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Jackson v. Monsanto Co.

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

July 26, 2018

GARY JACKSON PLAINTIFF
v.
MONSANTO COMPANY, SOLUTIA, INC., PHARMACIA, LLC f/k/a PHARMACIA CORPORATION, PFIZER, INC., TEXAS EASTERN TRANSMISSION CORPORATION, TEXAS EASTERN TRANSMISSION, LP, PANENERGY CORP., DUKE ENERGY CORPORATION SPECTRA ENERGY CORPORATION, and JOHN DOES 1-100 DEFENDANTS

          ORDER AND OPINION

          DAVID BRAMLETTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court, on its own motion, addresses its subject-matter jurisdiction. For the reasons that follow, the Court orders the parties to brief the question whether the jurisdictional spoiler, Texas Eastern Transmission, LP, is a dispensable party the Court may drop from this action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 and Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826 (1989).

         Background

         Gary Jackson says he developed a rare form of cancer called chondrosarcoma because his former employer, Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, exposed him to Monsanto-manufactured products containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

         Invoking the Court's diversity jurisdiction, Jackson sued Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, Monsanto Company, and the corporate successors of each.[1] See Doc. 2.

         Jackson is a Mississippi citizen. See Doc. 2, ¶1. His complaint alleges that no defendant shares his Mississippi citizenship. See Doc. 2, ¶¶1-10. But in a pending motion, Texas Eastern Transmission, LP, corporate successor of Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, asserts that it is a Mississippi citizen.[2] See Docs. 18, 19. Texas Eastern points to its Mississippi citizenship and moves the Court to dismiss it from this action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See Doc. 18.

         I

         In support of its motion, Texas Eastern marshals an improper joinder opinion. See Int'l Energy Ventures Mgmt., L.L.C. v. United Energy Grp., Ltd., 818 F.3d 193 (5th Cir. 2016). But this case is not about improper joinder, and this Court's jurisdiction was not invoked by the removal statute. See Doc. 1, ¶15; 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

         Texas Eastern dwells on the improper joinder standard for non-merits dismissal of a defendant against whom the plaintiff has no possibility of recovering. And in so doing, Texas Eastern misses the antecedent jurisdictional question: Subject-matter jurisdiction over an action filed in a federal court that in fact lacked jurisdiction.

         In Int'l Energy, a Texas consultant firm sued a Texas-citizen broker and a Chinese company in Texas state court. 818 F.3d at 198. The defendants removed on the basis of diversity, contending the non-diverse broker was improperly joined to defeat jurisdiction. Id. The plaintiff moved to remand. Id. The district court denied remand, concluded the non-diverse broker was improperly joined, and dismissed, under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff's claims against the broker. Id. at 199. The plaintiff appealed. Id.

         On appeal, a Fifth Circuit panel affirmed the district court's denial of remand but reversed its Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of the nondiverse, improperly joined broker. Id. at 213. The court emphasized that “the only ground for dismissing any improperly joined, nondiverse party is lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Id. at 211. For a court cannot adjudicate the merits of a claim against a party over whom it lacks jurisdiction.

         Texas Eastern's citizenship presents a different problem than the one addressed in Int'l Energy. That case was removed; this one was not. There, jurisdiction was measured as of removal; here, it is measured as of Jackson's filing of the complaint. In sum, if Texas Eastern is a Mississippi citizen, then the Court not only lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Texas Eastern, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this entire action.

         II

         The Court has subject-matter jurisdiction of suits between parties of diverse citizenship and in which more than $75, 000 ...


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