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Stewart v. Treasure Bay, LLC.

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

February 6, 2017

EDWARD STEWART PLAINTIFF
v.
TREASURE BAY, LLC, DEFENDANTS

         MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S [13] MOTION TO REINSTATE FEDERAL QUESTION, PERSONAL INJURY PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1331; GRANTING DEFENDANTS' [17] MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING DEFENDANTS' [19] MOTION FOR SANCTIONS; AND DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS WITHOUT PREJUDICE FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are three Motions: (1) a Motion [13] to Reinstate Federal Question, Personal Injury Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 filed by Plaintiff Edward Stewart; (2) a Motion [17] to Dismiss filed by Defendants Treasure Bay, LLC, Western Hospitality, Inc., and Treasure Bay Gaming and Resorts, Inc.; and (3) a Motion [19] for Sanctions filed by Defendants Treasure Bay, LLC, Western Hospitality, Inc., and Treasure Bay Gaming and Resorts, Inc. After consideration of the Motions, related pleadings, the record in this case, and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion [13] to Reinstate Federal Question, Personal Injury Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 should be denied; that Defendants' Motion [17] to Dismiss should be granted; and that Defendants' Motion [19] for Sanctions should be denied. Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Edward Stewart (“Plaintiff” or “Stewart”) was once employed at Treasure Bay Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, but was terminated on April 18, 2011. Am. Compl. [8] at 3. On June 20, 2012, Stewart filed a complaint in this Court, in a separate civil action, asserting discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), against Treasure Bay Casino. Stewart v. Treasure Bay Casino, No. 1:12cv197-LG-JCG, Compl. [1] (S.D.Miss. June 20, 2012). On January 7, 2015, this Court granted Treasure Bay Casino summary judgment and dismissed Stewart's claims with prejudice. Stewart v. Treasure Bay Casino, No. 15-60087, Order [119] at 18 (S.D.Miss. Jan. 7, 2015).

         Stewart appealed [122]. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed this Court's judgment, and the mandate issued on September 17, 2015. Stewart v. Treasure Bay Casino, No. 15-60087 (5th Cir. Sept. 17, 2015).

         On July 8, 2016, Stewart filed the Complaint in the present case against Defendant Treasure Bay Casino. The Complaint [1] did not state the basis for this Court's federal subject matter jurisdiction. Nor was it clear that there was any valid basis upon which the Court could exercise diversity or federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. According to the Complaint, both Plaintiff and Treasure Bay Casino were citizens of Mississippi. See Compl. [1] at 2. The Complaint appeared to assert only state-law claims for negligence and wrongful termination, although it utilized terms such as “pretext, ” “retaliation, ” “protected activities, ” and “discrimination, ” which alluded to discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII. Id. at 5, 8.

         On July 12, 2016, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause [3] which required Plaintiff to set forth in a written Response “the asserted basis for this Court's federal subject matter jurisdiction, and . . . show cause why this action should not be dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction . . . .” Order [3] at 3. Plaintiff filed a Response [6] on July 18, 2016, which appeared to list several new corporate Defendants and attempted to identify the citizenship of these entities. Resp. [6] at 1-3. Plaintiff asserted that diversity jurisdiction existed, id. at 3, and asked the Court to “void any accidental assertions of race discrimination from the previous case” in his Complaint in the present case, id. at 3.

         On July 22, 2016, the Court entered an Order [7] requiring Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint “naming all Defendants against whom he seeks recovery in this case, stating all claims Plaintiff asserts against those Defendants, and providing all jurisdictional facts demonstrating that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims based upon diversity of citizenship.” Order [7] at 3. The Court determined that “Plaintiff is deemed to have withdrawn any references to federal claims and has made clear that there is no basis for federal question jurisdiction in this case.” Id. at 2.

         Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint [8] on July 25, 2016, naming Treasure Bay LLC, Western Hospitality, Inc., and Treasure Bay Gaming and Resorts, Inc., as Defendants. The Amended Complaint [8], which remains the operative pleading, ostensibly invokes diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and appears to advance state-law claims against Defendants. Am. Compl. [8] at 1-19.

         On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion [13] to Reinstate Federal Question, Personal Injury Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff contends that he marked federal question on the civil cover sheet when he filed his original Complaint in this case, and posits that this constitutes a sufficient basis for the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Mot. [13] at 1-2. Plaintiff appears to assert that his failure to set forth a basis for federal question jurisdiction in this Complaint itself was a mere “technicality, ” which should be excused because he is a pro se litigant Id. at 2.

         In referring to his prior Title VII suit against Treasure Bay Casino, Plaintiff states that neither collateral estoppel nor res judicata is “a factor in this case, ” because “[t]he federal question has nothing to do with the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is a claim of personal injury . . . .” Id. at 3. Plaintiff therefore “request[s] that this case proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 as documented in exhibits 1 and 2 to protect [his] right to fairness of due process.” Id. Exhibit “1” to the Motion [13] is the civil cover sheet Plaintiff completed upon filing his original Complaint, upon which Plaintiff marked “Federal Question” as the basis of jurisdiction and “Other Personal Injury” as the nature of suit. Exhibit “2” is a copy of the docket sheet, which reflects that the civil cover sheet initially listed this case as “28:1331 Fed. Question: Personal Injury.”

         On August 30, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion [17] to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6), for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Defendants contend that the parties are not of diverse citizenship. Mot. [17] at 2-3. Defendants also filed a Motion [19] for Sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Defendants seek “the imposition of sanctions, ...


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