Watson et al v. Roff et al

Filing 8

ORDER denying Plaintiffs' 5 Motion for Expedited Hold, Stop, End Attempt of Sale, and or Destruction of Vessel. Plaintiffs shall file an Amended Complaint no later than twenty-one (21) days from the date of this Order. Signed by Judge Ricardo S. Martinez. (SB) (cc: Plaintiffs via USPS)

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Case 2:21-cv-01622-RSM Document 8 Filed 01/07/22 Page 1 of 7 1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 6 7 CASE NO. C21-1622 RSM ERIC WATSON, et al., 8 ORDER Plaintiffs, 9 v. 10 MIKE ROFF, et al., 11 Defendants. 12 13 14 I. INTRODUCTION 15 Plaintiffs Eric and Sarah Watson, proceeding pro se, filed a proposed complaint related 16 to the storage of their boat, a “rare one of a kind, 1962 Chris Craft 50 foot Constellation.” Dkt. 17 #1 at 8. Plaintiffs did not pay the filing fee at the time of filing and did not seek to proceed in 18 forma pauperis at that time.1 See Dkt. #2 (letter from the Clerk providing notice of filing 19 deficiencies). Shortly after filing their complaint, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Expedited Hold, 20 Stop, End Attempt of Sale, and or Destruction of Plaintiffs [sic] Vessel. Dkt. #5. 21 22 23 24 1 Plaintiff Sarah Watson has since filed a declaration and application to proceed in forma pauperis. Dkt. #6. Her application has not yet been ruled upon. Plaintiffs have also remedied their failure to attach a civil cover sheet as required by local rule. Dkt. #4. ORDER – 1 Case 2:21-cv-01622-RSM Document 8 Filed 01/07/22 Page 2 of 7 1 Identifying several significant defects which need to be addressed by Plaintiffs before this 2 matter proceeds, the Court denies their motion and orders Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint 3 before seeking further relief from the Court. II. 4 BACKGROUND 5 From the facts strew throughout Plaintiffs’ complaint and motion, the central focus of 6 Plaintiffs’ lawsuit is Latitude Marine Services, LLC’s2 dry storage of Plaintiffs’ boat. On June 7 12, 2020, Plaintiffs had their boat delivered to Latitude Marine so that it could be placed in dry 8 storage in advance of work to repair holes in the boat’s hull. Plaintiffs’ boat appears to still be 9 stored at Latitude Marine, has not been repaired, and has been further damaged by Latitude 10 Marine. Plaintiffs further allege that their boat storage was governed by an oral agreement and 11 later by a written agreement they were forced to sign. Plaintiffs allege that they have met their 12 payment obligations under the terms of those agreements, but that Latitude has acted badly, 13 restricting Plaintiffs’ access to their boat, damaging the boat, and now threatening to begin 14 eviction proceedings or sell the boat at auction, or both. 15 While Plaintiffs’ complaint appears to be with Latitude Marine, they do not sue the 16 limited liability company itself. Rather, Plaintiffs have named several individuals—Mike Roff, 17 KJ Roff, Chrisi Dite, and Bob Cornelius—that are associated with Latitude Marine and with 18 whom Plaintiffs have interacted while their boat has been in storage. They reference Latitude 19 Marine’s “owner” and “CEO,” Mike Roff, as taking actions to damage the boat while it was 20 under Latitude Marine’s control and acting unreasonably in negotiating the terms of storage and 21 22 23 24 2 The Court takes judicial notice that searching the Washington Secretary of State’s database of corporations for “latitude marine” provides results for “Latitude 46 Marine Consultants LLC” and “Latitude Marine Services, LLC.” See WASH. CORPS. AND CHARITIES FILING SYS., https://ccfs.sos.wa.gov/#/. “Latitude Marine Services, LLC has a principal office located in La Conner, and the Court presumes that this is the entity with which Plaintiffs dealt. ORDER – 2 Case 2:21-cv-01622-RSM Document 8 Filed 01/07/22 Page 3 of 7 1 repairs. Plaintiffs reference Latitude Marine’s “President,” KJ Roff, as unreasonably estimating 2 the cost for repairs, as preventing Plaintiffs’ private repairs, and as threatening eviction if 3 Plaintiffs did not execute a written agreement. Plaintiffs reference a manager, Bob Cornelius, as 4 preventing Plaintiffs from accessing the boat while it was under Latitude Marine’s control. And 5 lastly, Plaintiffs reference Chrisi Dite, a “service writer,” as preventing payments necessary to 6 protect Plaintiffs’ interests.3 7 III. DISCUSSION 8 The Court starts, as it must, with the question of whether the Court has jurisdiction to 9 hear this dispute. The United States District Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and a 10 plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the case is properly filed in a district court. 11 Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); In re Ford Motor Co./Citibank 12 (South Dakota), N.A., 264 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 2001). This burden, at the pleading stage, must 13 be met by pleading sufficient allegations to show a proper basis for the federal court to assert 14 subject matter jurisdiction over the action. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 15 U.S. 178, 189 (1936). From the face of Plaintiffs’ complaint, this case does not appear to fall 16 within the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction. 17 A. Diversity and Federal Question Jurisdiction 18 In broad, but generally determinative terms, district courts are afforded subject matter 19 jurisdiction over cases “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States” and 20 over cases “where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000” and is between 21 diverse parties, i.e., citizens of different states. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332(a). These two 22 statutes convey federal question and diversity jurisdiction on district courts. 23 24 3 Plaintiffs reference manager Jay Mckittrick as the individual they entered into a verbal agreement with but do not name Mr. Mckittrick as a defendant. ORDER – 3 Case 2:21-cv-01622-RSM Document 8 Filed 01/07/22 Page 4 of 7 1 1. Federal Question 2 Here, Plaintiffs do not allege an adequate basis for invoking the Court’s federal question 3 jurisdiction. Plaintiffs point to no federal statutes or Constitutional provisions that govern or 4 even impact their claims. At best, Plaintiffs indicate that they “believe the Defendants are acting 5 the same way as the case with the homosexuals ordering cakes and flowers for a wedding and 6 refused services.” Dkt. #1 at 11. The Court presumes this is an opaque reference to the Supreme 7 Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Com’n, ___ U.S. ___, 8 138 S. Ct. 1719 (2018). But that case dealt with Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act—not 9 applicable here—and the Act’s intersection with the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause—not 10 implicated by Plaintiffs’ allegations. Even if Plaintiffs mistakenly refer to Masterpiece Cakeshop 11 as a shorthand for unlawful discrimination, they do not allege that they belong to any protected 12 class. As a result, Plaintiffs’ complaint fails to invoke the Court’s federal question jurisdiction. 13 2. Diversity 14 Plaintiffs also do not allege adequate bases for invoking the Court’s diversity jurisdiction. 15 This is true because, although Plaintiffs indicate they are seeking $1,450,000.00, the true amount 16 in controversy is unclear and appears to be limited to the value of Plaintiffs’ unseaworthy boat. 17 Further, and even if Plaintiffs could satisfy the jurisdictional threshold, Plaintiffs fail to allege 18 that the parties are diverse. See In re Digimarc Corp. Derivative Litig., 549 F.3d 1223, 1234 (9th 19 Cir. 2008) (“Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity between the parties—each 20 defendant must be a citizen of a different state from each plaintiff.”). Plaintiffs themselves 21 appear4 to be citizens of Washington. See Dkt. #1 at 4–5. But Plaintiffs also associate all the 22 named defendants with Washington, precluding diversity jurisdiction. See generally id. 23 24 4 Plaintiffs confusingly filled in the portion of their complaint form that is intended to identify corporate parties by their state of incorporation and principal place of business instead of filling ORDER – 4 Case 2:21-cv-01622-RSM Document 8 Filed 01/07/22 Page 5 of 7 1 B. Admiralty Jurisdiction 2 Because Plaintiffs’ case relates to their boat, the Court also considers whether this case 3 falls within the Court’s admiralty jurisdiction. The United States Constitution extends the 4 “judicial Power . . . to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction.” U.S. CONST. art. III, 5 § 2. Congress has likewise granted district courts original jurisdiction over “[a]ny civil case of 6 admiralty or maritime jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1). Of note, however, “[t]he primary 7 purpose of federal admiralty jurisdiction is to ‘protect [] commercial shipping’ with ‘uniform 8 rules of conduct.’” In re Carter, 743 F. Supp. 2d 103, 106 (D. Conn. 2010) (quoting Vasquez v. 9 GMD Shipyard Corp., 582 F.3d 293, 298 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation marks omitted). 10 A tort falls within district courts’ admiralty jurisdiction where it “both occurred on 11 navigable waters and [bore] a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity” Id. at 107 12 (citing Sisson v. Ruby, 497 U.S 358, 362 (1990) (emphasis in original). Similarly, a contract 13 claim may fall within the Court’s admiralty jurisdiction where “the character of the work to be 14 performed under a contract” “relates to the ship and its uses as such, or to commerce or navigation 15 on navigable waters, or to transportation by sea.” Aqua-Marine Constructors, Inc. v. Banks, 110 16 F.3d 663, 671 (9th Cir. 1997) (citing Hinkins S.S. Agency, Inc. v. Freighters, Inc., 498 F.2d 411, 17 412 (9th Cir. 1974); Ingersoll Milling Mach. Co. v. M/V Bodena, 829 F.2d 293, 302 (2d Cir. 18 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1042 (1988)). 19 Here, Plaintiffs’ claims appear to be based on contractual and tortious acts and omissions, 20 but their complaint does not establish that these claims fall within the Court’s admiralty 21 jurisdiction. Most significantly, Plaintiffs’ boat, at all relevant times, has been stored on dry land, 22 23 24 in the portions identifying individuals as citizens of a particular state. Even then, Plaintiffs indicate that every individual defendant is “incorporated under the laws of the State of Washington” and has a principal place of business in the State of Washington.” See e.g., Dkt. #1 at 4. ORDER – 5 Case 2:21-cv-01622-RSM Document 8 Filed 01/07/22 Page 6 of 7 1 outside the scope of “navigable waters.” See Garrett, 981 F.3d 739, 741 (9th Cir. 2020) (“Waters 2 are navigable ‘when they form in their ordinary condition by themselves, or by uniting with other 3 waters, a continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other States or 4 foreign countries in the customary modes in which such commerce is conducted by water.’”) 5 (quoting The Daniel Ball, 77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 557 (1870)). Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ complaint 6 does not contain allegations adequate to invoke the Court’s admiralty jurisdiction. 7 C. Plaintiffs’ Motion 8 Having found that Plaintiffs’ complaint does not establish that this case falls within the 9 Court’s subject matter jurisdiction, the Court finds it inappropriate to rule on the merits of 10 Plaintiffs’ motion at this time. Further, the Court notes that Plaintiffs’ motion fails for several 11 procedural reasons. 12 Plaintiffs’ motion appears to seek injunctive relief. Plaintiffs, however, give no indication 13 that they have served process, or the motion, on the defendants. Where an ex parte——“without 14 written or oral notice to the adverse party or its attorney”—injunction is sought, the Court may 15 grant the TRO 18 only if specific facts in an affidavit or a verified complaint clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition; and the movant’s attorney certifies in writing any efforts made to give notice and the reasons why it should not be required. 19 FED. R. CIV. P. 65(b)(1). Further, this Court’s local rules require that “[u]nless the requirements 20 of Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b) for issuance without notice are satisfied, the moving party must serve all 21 motion papers on the opposing party before or contemporaneously with the filing of the motion 22 and include a certificate of service with the motion.” LOCAL RULES W.D. WASH. LCR 65(b)(1). 23 The Court denies the motion, without prejudice, because Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy these 24 requirements and because the Court appears to lack subject matter jurisdiction. If Plaintiffs can 16 17 ORDER – 6 Case 2:21-cv-01622-RSM Document 8 Filed 01/07/22 Page 7 of 7 1 establish that the Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter, Plaintiffs may again seek relief from 2 the Court. IV. 3 CONCLUSION 4 Accordingly, the Court hereby finds and ORDERS that Plaintiffs shall file an Amended 5 Complaint no later than twenty-one (21) days from the date of this Order. In the Amended 6 Complaint, Plaintiffs must include a short and plain statement demonstrating that this matter falls 7 within the scope of the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Failure to file an Amended Complaint 8 will result in dismissal of this case. 9 10 11 The Clerk shall send a copy of this Order to Plaintiffs at 7807 Kapowsin Hwy. E., Graham, WA 98338. Dated this 7th day of January, 2022. 12 13 A 14 RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 ORDER – 7

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