United States District Court, D. Connecticut
LOUIS FERRARA, MELISSA FERRARA, and NEW ENGLAND ALPACAS, Plaintiffs,
RYEN MUNRO and TRIPPING GNOME FARM, LLC, Defendants.
ORDER RE: SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. Senior United States District Judge.
Louis Ferrara, Melissa Ferrara, and New England Alpacas
(collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring this action
against Defendants Ryen Munro and Tripping Gnome Farm, LLC
("Defendants") for damages "arising from the
Defendants' refusal to pay the Plaintiffs commission on
the Defendants' sale of certain alpaca[s] to non-party
Pamela Brewster and her company Stillmeadow Farm,
LLC." Doc. 1, at 1 (¶ 1). The Plaintiffs
allege that they had a contract with Defendants "under
which the Defendants were obligated to pay the Plaintiffs a
commission on the sale of alpacas by Defendants to Ms.
Brewster and her company during a two-year period ending June
19, 2013." Id., at 1-2 (¶ 1). With respect
to these alpaca sales, however, Defendants have allegedly
"repeatedly refused to pay [Plaintiffs] the commission
owed." Id., at 2 (¶ 1). In their
Complaint, Plaintiffs have included the following state law
claims against all Defendants: breach of contract, unjust
enrichment, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and
fair dealing, and violation of Connecticut's Unfair Trade
Practices, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110a, et seq.
In addition, Plaintiffs have asserted a claim for tortious
interference with contractual relations against individual
the fact that Plaintiffs bring solely state law claims, they
base the Court's subject matter jurisdiction over this
action on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1). Doc. 1, at 2 (¶ 2). Specifically, they
allege that "none of the Plaintiffs are citizens of the
same state as any of the Defendants" and the amount in
controversy "exceeds the sum or value of seventy-five
thousand dollars ($75, 000), exclusive of interest and
costs." Id. However, as set forth below,
Plaintiffs' allegations are insufficient to establish
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
to Article III of the Constitution, a federal court has
limited jurisdiction. Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch.
Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541(1986) (citing Marbury v.
Madison, 1 Cranch (5 U.S.) 137, 173-80 (1803)). In
general, it may only exercise subject matter jurisdiction if
either: (1) the plaintiff sets forth a colorable claim
arising under the Constitution or federal statute, creating
"federal question" jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §
1331; or (2) there is complete diversity of citizenship
between plaintiff and all defendants and the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Strawbridge v.
Curtiss, 3 Cranch 267, 1806 WL 1213, at *1 (February
Term 1806). See also Da Silva v. Kinsho Int'l
Corp., 229 F.3d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 2000) (delineating two
categories of subject matter jurisdiction).
incumbent on a federal court to determine with certainty
whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over a case
pending before it. If necessary, the court must consider its
subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. Joseph
v. Leavitt, 465 F.3d 87, 89 (2d Cir. 2006)
("Although neither party has suggested that we lack
appellate jurisdiction, we have an independent obligation to
consider the presence or absence of subject matter
jurisdiction sua sponte."), cert.
denied, 549 U.S. 1282 (2007); Promisel v. First Am.
Artificial Flowers, Inc., 943 F.2d 251, 254 (2d Cir.
1991) ("Although we would not normally consider an issue
not raised below, the lack of subject matter jurisdiction may
be raised at any time, by the parties, or by the court
sua sponte."), cert. denied, 502 U.S.
personal jurisdiction, "subject matter jurisdiction is
not waivable." Lyndonville Sav. Bank & Trust Co.
v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700 (2d Cir. 2000). If subject
matter jurisdiction is lacking, the action must be dismissed.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3); Lyndonville,
211 F.3d at 700-01. See also, e.g., Cortlandt St.
Recovery Corp. v. Hellas Telecomms., S.À.R.L.,
790 F.3d 411, 416-17 (2d Cir. 2015) (district court properly
dismisses an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
if it "lacks the statutory or constitutional power to
adjudicate it") (citing Makarova v. United
States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000));
Transatlantic Marine Claims Agency, Inc. v. Ace Shipping
Corp., Div. of Ace Young Inc., 109 F.3d 105, 108 (2d
Cir. 1997) ("Whenever it appears by suggestion of the
parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the
subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action.")
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3)); Lovejoy v. Watson,
475 F.App'x 792, 792 (2d Cir. 2012) ("Where
jurisdiction is lacking . . . dismissal is mandatory.")
(quoting United Food & Commercial Workers Union,
Local 919, AFL-CIO v. CenterMark Props. Meriden Square,
Inc., 30 F.3d 298, 301 (2d Cir.1994)); Manway
Constr. Co. v. Housing Auth. of Hartford, 711 F.2d 501,
503 (2d Cir. 1983) ("It is common ground that in our
federal system of limited jurisdiction any party or the court
sua sponte, at any stage of the proceedings, may
raise the question of whether the court has subject matter
jurisdiction; and, if it does not, dismissal is
case at bar, Plaintiffs have included solely state law claims
in their Complaint. Therefore, there is no arguable basis
upon which the Court may assert "federal question"
subject matter jurisdiction over this action, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. Plaintiffs allege that the alternate
jurisdictional basis of "diversity of citizenship"
exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
order for diversity of citizenship to exist, each
plaintiff's citizenship must be diverse from that of all
defendants. See, e.g., St. Paul Fire and Marine
Ins. Co. v. Universal Builders Supply, 409 F.3d 73, 80
(2d Cir. 2005) ("Diversity is not complete if any
plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any
defendant.") (citing Owen Equip. & Erection Co.
v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373-74 (1978)). Moreover,
"diversity must exist at the time the action is
commenced." Universal Licensing Corp. v. Lungo,
293 F.3d 579, 581 (2d Cir. 2002). See also Wolde-Meskel
v. Vocational Instruction Project Cmty. Servs., Inc.,
166 F.3d 59, 62 (2d Cir.1999) ("Satisfaction of the
§ 1332(a) diversity requirements (amount in controversy
and citizenship) is determined as of the date that suit is
filed - the 'time-of-filing' rule.").
there must be a minimum amount in controversy exceeding
"$75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, " 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). Plaintiffs must allege in good faith
that they sustained sufficient damages to invoke the
Court's subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of
citizenship. Congress included this jurisdictional amount
with the intention of "remov[ing] from the federal
courts claims insubstantial in character, which contributed
to the mounting backlogs of these courts." Brown v.
Bodak, 188 F.Supp. 532, 533-34 (S.D.N.Y. 1960) (citing
1958 U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News, pp.
2594-95). In cases where there is evidence that a plaintiff
has inflated damages "solely to exceed the
jurisdictional threshold, " dismissal by the district
court is proper. Deutsch v. Hewes St. Realty Corp.,
359 F.2d 96, 100 (2d Cir. 1966) (citing Brown, 188
Diversity of Citizenship