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Time Warner Cable Inc. v. Cooper-Dorsey

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

June 20, 2019




         Pending are Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Arbitration, Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint or Stay Proceedings, and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to Join Necessary Party. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to join necessary and indispensable parties (Doc. #21), grants Defendant's motion to dismiss or stay proceedings (Doc. #17), denies Plaintiff's motion to compel arbitration and motion for preliminary injunction (Docs. #3, 5) as moot, and dismisses this matter without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Beginning in May 2016, Defendant Greer Cooper-Dorsey was employed by Plaintiff Time Warner Cable Inc. (now known as Charter Communications, Inc.) in its call center. According to Time Warner, Cooper-Dorsey executed an arbitration agreement in which she agreed to arbitrate all claims arising from or related to her employment. Time Warner terminated Cooper-Dorsey's employment in February 2017.

         In April 2017, Cooper-Dorsey filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (“MCHR”). Doc. #21-1, at 16-17. In her charge, Cooper- Dorsey alleged claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. In September 2018, the MCHR issued a right to sue letter to Cooper-Dorsey. Id. at 19-20.

         In October 2018, Cooper-Dorsey filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri against Time Warner and three Time Warner employees (Daniel Hawkins, Iris Lee, and Lori Alt) alleging violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). Doc. #1-1; Cooper-Dorsey v. Time Warner, No. 1816-CV26162 (Jackson Cty. Cir. Ct.). In December 2018, Time Warner filed a motion to compel arbitration, which Cooper-Dorsey opposed. On January 23, 2019, the state court denied Time Warner's motion. Doc. #4-1; Doc. #17-1. On February 1, 2019, Time Warner appealed the state court's decision. Doc. #17-2. According to the docket for the Missouri Court of Appeals, Time Warner, as appellant, filed its appeal brief on May 3, 2019, and Cooper-Dorsey, as appellee, filed her appeal brief on May 31, 2019. Time Warner v. Cooper-Dorsey, No. WD82516 (Mo. Ct. App). On June 17, 2019, Time Warner filed its reply brief. Oral argument has not been scheduled, and the Missouri Court of Appeals has not issued a decision.

         On February 28, 2019, Time Warner filed the above-captioned matter in this Court seeking “equitable relief arising out of [Cooper-Dorsey]'s refusal to comply with the terms of a pre-dispute agreement the parties entered into in connection with [Cooper-Dorsey]'s employment with [Time Warner].” Doc. #1, ¶ 1. Time Warner asks the Court to (1) compel Cooper-Dorsey to arbitrate all claims arising from her employment with Time Warner, including claims against Time Warner and Time Warner's employees; (2) stay the state court action; and (3) issue an injunction prohibiting Cooper-Dorsey from litigating her claims in the state court action while the parties arbitrate. Doc. #1, ¶¶ 14-31; Doc. #22, at 2. With its Complaint, Time Warner filed a motion to compel arbitration and a motion for preliminary injunction.

         In response to Time Warner's Complaint, Cooper-Dorsey filed two motions to dismiss - one motion seeking dismissal based on the pendency of a parallel state court proceeding, and the other motion seeking dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction for failure to join necessary and indispensable parties. All four motions are now fully briefed and ripe for consideration.


         A. Jurisdiction

         According to the United States Supreme Court, the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) is “something of an anomaly in the field of federal-court jurisdiction” because the FAA does not bestow federal jurisdiction. Hall Street Assocs., L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 581-82 (2008) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 25 n.32 (1983)). Instead, the FAA requires “an independent jurisdictional basis.” Id.; see also Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 59 (2009) (citation omitted). That is, the federal court must “have jurisdiction under title 28” of the United States Code “in a civil action…of the subject matter of a suit arising from the controversy between the parties….” 9 U.S.C. § 4.

         Time Warner asserts this Court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Doc. #1, ¶ 2. In cases such as this one, the Eighth Circuit has held “[d]iversity of citizenship is determined…by the citizenship of the parties named in the proceedings before the district court, plus any indispensable parties who must be joined pursuant to Rule 19.” Northport Health Servs. of Ark., LLC v. Rutherford, 605 F.3d 483, 41 (8th Cir. 2010). The parties agree there is diversity of citizenship between Cooper-Dorsey and Time Warner, and neither party disputes the amount in controversy has been met. However, Cooper-Dorsey argues Time Warner failed to join the three Time Warner employees she named in the state court action when Time Warner filed this action. She contends these individuals, two of whom would destroy diversity, are necessary and indispensable parties. Because they were not joined, Plaintiff moves to dismiss Time Warner's lawsuit.

         The Eighth Circuit has addressed the issue of whether a party seeking to compel arbitration in federal court must include all tortfeasors in the parallel state court action as parties in the federal court action. “In the arbitration context, to our knowledge every circuit to consider the issue has concluded that a party joined in a parallel state court contract or tort action is not an indispensable party under Rule 19 in a federal action to compel arbitration.” Northport Health, 605 F.3d at 491 (citations omitted). The Eighth Circuit agreed with the other circuits' decisions and also pointed out the Supreme Court's “long-standing rule ‘that it is not necessary for all joint tortfeasors to be named…in a single lawsuit.'” Id. (quoting Temple v. Synthes Corp., Ltd., 498 U.S. 5, 7 (1990) (citations omitted)). Pursuant to the Eighth Circuit's holding, the Time Warner employees are not necessary and indispensable parties under Rule 19 in this matter.

         Additionally, the fundamental issue raised by Time Warner in this matter is whether the arbitration agreement between Time Warner and Cooper-Dorsey is valid and enforceable. The three employees were not signatories to the contract. While an arbitration agreement may bind non-signatories to a contract, the joinder of those non-signatories is unnecessary for the Court to consider Time Warner's claims in this matter.

         Finally, Time Warner's request to compel arbitration of all of Cooper-Dorsey's claims arising from her employment with Time Warner. If the Court were to grant Time Warner's request and compel arbitration, Plaintiff would be required to arbitrate all claims arising out of her employment with Time Warner, including her claims against the three Time Warner employees. When the Court can “accord complete relief among the existing parties, ” additional parties are not necessary. Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1)(A). Because an order ...

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