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Wild v. Gaskins

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

February 11, 2014

SUSAN WILD, Plaintiff,
v.
BARBARA GASKINS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RAYMOND A. JACKSON, District Judge.

Before the Court arc Defendant Barbara Gaskins' ("Defendant") motions to dismiss the negligence claim of Plaintiff Susan Wild ("Plaintiff"), Defendant has filed two separate motions: Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 17) and a Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction (ECF No. 19). Having carefully considered the parties' pleadings, this matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth herein. both Motions to Dismiss arc DENIED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY.

Plaintiff alleges that on or about July 8, 2010, Plaintiff was a passenger aboard Defendant's 19' Skeeter ZX ("the boat") as it navigated along the John H. Kerr Reservoir. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 18. Plaintiff claims that Defendant was negligent in her direction and operation of the boat by failing to properly account for two passengers and equipment, and that this negligence was the proximate cause of Plaintiff's slip and fall that resulted in Plaintiff fracturing her left leg. Am. Compl. 122-23.

On May 28. 2013. Plaintiff riled a complaint against Defendant, alleging tortious injury and a cause of action for general maritime negligence. Defendant responded by filing a Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss, asserting a facial challenge that the Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under admiralty and maritime law. This Court found that Plaintiff failed to establish federal maritime subject-matter jurisdiction and granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without prejudice with leave for Plaintiff to amend her Compliant.

On November 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, asserting a single cause of action for negligence. The Amended Complaint alleges diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and asserts that substantive maritime law governs this case. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 16. The Amended Complaint contains additional factual allegations and legal arguments related to her negligence claim as well as jurisdictional and choice of law issues. On December 11, 2013, Defendant filed her Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim for a violation of a National Park Service regulation. The same day, Defendant filed a second Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of federal admiralty and maritime subject-matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff filed responses to both motions on December 20, 2013.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Statement of a Claim

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that, in addition to a statement of the court's jurisdiction and a demand for relief, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of actions that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a Complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (internal quotations omitted)); Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009); Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). Specifically, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. For purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, courts may only rely upon matters in the pleadings, including the complaint's allegations and the documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference. Simons v. Montgomery Cnty. Police Officers, 762 F.2d 30, 31 (4th Cir. 1985).

B. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides for the dismissal of an action if the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Unless a matter involves an area over which federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction, a plaintiff may bring suit in federal court only if the matter involves a federal question arising "under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, " 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or if "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between citizens of different States, " 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). See Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, Md., 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999) ("Federal courts are courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction, and as such there is no presumption that the court has jurisdiction."). Accordingly, "before a federal court can decide the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction of the court." Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006).

In terms of diversity jurisdiction, a federal court has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear any case where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and no plaintiff shares a state of citizenship with any defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Section 1332(a) requires that all of the plaintiffs be from different states as all of the defendants, called "complete diversity." Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978). The second component of diversity jurisdiction is an amount in controversy that exceeds $75, 000. In most instances, the good faith "sum claimed by the plaintiff controls." JTH Tax, Inc. v. Frashier, 624 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938)).

The burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction rests on the plaintiff. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 646 (4th Cir. 1999). To determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, the reviewing court may consider evidence outside the pleadings, such as affidavits or depositions, Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982), or whatever other evidence has been submitted on the issues, GTE South Inc. v. Morrison, 957 F.Supp. 800, 803 (E.D. Va. 1997). The defendant may challenge subject-matter jurisdiction by contending either (1) the complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to establish subject-matter jurisdiction (a "facial challenge"); or (2) the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint are false (a "factual challenge"). Lutfi v. United States, No. 11-1966, 2013 U.S.App. LEXIS 8322, at *11-12 (4th Cir. Apr. 24, 2013) (citing Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192-93 (4th Cir. 2009)). A facial challenge requires the court to dismiss the complaint only if the alleged facts, if taken as true, fail to establish subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. at *12; see also Bain, 697 F.2d at 1219. A factual challenge requires that the court "go beyond the allegations of the complaint" and weigh evidence to determine jurisdiction. Id. If jurisdictional facts and facts central to the merits are intertwined, "the entire ...


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