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Hoofman v. Country Club Place LLC

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

April 15, 2019

ERIC HOOFMAN, Plaintiff,
COUNTRY CLUB PLACE LLC, et al. Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on its own motion, based on concerns the Court raised sua sponte regarding whether a defect in the removal procedure affected this Court's subject matter jurisdiction. For the following reasons, the Court finds that the defect does not deprive the Court of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court will also set a briefing schedule on Defendant United States of America's motion to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         I. Background

         This action was originally filed in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, Missouri, by Plaintiff Eric Hoofman. The defendants named in the First Amended Petition are Country Club Place LLC; County Place, LLC; Highway 94 Apartment Management, LLC; the United States of America; and Jose Steers. Plaintiff asserts various counts of negligence and premises liability against Defendants, arising from an incident in which he was struck by an automobile while retrieving mail from his mailbox.

         On December 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Removal, removing the case to this Court and stating that Defendants consented to the removal of the case to federal court. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff noted on the Civil Cover sheet that the basis of jurisdiction was the presence of a United States Government Defendant. At a scheduling conference on March 12, 2019, the Court, sua sponte, raised concerns about whether this action had been properly removed to federal court and whether this Court has jurisdiction over the action. Specifically, the Court expressed concern that the fact that the action had been removed by Plaintiff rather than by Defendant United States might create subject matter jurisdiction concerns. At the scheduling conference, counsel for the parties all indicated agreement that the case should be heard in federal court. Counsel for Defendant United States indicated that if the Court were to remand the action based on the fact that the removal was filed by Plaintiff, Defendant United States of America would file its own notice of removal.

         Counsel for the parties requested seven days to confer and provide the Court with supplemental briefing related to these issues, and the Court gave the parties until Tuesday, March 19 to file any supplemental briefing related to the issues of whether this case was properly removed and whether this Court has jurisdiction over this action. No. briefs were filed.

         II. Discussion

         “‘Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,' possessing ‘only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994)) “[J]urisdiction issues will be raised sua sponte by a federal court when there is an indication that jurisdiction is lacking, even if the parties concede the issue.” Dieser v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 440 F.3d 920, 923 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Thomas v. Basham, 931 F.2d 521, 523 (8th Cir. 1991)). Therefore, the Court must consider sua sponte whether it has jurisdiction over this case, even when the parties agree that jurisdiction is proper.

         Plaintiff removed this case to federal court based on the presence of the United States as a defendant. The statute governing such removals states, in relevant part:

A civil action or criminal prosecution that is commenced in a State court and that is against or directed to any of the following may be removed by them to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place wherein it is pending:
(1) The United States or any agency thereof or any officer (or any person acting under that officer) of the United States or of any agency thereof, in an official or individual capacity, for or relating to any act under color of such office or on account of any right, title or authority claimed under any Act of Congress for the apprehension or punishment of criminals or the collection of the revenue.

28 U.S.C. § 1442(a). The Court further notes that because Plaintiff alleges negligence against the United States and seeks money damages, it appears that this Court has exclusive jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against the United States:

The district courts, together with the United States District Court for the District of the Canal Zone and the District Court of the Virgin Islands, shall have exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages, accruing on or after January 1, 1945, for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United ...

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