for diversity jurisdiction”).
and without prejudice.
Plaintiff has now settled or voluntarily dismissed all of his claims against Defendants in this
matter. Therefore, the Porter & Strange Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against
them is DENIED as moot. The only claim remaining then is the Brannon Defendants’ Third Party
Complaint for contribution or indemnity against Porter & Strange, PLLC. The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claim because the Court has now dismissed all of the
claims which gave the Court original jurisdiction. Therefore, the Third Party Complaint is dismissed
without prejudice. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ S. Thomas Anderson
S. THOMAS ANDERSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Date: June 23, 2014.
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