United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ordered Plaintiff Hobby Lobby to show cause why I should not
dismiss this case for improper claim splitting. [No. 12].
Hobby Lobby seeks an order compelling arbitration and
enjoining defendant Victoria Vila from pursuing her state
court claims of sexual harassment, assault and battery,
negligent hiring, and retaliation, among other claims.
Improper claim splitting normally prevents a state court
defendant from filing a federal case based on the same facts
and events. However, state court defendants can bring
“piecemeal litigation” “when necessary to
give effect to an arbitration agreement.” Moses H.
Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S.
1, 20 (1983). As a result, I have jurisdiction to consider
Hobby Lobby's motion to compel arbitration, and I will
set a briefing schedule on that motion.
Vila and Jaqueline Bachmann allege that they were harassed
and assaulted by their supervisor Larry Simms at the Hobby
Lobby store at 4033 Veterans Memorial Parkway in Saint
Peters, Missouri. On June 19, 2018, they filed a state law
case with these allegations, bringing eight claims each
against Hobby Lobby and three claims each against Simms. On
September 6, 2018, Hobby Lobby filed this case against Vila
and a second case against Bachmann, each seeking to compel
arbitration of the same dispute. Hobby Lobby represents that
Vila and Bachmann are citizens of the state of Missouri.
Hobby Lobby also represents that it is a corporation
incorporated and with its principal place of business in
Oklahoma, and that the amount of controversy in this case
exceeds $75, 000. On December 13, 2018, Vila filed her answer
to Hobby Lobby's complaint in the case before me.
December 18, 2019, I ordered Hobby Lobby to show cause why I
should not dismiss its case against Vila for improper claim
splitting. In its response, Hobby Lobby identified Supreme
Court and Eighth Circuit precedent allowing parties to bring
“piecemeal litigation” in federal courts under
the Federal Arbitration Act “when necessary to give
effect to an arbitration agreement.” See Id.;
Northport Health Servs. of Arkansas, LLC v.
Rutherford, 605 F.3d 483, 491 (8th Cir. 2010). Hobby
Lobby identified the non-diverse defendant as “Simms, a
Missouri resident.” (No. 16). Hobby Lobby did not
identify the citizenship of Simms, nor submit any other
filings which identify Simms' state of citizenship.
Plaintiff Vila did not submit a reply concerning my show
jurisdiction “to entertain a petition to compel
arbitration” if I would otherwise have jurisdiction
“over a suit rising out of the controversy between the
parties, ” “save for [the arbitration]
agreement” Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S.
49, 52 (2009) (citing 9 U.S.C. § 4) (internal quotes
omitted). When determining if I have diversity jurisdiction,
I must “strictly construe” the diversity of the
parties and the amount in controversy. Janzen v.
Goos, 302 F.2d 421, 424 (8th Cir. 1962). I only have
diversity jurisdiction if the citizenship of each plaintiff
is different from the citizenship of each defendant.
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 n. 3
the presence of a non-diverse party destroys diversity
jurisdiction, in Federal Arbitration Act cases, I should
evaluate diversity by examining only the citizenship of
parties to the arbitration agreement. Moses H. Cone,
460 U.S. 1, 20 (1983). Hobby Lobby has produced an
arbitration agreement signed by Vice President Peter M.
Dobelbower and by Plaintiff Victoria Vila, but not by Simms.
[No. 1-1]. The arbitration agreement purports to cover
disputes between Vila and Hobby Lobby, but does not discuss
disputes Vila may have with other individuals employed by
Hobby Lobby. As a result, when determining diversity
jurisdiction, I should evaluate the citizenship of Hobby
Lobby and Vila. See Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 20.
Hobby Lobby represents that Vila is a citizen of the state of
Missouri and Hobby Lobby is a citizen of the state of
Oklahoma. As a result, I have jurisdiction over Hobby
Lobby's motion to compel under 28 U.S.C. 1332.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Vila may file a
response to Hobby Lobby's motion to compel no later than
March 22, 2019.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Hobby Lobby may file a reply