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Venvertloh v. Lincoln Military Housing, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

June 21, 2018

DANTE VENVERTLOH, Plaintiff,
v.
LINCOLN MILITARY HOUSING, LLC et al, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HENRY COKE MORGAN, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Dante Ventvertloh's ("Plaintiffs") Motion to Remand and for Joinder of the United States as a Necessary Party ("the Motion"). Doc. 6. Lincoln Property Company ("LPC"), Lincoln Military Housing, LLC ("LMH"), Mid-Atlantic Military Family Communities, LLC ("Mid-Atlantic"), and LPC Property Management, LLC ("LPCPM") (collectively "Defendants") oppose the Motion. Doc. 7. The Court held a hearing on Plaintiffs Motion to Remand on June 19, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs Motion to Remand and for Joinder of the United States as a Necessary Party.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an adult who resided in military housing ("Ben Moreell") as a minor child. Compl ¶ 1. Plaintiff alleges that while he resided in Ben Moreell he was exposed to "damp indoor space, " which resulted in a personal injury. Compl. ¶ 2. The land on which Ben Moreell is located (the "Property") is owned by the United States Navy and was leased to Defendants for the purpose of maintaining military housing. Id. at 7. When the Property was originally purchased by the United States Navy, the State ceded exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the Property to the Navy; however, in 1984 the Navy gave concurrent legislative jurisdiction over the Property to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Id. at 5, Ex. C. Plaintiff began residing in military housing in 2000, during the time period in which the Navy had ceded concurrent legislative jurisdiction to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Compl. ¶ 12.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 14, 2017 Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Circuit Court for the City of Norfolk. Compl. On January 9, 2018, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441, and 1446. Doc. 1. On February 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion. Doc. 6. On February 19, 2018, Defendant responded in opposition to Plaintiffs Motion. Doc. 7. Plaintiff did not reply. On March 12, 2018, Plaintiff attempted to attach additional documents to his Motion without requesting leave of Court. See Doc. 6. Defendant filed a Motion to Strike the additional exhibits on March 15, 2018. On March 27, 2018, this Court GRANTED Defendant's Motion to Strike and GRANTED Plaintiff leave to re-file the attachments upon filing the appropriate motion. Doc. 11. On March 30, 2018 Plaintiff filed two Motions to Attach Additional Brief Materials. Docs. 12, 13.[1] On April 13, 2018 Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Support of his Motion for Leave to Attach Additional Documents. Doc. 16. On April 18, 2018, this Court GRANTED Plaintiffs Motion to Attach Additional Brief Materials, Doc. 13, and DENIED Plaintiffs Motion to Attach brief Materials, Doc. 12, as MOOT. The Court GRANTED Defendant ten (10) days from the date of its order to amend its Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion to address the contents of the newly attached brief materials. Doc. 17. Defendant filed its Response in Opposition on April 30, 2018. Plaintiffs Motion is now ripe for review.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Motion to Remand

         Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 1441(a) provides that "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants" A defendant may remove a state court action to federal court only if it originally could have been filed by the plaintiff in federal court. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams. 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441). When analyzing a motion to remand, significant federalism concerns require the court to construe the removal statute strictly against removal. Venezuela v. Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA. Inc.. 525 F.Supp.2d 781, 784 (E.D. Va. 2007). The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is thus upon the party seeking removal. Mulcahev v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co.. 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921)). "If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand is necessary." Mulcahev. 29 F.3d at 151.

         Under 28 U.S.C. §1331, a federal district court has jurisdiction over matters "arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Gunn v. Minton. 568 U.S. 251, 257 (2005). Article I, section 8, clause 17, of the United States Constitution (the "Enclave Clause") gives "Congress...the power...to exercise exclusive Legislation...over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, Dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings." Federico. et al. v. Lincoln Military Housing, et al. 901 F.Supp.2d 654, 663 (E.D. Va. 2012). Whether the United States has acquired exclusive jurisdiction over a federal enclave is a federal question. Id.

         B. Joinder of Necessary Parties

         Rule 19 (a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states:

...a person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be joined as a party if: (A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or (B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may: (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest; or (ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest...If a person has not been joined as required, ...

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