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Dudley v. EXP, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

November 7, 2014

CHRISTOPHER J. DUDLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
EXP, INC., d/b/a FAMOUS ANTHONY'S[*], Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief District Judge.

Christopher J. Dudley, proceeding pro se, filed this action against his former employer, EXP, Inc., d/b/a Famous Anthony's ("Famous Anthony's"), alleging that he was discharged in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim. The case is presently before the court on the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and the plaintiff's motion to disqualify the defendant's counsel. For the reasons that follow, the defendant's motion will be granted and the plaintiff's motion will be denied as moot.

Background

Dudley is a resident of Rocky Mount, Virginia. He worked for Famous Anthony's from January 21, 2013 until December 8, 2013. Famous Anthony's is a Virginia corporation with its principal place of business in Roanoke, Virginia.

According to the complaint and the accompanying exhibits, Dudley became ill in September of 2013 after being exposed to mold at work. On or about September 17, 2013, Dudley filed a workers' compensation claim for injuries resulting from mold exposure. Dudley alleges that he and Famous Anthony's settled the workers' compensation claim, but that he was subsequently terminated on December 8, 2013 in retaliation for filing the claim with the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission.

On or about June 10, 2014, Dudley filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), in which he asserted that he "was retaliated against because [he] filed a worker's compensation claim in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended." Ex. to Compl., Docket No. 2-1 at 17. On July 10, 2014, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights containing the following determination: "Based upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes." Ex. to Compl., Docket No. 2-1 at 18.

Dudley filed the instant action against Famous Anthony's on August 28, 2014. On October 2, 2014, Famous Anthony's moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dudley filed a brief in opposition to the motion as well as a motion to disqualify the defendant's counsel. The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for review.

Discussion

I. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The court must first address the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Meade, 186 F.3d 435, 442 n.4 (4th Cir. 1999) ("[Q]uestions of subject matter jurisdiction must be decided first, because they concern the court's very power to hear the case.") (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

Federal courts are "courts of limited jurisdiction, " which "possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff, the party asserting jurisdiction. Robb Evans & Assocs., LLC v. Holibaugh, 609 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2010). The court may properly dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if the complaint fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based. See Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009).

In this case, Famous Anthony's argues that Dudley's complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, because the parties are not diverse and Dudley has not raised any federal question over which the court may preside. For the following reasons, the court agrees with Famous Anthony's.

Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000 and is between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. "Section 1332 requires complete diversity among the parties, meaning the citizenship of each plaintiff must be different from the citizenship of each defendant." Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co., 739 F.3d 163, 170 (4th Cir. 2014). In the instant case, it is undisputed that both parties are citizens of Virginia. Because complete diversity is lacking, the court may not exercise jurisdiction under § 1332.

Federal district courts also have original jurisdiction over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. "Under the longstanding well-pleaded complaint rule, ... a suit arises under federal law only when the plaintiffs statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon [federal law]." Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Thus, to determine whether an action arises under the laws of the United States, the court must examine the plaintiffs complaint to "discern whether federal or state law creates the cause of action" and, if the claim is not created by federal law, whether "the plaintiffs right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Pinney v. Nokia, Inc., 402 F.3d 430, 442 (4th Cir. 2005) ...


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