Allen v. Infinity County Mutual Insurance Company

Filing 14

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER (Signed by Judge Nancy F Atlas) Parties notified.(sashabranner, 4)

Download PDF
United States District Court Southern District of Texas ENTERED IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS HOUSTON DIVISION SANDRA JEAN ALLEN, Plaintiff, v. INFINITY COUNTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. § § § § § § § § § February 17, 2017 David J. Bradley, Clerk CASE NO. 4:16-CV-3684 MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Plaintiff Sandra Jean Allen, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has sued Defendant Infinity County Mutual Insurance Co. (“Infinity”), asserting Infinity has wrongfully denied her coverage under a personal automobile policy. Pending before the Court is Infinity’s “12(B)(1) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Original Petition” (“Motion”) [Doc. # 8]. Allen has filed a Response [Doc. # 11], to which Infinity has replied [Doc. # 13]. Because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, Infinity’s Motion is granted. I. LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS A. Liberal Construction of Pro Se Pleadings A document filed pro se must be “liberally construed” and “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) P:\ORDERS\11-2016\3684MDismiss.docx 170217.1208 (internal quotation marks omitted). See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice”); Hood v. Pope, 627 F. App’x 295, 299 n.7 (5th Cir. 2015). B. Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction 1. Legal Standard Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). There are generally two possible sources of federal jurisdiction for a district court: (1) federal-question jurisdiction, for cases arising under the Constitution or federal law, and (2) diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331–1332. The burden to establish federal jurisdiction is on the party invoking jurisdiction. Howery, 243 F.3d at 916. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) governs challenges to a court’s subject matter jurisdiction. “Under Rule 12(b)(1), a claim is properly dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the claim.” In re FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Prods. Liab. Litig., 668 F.3d 281, 286 (5th Cir. 2012) (quotation omitted). “The pleading’s allegations are presumed to be true, and ‘[i]f those allegations sufficiently allege a claim for recovery the complaint stands and the federal court must entertain the suit.’” Walter v. Old Am. County Mut. Fire Ins. Co., Civil Action No. H–12–2581, 2012 WL 5818227, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 14, 2012) 2 P:\ORDERS\11-2016\3684MDismiss.docx 170217.1208 (quoting Jones v. SuperMedia Inc., 281 F.R.D. 282, 286 (N.D. Tex. 2012)). 2. Federal Question Jurisdiction Federal district courts have federal question jurisdiction over cases “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Generally, “[t]he presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule,’ which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Even generously construed, Allen’s Complaint does not allege any claims arising under federal law. Allen asserts claims against Infinity for “negligent infliction, defamation, calumny, libel, slander, actual malice, intentional torts, and dignitary torts.”1 None of Allen’s claims implicate federal law. Federal question jurisdiction is not present. 3. Diversity Jurisdiction The other general basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction requires complete diversity of citizenship between plaintiffs and defendants, as well as more than $75,000 in controversy. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). “Complete diversity 1 See Complaint [Doc. # 1], at ECF 6-7. In her Response [Doc. # 11], Allen adds a state law claim for “extreme emotional distress.” See Response [Doc. # 11] at ECF 3. 3 P:\ORDERS\11-2016\3684MDismiss.docx 170217.1208 ‘requires that all persons on one side of the controversy be citizens of different states than all persons on the other side.’” See Harvey v. Grey Wolf Drilling Co., 542 F.3d 1077, 1079 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting McLaughlin v. Mississippi Power Co., 376 F.3d 344, 353 (5th Cir. 2004)). Allen, in her Complaint, states that she is a citizen of Texas. See Complaint [Doc. # 1], at ECF 2. Infinity, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Texas with a principal place of business in Birmingham, Alabama, is also a citizen of Texas. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c).2 Allen points out that Infinity’s counsel, admitted pro hac vice, is a Florida firm. She is correct. Diversity, however, is determined with respect to the citizenship of the parties, not their lawyers. See Flagg v. Stryker Corp., 819 F.3d 132, 136 (5th Cir. 2016) (“if any plaintiff is a citizen of the same State as any defendant, then diversity jurisdiction does not exist.”). Accordingly, federal subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship is absent. II. CONCLUSION AND ORDER For the reasons stated above, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant Infinity County Mutual Insurance Company’s 12(B)(1) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Original Petition [Doc. # 8] is GRANTED. 2 See Complaint [Doc. # 1], at ECF 2; Affidavit of Stephanie McGuire, Exh. 1 to Motion [Doc. # 8-1]. 4 P:\ORDERS\11-2016\3684MDismiss.docx 170217.1208 It is further ORDERED that this case is DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court will issue a separate Dismissal Order. SIGNED at Houston, Texas, this 17th day of February, 2017. NAN Y F. ATLAS SENIOR UNI STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 5 P:\ORDERS\11-2016\3684MDismiss.docx 170217.1208

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?