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Bergsieker v. McDonald's Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 21, 2014

TERRY BERGSIEKER, Plaintiff,
v.
MCDONALD'S CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (ECF No. 10). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Removal statutes are strictly construed, and any doubts about the correctness of removal are resolved in favor of state court jurisdiction and remand. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941); In re Bus. Men's Assurance Co. of Arn., 992 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir. 1993); Manning v. Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., 304 F.Supp.2d 1146, 1148 (E.D. Mo. 2004) (citing Transit Cas. Co. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of London, 119 F.3d 619, 625 (8th Cir. 1997)). The party seeking removal and opposing remand has the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Cent. Iowa Power Coop. v. Midwest lndep. Transmission Sys. Operator, 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th Cir. 2009); City of Univ. City, Missouri v. AT & T Wireless Services, Inc., 229 F.Supp.2d 927, 929 (E.D. Mo. 2002).

A civil action brought in state court may be removed to the proper district court if the district court has original jurisdiction of the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (a). Federal district courts have original jurisdiction in all civil actions between citizens of different states if the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. Manning, 304 F.Supp.2d at 1148 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(l)).

BACKGROUND

On June 3, 2014, Terry Bergsieker ("Bergsieker") filed this action in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, State of Missouri, alleging a claim for violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA") for hostile work environment. (Petition for Damages-Hostile Work Environment in Violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (hereinafter "Complaint, " ECF No. 3). Bergsieker named McDonald's Corporation ("McDonald's"), Anthony McVean, and Cornelius Ruffin as defendants in her Complaint. Bergsieker alleges that McVean and Ruffin are Missouri residents.

Defendant McDonald's removed this action to this Court on July 7, 2014, asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§1332, 1446. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1). In the Notice of Removal, McDonald's maintains that this action is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs. McDonald's states that that Bergsieker has alleged actual damages in excess of $25, 000, punitive damages, compensatory damages for her depression, interest, cost of suit, and attorney's fees. (Notice of Removal, ¶3). Based upon these allegations, McDonald's also argues that the Complaint seeks in excess of $75, 000. (Notice of Removal, ¶4). McDonald's suggests that individual defendants McVean and Ruffin were fraudulently joined to this suit as co-defendants because Bergsieker failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to them. McDonald's maintains that the citizenship of McVean and Ruffin should not be considered for purposes of determining diversity jurisdiction.

DISCUSSION

In the Motion to Remand, Bergsieker contends that McDonald's has not demonstrated that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 or that there is complete diversity of the parties. Because the issue of diversity is dispositive, the Court addresses only that issue.

In the Notice of Removal, McDonald's claims that there is complete diversity because McVean and Ruffin are fraudulently joined to this action. McDonald's maintains that Bergsieker did not name McVean and Ruffin as parties or respondents in her Charge of Discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights ("MCHR") and, therefore, Bergsieker did not exhaust her claims against them and they must be dismissed as parties.

Bergsieker filed her original Charge of Discrimination with the MCHR on August 28, 2012. (ECF No. 14-2). Bergsieker only named McDonald's in her Charge of Discrimination. In the Charge particulars, Bergsieker states that she was sexually harassed by two managers. She states that she complained to her store manager (who was McVean in 2012, but who is not identified by name). Bergsieker does not mention Ruffin (area supervisor) by name or title in her Charge. Bergsieker states that the last date that discrimination took place was on August 6, 2012, but marks that this is a "continuing violation."

She filed an amended Charge of Discrimination on July 21, 2014. In her amended Charge of Discrimination she named McDonald's, Anthony McVean, and Cornelius Ruffin. (ECF No. 14-5). The amended Right to Sue letter was issued on July 31, 2014, and Bergsieker filed a new lawsuit in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County against McDonald's, McVean, and Ruffin. (ECF No. 14-6). That lawsuit has also been removed to this Court. See Bergsieker v. McDonald's, 4:14cv1419 (E.D. Mo.).

In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that McVean, as Plaintiff's supervisor and store manager, and Ruffin, as McDonald's area supervisor, "did in fact participate and/or cause or contribute to cause the ...


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