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Matthews v. Mathews

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

April 4, 2019

CRAIG MATTHEWS
v.
SHERITA MATHEWS, ET AL.

          JUDGE JUNEAU

          REPORT RECOMMENDING SUA SPONTE REMAND

          CAROL B. WHITEHURST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court upon referral from the district judge is the Rule 12 Motion to Dismiss filed by the defendants Pediakare De'Franklin, Pediakare De Louisiana, LLC, Sherita Matthews and Charles Matthews (collectively, “defendants”) [Doc. 8]. The motion is opposed by plaintiff Craig Matthews [Doc. 10], and the defendants filed a reply brief [Doc. 19]. For the following reasons, the undersigned believes this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the matter as a whole, and therefore is without jurisdiction to rule on the pending motion to dismiss. Therefore, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the above-captioned matter be REMANDED to the 16th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Mary, Louisiana and that the motion to dismiss be DENIED as MOOT.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The facts relevant to the instant motion are not disputed. The plaintiff became a member in Pediakare De Louisiana, LLC (PDL) sometime in 2012 and owned a 5% interest in the entity. In October 2013, plaintiff also became a member in Pediakare De'Franklin, LLC (PDF), with a 20% interest in PDF. Both business entities were established to provide a pediatric day health center for children. Craig Matthews made no financial investment in either PDL or PDF. Rather, Craig Matthews was to provide services as an administrator to each of the companies in exchange for his interests.

         Apparently, both companies began to have cash flow problems. On May 9, 2017, Craig Matthews filed suit in state court against Sherita and Charles Matthews, seeking various forms of relief under Louisiana state law. Craig Matthews asserts claim against Charles Matthews for conversion and unfair trade practices, alleging that although Charles Matthews had no ownership interest in either entity, Charles effectively controlled both entities and received financial benefits and compensation through payments and reimbursements by the LLCs for his personal benefit. Craig Matthews alleged Sherita Matthews breached her fiduciary duty to both entitles and to the plaintiff by allowing Charles to control the entities and to receive benefits and compensation despite not being a member of either entity. The plaintiff also alleged the Pediakare entities constitute a single business enterprise under Louisiana law and are therefore solidarily liable for the others' debts. Craig Matthews seeks damages and an accounting.

         On or about October 30, 2018, defendants filed a Petition for Reconventional Demand and Third Party Demand against Craig Matthews, Chantell H. Joseph, Familial Healthcare Management, LLC, Daniel Sandoval, Marcus Sandoval, Jimmy Miller, Ronald Matthews, Lloyd Harris, Wilton Red, and Ernest Banks. In the Reconventional Demand, the defendants allege claims against the plaintiff, along with the individuals named above, for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (the “CFAA”) found in 18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(4) and the Federal Stored Communications Act found in 18 U.S.C. §2701, et seq. Defendants/plaintiffs-in-reconvention specifically contend that plaintiff and others intentionally accessed their protected computer systems, took information without authorization, and/or deleted it with the intent to defraud and or damage the defendants, in violation of the CFAA. [Doc. 1-1, ¶¶ 46-58] Defendants/plaintiffs-in-reconvention further allege that plaintiff and others intentionally and willfully accessed their stored electronic communications without authorization and obtained, altered, and/or deleted them in violation of the Federal Stored Communications Act. [Doc. 1-1, ¶¶ 59-63].

         On November 5, 2018, the defendants removed the matter to this court, alleging jurisdiction exists under 28 U.S.C. §1331 “because [p]laintiffs[-in-reconvention] brought claims arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States' . . . for which this Court has subject matter jurisdiction” [Doc. 1]. Defendants further allege this Court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1367 over the remaining state law claims because they are "so related" and intertwined with the federal claims, over which this Court has original jurisdiction, as to be part of the same case or controversy. 28 U.S.C. §1367(a).

         After review of the record, it is apparent to the undersigned that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiciton over the case, as explained below.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         The procedure for removal from state to federal court is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), which requires a removal notice to “be filed within thirty days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or proceeding is based....” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). If an action is not initially removable, but later becomes removable, the third paragraph of §1446(b) directs that, “a notice of removal may be filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant ... of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3).

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. We must presume that a suit lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum.” Credit Brokers, LLC v. Guilbeau, 2014 WL 2011891 *2 (W.D. La. May 16, 2014) (MJ Hill), citing Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F .3d 912, 916 (5th Cir.2001); Dodson v. Spiliada Maritime Corp., 951 F.2d 40, 42 (5th Cir.1992). Thus, as the party invoking this court's jurisdiction, the removing defendants bear the burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction. Moreover, the removal statute is strictly construed, and doubts concerning removal are to be construed against removal and in favor of remand to state court. Guilbeau, 2014 WL 2011891 at *2, citing Louisiana v. Aspect Energy, LLC, 2011 WL 3759754, *2 (W.D.La.2011), aff'd, 2011 WL 5238666 (W.D.La.2011), citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100 (1941);Willy v. Coastal Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir.1988), citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92 (1921); Mumfrey v. Anco Insulations, Inc., 2011 WL 1527180, *4 (E.D.La.2011), citing Manfunco v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir.2002).

         It is well-settled law that a plaintiff is the master of his complaint. One River Place Condominium Ass'n, Inc. v. Smith, 2001 WL 664574 *2 (E.D. La. 2001) (J. Fallon), citing Carpenter v. Wichita Falls Indep. Sch. Dist., 44 F.3d 362, 366 (5th Cir.1995) (citing Healy v. Sea Gull Specialty Co., 237 U.S. 479, 480 (1915) (“the plaintiff is absolute master of what jurisdiction he will appeal to”); The Fair v. Kohler Die & Specialty Co., 228 U.S. 22, 23 (1913) (“the party who brings a suit is master to decide what law he will rely upon”); Willy v. Coastal Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1167 (5th Cir.1988)). Faced with a choice between federal and state law claims, a plaintiff may elect to proceed in state court on the exclusive basis of state law and defeat the defendants' opportunity to remove. One River Place Condominium Ass'n, Inc., 2001 WL 664574, at *2, citing Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 809 (1986) (“Jurisdiction may not be sustained on a theory that the plaintiff has not advanced.”).

         Generally, a suit arises under federal law if there appears on the face of the complaint some substantial, disputed question of federal law. One River Place Condo. Ass'n, Inc., 2001 WL 664574, at *2, citing Carpenter, 44 F.3d at 365. A determination that a cause of action presents a federal question depends upon the allegations of the plaintiff's well-pleaded complaint. Accordingly, to support removal, the defendants must show that a federal right is “an element, and an essential one, of the plaintiff's cause of action.” One River Place Condo. Ass'n, Inc., 2001 WL 664574, at *2, quoting Gully v. First Nat'l Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 111 (1936). In Holmes Grp., Inc. V. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., Inc.,535 U.S. 826, 831, 122 S.Ct. 1889, 1894, 153 L.Ed.2d 13 (2002) the Supreme Court stated that “a counterclaim - which appears as part of the defendant's answer, not as part of the plaintiff's complaint - cannot serve as ...


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