United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the court on plaintiffs' motion to
voluntarily dismiss National Railroad Passenger Corporation
(“Amtrak”) as a defendant and thereupon to remand
this case to state court. On September 02, 2016, plaintiffs
Macker and Antoinette Montgomery filed this action in the
Circuit Court of Leflore County, seeking recovery arising out
of a 2015 collision between a truck driven by Macker and an
Amtrak train. Plaintiffs filed suit against Amtrak, the
Illinois Central Railroad Company (“ICRC”) as
well as against the landowners of the private property where
the collision occurred. On October 27, 2016, defendants
removed the case to this court based on the presence of
Amtrak as a defendant, which, they note, conferred federal
question jurisdiction on this court. Wyant v. Nat'l
R.R. Passenger Corp., 881 F.Supp. 919, 924 (S.D. N.Y.
1995)(“[T]he law is well-settled that federal courts
have federal question jurisdiction over suits by or against
Amtrak under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.”).
their part, plaintiffs do not dispute that this court had
federal question jurisdiction at the time of removal, but
they have moved to dismiss their claims against Amtrak
without prejudice and thereupon for this court to decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims.
well settled that, when the opposing party has already served
an answer or a motion for summary judgment but all parties
have not stipulated to dismissal, under Fed.R.Civ.P.
41(a)(2), the plaintiff must seek a court order to dismiss
the action. In opposing plaintiff's motion to dismiss it
without prejudice, Amtrak has made clear its desire to stay
in this lawsuit, particularly since plaintiffs have declined
Amtrak's invitation to dismiss it with
prejudice. It thus appears to this court that plaintiffs wish
to retain the right to pursue claims against Amtrak in a
separate action, and the fact that they seek dismissal of
Amtrak followed by remand makes it seem highly likely that
their motivation is to defeat federal jurisdiction.
plaintiffs' legal maneuvers frankly strike this court as
being rather dodgy, precedent suggests that the mere fact
that they seek to defeat federal jurisdiction does not
necessarily mean that their Rule 41(a)(2) motion to dismiss
should be denied. Indeed, in Katzman v. Am. Airlines,
Inc., a New York district judge noted, following a
review of relevant authority, that “even when
plaintiffs seek discretionary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2),
nearly all courts grant those dismissals when defendant's
only argument against dismissal is that the plaintiff
manifestly seeks to defeat federal jurisdiction.” 1997
WL 752730, at *1 (S.D. N.Y. Dec. 4, 1997), citing
American Nat'l Bank and Trust Co. of Sapulpa v. BIC
Corp., 931 F.2d 1411 (10th Cir. 1991); Grivas v.
Parmelee Transp. Co., 207 F.2d 334 (7th Cir.1953);
O'Reilly v. R.W. Harmon & Sons, Inc., 124
F.R.D. 639 (W.D. Mo. 1989); Stevens v. Red Barn
Chemicals, Inc., 76 F.R.D. 111 (W.D. Okla. 1977).
Fifth Circuit has similarly written that:
We have explained that, as a general rule, motions for
voluntary dismissal should be freely granted unless the
non-moving party will suffer some plain legal prejudice other
than the mere prospect of a second lawsuit. See Manshack
v. Southwestern Elec. Power Co., 915 F.2d 172, 174 (5th
Cir. 1990). The primary purpose of Rule 41(a)(2) is to
“prevent voluntary dismissals which unfairly affect the
other side, and to permit the imposition of curative
Elbaor v. Tripath Imaging, Inc., 279 F.3d 314, 317
(5th Cir. 2002). While this court regards it as somewhat
surprising that plaintiffs may elect to avoid federal
jurisdiction in such a manner, the authority on this point
seems clear. As quoted above, the Fifth Circuit in
Elbaor held that the “plain legal
prejudice” which a defendant must demonstrate to avoid
Rule 41(a)(2) dismissal is something much greater than the
possibility of a second lawsuit. In Elbaor, the
Fifth Circuit noted that such prejudice did potentially exist
in that case, based upon the possibility, raised by the
defendant, that the plaintiff would seek to refile in a
jurisdiction with a more generous statute of limitations,
thereby negating a potential defense on this issue.
Elbaor, 279 F.3d at 318. In this case, however,
defendants cite no comparable legal prejudice of this
their brief, defendants do cite the expense they have
incurred in defending against this action, but the Fifth
Circuit in Elbaor made it clear that “the fact
that additional expense will be incurred in relitigating
issues in another forum will not generally support a finding
of ‘plain legal prejudice' and denial of a Rule
41(a)(2) motion to dismiss.” Id. at 318 n. 3.
Defendants also argue that “Amtrak is a necessary party
because it is contractually bound to pay co-defendant
Illinois Central Railroad Company's (‘ICRR')
litigation costs in this case and is responsible for any
judgment against ICRR.” [Brief in opposition to remand
at 2]. Plaintiffs correctly note in their reply brief,
however, that the Fifth Circuit has held that “Rule 19
does not require joinder of persons against whom [defendants]
have a claim for contribution.” Nottingham v. Gen.
Am. Commc'n Corp., 811 F.2d 873, 880 (5th Cir.
1987). In light of the foregoing, this court concludes that
plaintiffs' Rule 41(a)(2) motion to voluntarily dismiss
Amtrak as a party is well taken and should be granted.
court now turns to the motion to remand filed by plaintiffs,
which is, procedurally speaking, better characterized as one
seeking for this court, having dismissed Amtrak, to decline
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining
claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c).
1367(c) provides that:
The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction [if] (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 has
original jurisdiction, (3) the district court has dismissed
all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or (4) in
exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons
for declining jurisdiction.
addition to these statutory factors, the Fifth Circuit also
requires consideration of the “common law factors [of]
judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity” in
deciding whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.
Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350,
108 S.Ct. 614, 98 L.Ed.2d 720 (1988).
considering these factors, this court notes that the tort
claims in this case are relatively simple ones, and this is
thus not a case presenting novel issues of state law which
are better addressed by state courts. This court therefore
concludes that the § 1367(c)(1) factor militates in
favor of retaining jurisdiction. It appears to this court
that the § 1367(c)(2) and (c)(3) factors are more
applicable in cases in which a separate federal
claim has been dismissed, and, at any rate,
plaintiff does not specifically address them in its briefing,
so this court has no arguments to address on this issue. This
court notes that it frequently chooses to decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction on comity grounds in cases
involving a state or local defendant whose liability affects