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Kennedy v. Jefferson County

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division

December 12, 2014

JERRY L. KENNEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, by and through its Board of Supervisors, JEFFERSON COUNTY HOSPITAL, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF JEFFERSON COUNTY HOSPITAL, in its official capacity, and DUDLEY GUICE, individually and in his official capacity, REGINA REED, individually and in her official capacity, and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE MOTION TO REMAND

DAVID BRAMLETTE, District Judge.

This cause comes before the Court on Plaintiff's, Jerry L. Kennedy, Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction [docket entry no. 90]. Having reviewed the motion and responses, applicable statutory and case law, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, the Court finds as follows:

I. Factual[1] and Procedural Background

Around September of 1999, Plaintiff Jerry L. Kennedy was hired as an administrator of the Jefferson County Hospital ("the Hospital"). Kennedy's employment was governed by a contract reached by agreement between Kennedy and the Board of Trustees of the Hospital ("the Hospital Board"). Defendants Regina Reed and Dudley Guice were members of the Hospital Board during Kennedy's employment. Kennedy's contract was renewed for a term of five years on May 9, 2012. Around that time, the composition of the Hospital Board changed, and new members less favorable to Kennedy were installed. The contract guaranteed that Kennedy would not be fired without cause, that he would receive 120 days notice prior to termination, and that he would be given 120 days to correct the alleged cause of his termination. On April 10, 2013, the Board terminated Kennedy without notice.

Kennedy originally filed suit in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County in November of 2013, [2] alleging federal claims for deprivation of civil rights, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, and age and gender discrimination, and alleging state law claims for breach of contract, specific performance, slander per se, civil conspiracy, and tortious interference with contract. On December 2, 2013, Defendants-the Hospital, the Hospital Board, and Reed-removed the case to federal court, alleging federal question jurisdiction.

On April 18, 2014, Kennedy filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint to omit his federal law claims. See Mot. Amend/Correct, ECF No. 39. At the Case Management Conference on April 30, 2014, Kennedy made an ore tenus motion to withdraw his damages claims for physical pain and suffering and for medical bills, which was granted. See Order, ECF No. 48. Thereafter, Kennedy's motion to amend his complaint was granted in a short order. See Order, ECF No. 51. Kennedy's Second Amended Complaint contains essentially the same facts but alleges only the state law claims. See Second Amended Complaint p. 5-9, ECF No. 52.

On April 30, 2014, Kennedy filed a new suit in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County against the same defendants.[3] The Parallel Complaint contains the same exclusively state law causes of action as the Second Amended Complaint, but it includes damages for physical pain and suffering and medical bills. Parallel Complaint ΒΆ 46, ECF No. 93-11. The state court case has been stayed pending the outcome of the case before this Court. See Surrebuttal Ex. M, ECF No. 172-2.

On June 17, 2014, Kennedy filed a motion to dismiss arguing that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case. All of the defendants have responded in opposition. See Resp., ECF No. 93 (the Hospital, the Hospital Board, and Reed); Resp., ECF No. 102 (Jefferson County, Mississippi); Resp., ECF No. 106 (Guice).

II. Analysis

Kennedy's motion argues that this Court should dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction or, alternatively, remand the case to the Circuit Court of Jefferson County. However, in his reply, Kennedy concedes that the Court does have continuing supplemental jurisdiction over his claims.[4] The question remaining before the Court is whether it should decline to exercise its continuing supplemental jurisdiction. "[T]he decision as to whether to retain [supplemental jurisdiction over] the pendent claims lies within the sound discretion of the district court." Brown v. Sw. Bell Telephone Co., 901 F.2d 1250, 1254 (5th Cir. 1990) (citing In re Carter, 618 F.2d 1093, 1101 (5th Cir. 1980)).

The Court looks to both statutory and common law factors to determine whether to retain supplemental jurisdiction. Enochs v. Lampasas Cnty., 641 F.3d 155, 158-59 (5th Cir. 2011). The statutory factors come from 28 U.S.C. Section 1367(c) and include whether:

(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court ...

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