Huang v. Hill et al
ORDER denying 105 Motion to Dismiss.(Signed by Judge George C Hanks, Jr) Parties notified.(ltrevino, 3)
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
DONG SHENG HUANG,
JALEA JOECHELLE HILL, et al,
March 21, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:15-CV-269
Plaintiff, Dong Sheng Huang, filed this lawsuit in September 2015, alleging that
he was unlawfully arrested after visiting a Murphy Oil gas station in La Marque, Texas.
Huang sued Murphy Oil, two Murphy Oil employees (Hill and Williams), and various
state actors, law enforcement officers, and agents. Murphy Oil, Hill, and Williams each
asserted cross-claims against the state actors, law enforcement officers, and agents.
After successive amended complaints and motions to dismiss were filed, on
January 6, 2017, this Court granted the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Chief
Aragon, Officer Michael Kelemen, Officer Richard Dricks, the City of La Marque, and
Christina Balvantin. Murphy Oil, Hill, and Williams then withdrew their cross-claims
against these Defendants, but reserved the right to name them as Responsible Third
Parties under Texas law.
The Court then issued a new docket control order, putting into place deadlines that
had been agreed to by Huang, Murphy Oil, Hill, and Williams. Dkt. 104, 106. Trial in
this case is now set for August 18, 2017—approximately six months from now.
Huang’s live complaint alleges that Hill and Williams procured his arrest for
criminal trespass by intentionally providing false information to police officers and 911
He brings claims under Texas law against Hill and Williams for false
imprisonment and malicious prosecution, and he alleges that Murphy Oil, their employer,
is also liable under principles of respondeat superior. Huang seeks compensatory
damages, including mental anguish, and punitive damages.
Now, Murphy Oil, Hill, and Williams ask that this Court decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Huang’s claims against them. Dkt. 105. Murphy Oil,
Hill, and Williams argue that this case “has expended little federal judicial resources” and
has “essentially remained dormant.” Further, they contend that there is no indication that
this Court has become “intimately familiar with any of the state law claims made by the
Plaintiff in that same have not been subject to any ruling or examination by the Court to
date.” Additionally, they assure the Court there would be little “inconvenience on the
parties.” Huang is opposed to the motion.
In deciding whether to retain jurisdiction over pendent state law claims, the Fifth
Circuit has instructed district courts to consider the factors set out in 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c),
as well the common law factors of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and
comity—with no singular factor being dispositive. Enochs v. Lampasas Cnty., 641 F.3d
155, 159 (5th Cir. 2011).
Section 1367(c) states that a district court “may” decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over a claim if: (1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, (2)
the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district
court has original jurisdiction, (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it
has original jurisdiction, or (4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling
reasons for declining jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). As a general rule, the court should
dismiss state claims if the federal claims to which they are pendent are dismissed.
Enochs, 641 F.3d at 161. Under applicable Fifth Circuit law, the court should also
consider the length of time a matter has been pending in federal court, whether discovery
had been completed, and whether the district court judge had substantial familiarity with
the merits of case. Brookshire Bros. Holding v. DayCo Prods., Inc., 554 F.3d 595, 603
(5th Cir. 2009).
So, the Court now turns to Section 1367(c). The first factor weighs in favor of
retention, as even the Defendants here concede that this case does not appear to present
any novel or complex issues of state law. See, e.g., Wilson v. Tregre, 787 F.3d 322, 326
(5th Cir. 2015) (finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in exercising
supplemental jurisdiction over state law whistleblower claims after dismissing plaintiff’s
First Amendment claims, “because Wilson’s state-law claims were neither novel nor
complex”). The second factor appears to weigh in favor of dismissal, because state law
issues do “substantially predominate” in Huang’s malicious prosecution and false
imprisonment claims, but the Court also notes that Defendants themselves have pointed
to the law enforcement officers who arrested and prosecuted Huang as Responsible Third
Parties under Texas law—claims which implicate Fourth Amendment and other
constitutional rights. The third factor also appears to weigh in favor of dismissal, since
the Court has dismissed the Section 1983 claims against the law enforcement officers and
agents. However, the Court also notes here that Murphy Oil is not a Texas corporation,
and, if Huang dismisses his claims against Hill and Williams, or if the Court finds that
those claims are effectively claims against their employer, then Huang’s claims might
sound in diversity. Next, the Court turns to the fourth factor, i.e., whether there are other
compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction. The Court finds there are not.
In fact, when the Court considers the additional common law factors of “judicial
economy, convenience, fairness, and comity,” Mendoza v. Murphy, 532 F.3d 342, 346
(5th Cir. 2008), the Court finds that it should retain supplemental jurisdiction over this
case. First, although Defendants now seek to minimize its importance, discovery has
been underway for some time in this 2015 case. In October 2016, Defendants Murphy
Oil, Hill and Williams themselves propounded written discovery to Huang in the form of
Interrogatories and Requests for Production. Significantly, these Defendants also asked
this Court for partial summary judgment in their favor on the statute of limitations for
Huang’s malicious prosecution claims against them, although they subsequently secondguessed their argument and sought to withdraw the motion before the Court denied it as a
matter of law.
Finally, this Court is well familiar with the allegations raised by Mr. Huang, who
is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, regarding the events on the night of his arrest.
In light of this familiarity, as well as the procedural posture of the case, and in light of the
pending trial date, the Court will exercise its considerable discretion in this matter, and it
will retain jurisdiction over Huang’s claims against the remaining Defendants in this
Accordingly, Defendant’s motion, Dkt. 105, is DENIED.
SIGNED at Galveston, Texas, this 21st day of March, 2017.
George C. Hanks Jr.
United States District Judge
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