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AT&T Corp v. From You Flowers, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 27, 2018

AT&T Corp., Plaintiff,
v.
From You Flowers, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff AT&T Corp. ("AT&T") brings this action against Defendant From You Flowers, LLC ("From You Flowers"), asserting that Defendant has failed to pay for services provided by AT&T in the amount of $154, 300.73, in breach of the Master Agreement and other contracts entered between the parties. Doc. 1 ("Compl.") ¶¶ 6-11.

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(2). Compl. ¶ 3. That statutory provision states that "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between - . . . citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state, except that the district courts shall not have original jurisdiction under this subsection of an action between citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state who are lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States and are domiciled in the same State." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(2) (2016).

         Reviewing the Complaint, however, the Court finds that the Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts from which this Court may determine the citizenship of the parties for purposes of diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. Therefore, as set forth infra, the Court must ascertain whether subject matter jurisdiction exists or this case should be dismissed for lack thereof. It thus follows that Plaintiff must make additional submissions so the Court may consider the existence vel non of its subject matter jurisdiction.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction under Article III, Section 2, of the United States Constitution. See, e.g., Chicot Cnty. Drainage Dist. v. Baxter State Bank, 308 U.S. 371, 376 (1940), reh'g denied, 309 U.S. 695 (1940). The question of subject matter jurisdiction is fundamental so that a court must raise the issue sua sponte, of its own accord, when the issue is not addressed by the parties. Mansfield, C. & L.M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884). See also 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); Univ. of S. Alabama v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410 (11th Cir. 1999) ("[I]t is well settled that a federal court is obligated to inquire into subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be lacking.").

         In general, a federal district court may exercise subject matter jurisdiction over an action only if there is either: (1) "federal question" jurisdiction, applicable to "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States," 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2016); or (2) there exists "diversity of citizenship," complete diversity of citizenship between the plaintiff and all defendants and the amount in controversy exceeds "the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs," 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) (2016). See also Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. 267, 267-68 (1806); Da Silva v. Kinsho Int'l Corp., 229 F.3d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 2000) (delineating two categories of subject matter jurisdiction).

         Unlike personal jurisdiction, "failure of 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), Lussier, 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) ("A district court properly dismisses an action . . . for lack of subject matter jurisdiction if the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it . . . .") (quoting Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000)); 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 mandatory.").

         In order for diversity of citizenship to exist, the plaintiff's citizenship must be diverse from that of all defendants. See, e.g., St. Paul Fire & 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, such 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 Comm. 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.").

         In the case at bar, there appears to be no basis for the Court to exercise "federal question" jurisdiction-i.e., no claim arising under the Constitution or federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2016). Plaintiff has brought state law claims of breach of contract and quantum meruit. Compl. ¶¶ 12-23. Consequently, Plaintiff's sole asserted jurisdictional basis is "diversity of citizenship." Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiff declares that AT&T "is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of New York. Its principal place of business is located at One AT&T Way, Bedminster, New Jersey 07921." Id. ¶ 1. As for From You Flowers, it is a "foreign limited liability company registered to do business in Connecticut with its registered business address located at 143 Mill Road East, Old Saybrook, Middlesex County, Connecticut 06475." Id. ¶ 2.

         In addition, to invoke "diversity of citizenship" jurisdiction, there must be a minimum amount in controversy exceeding "$75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) (2016). The burden is on the plaintiff to allege in good faith that it sustained the mandatory minimum in damages. See, e.g., Scherer v. Equitable Life Assurance Soc'y of the United States, 347 F.3d 394, 397 (2d Cir. 2003) ("A party invoking the jurisdiction of the federal court has the burden of proving that it appears to a 'reasonable probability' that the claim is in excess of the statutory jurisdictional amount.") (quoting Tongkook Am., Inc. v. Shipton Sportswear Co., 14 F.3d 781, 784 (2d Cir. 1994)). The amount in controversy must "appear on the face of the complaint or be established by proof." Miller v. European Am. Bank, 921 F.Supp. 1162, 1167 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).

         B. Citizenship ...


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