United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge.
Darrel Conell Nevels (“Mr. Nevels”), who is
proceeding pro se, initiated this action on January
17, 2017, against Defendant Piggly Wiggly. (Doc. 1). On March
8, 2017, Piggly Wiggly filed a Motion To Dismiss for Lack of
Jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1). (Doc. 9). Perceiving jurisdictional problems with
Mr. Nevels's lawsuit, on March 31, 2017, the Court
entered an Order directing Mr. Nevels to replead his
complaint in a method that addressed the Court's
jurisdictional and factual plausibility
concerns.The Court's Order forewarned Mr. Nevels
that, if he failed to replead as ordered, this case would be
dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter
April 14, 2017, Mr. Nevels filed an Amended Complaint,
reasserting claims against Piggly Wiggly as well as against
“Tommy, Carl, Dean, Cindy, ” and John Doe(s).
(Doc. 12). On April 17, 2017, Piggly Wiggly filed a Renewed
Motion To Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). (Doc. 13, the
“Motion”). The deadline for Plaintiff to respond
to the Motion has now passed, and Piggly Wiggly's Motion
is now under submission. As explained below, the amended
complaint fails to establish this Court's jurisdiction,
so this action is due to be dismissed without prejudice.
federal courts are tribunals of limited jurisdiction,
“a federal court has an independent obligation to
review its authority to hear a case before it proceeds to the
merits.” Mirage Resorts, Inc. v. Quiet Nacelle
Corp., 206 F.3d 1398, 1400-01 (11th Cir. 2000).
Nevels makes no claim for relief in his amended complaint
that the Court can readily decipher as appropriately and
plausibly arising under federal law. Merely mentioning a
constitutional provision or a federal rule, without providing
factual detail that is comprehensible, does not transform his
lawsuit into one that plausibly states a federal claim,
especially when Mr. Nevels's complaint and amended
complaint, at best, implicate claims that arise only under
state law. Because Mr. Nevels's complaint lacks any
connection to federal substantive law, he cannot rely upon
§ 1331 (i.e., the federal question statute) as
a basis for subject matter jurisdiction.
subject matter jurisdiction, to the extent that it does exist
in this dispute, must be based upon 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1) (i.e., the diversity statute). Section
1332(a)(1) bestows this Court with the authority to hear
disputes arising under state law when complete diversity of
citizenship exists between the adverse parties and the
lawsuit meets the amount in controversy threshold.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) (“The district
courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions
where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of
$75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is
between--(1) citizens of different States[.]”).
evaluating the existence of diversity jurisdiction, a
party's state of citizenship, rather than residency, is
the key jurisdictional fact. See Taylor v. Appleton,
30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994) (“Citizenship, not
residence, is the key fact that must be alleged in the
complaint to establish diversity for a natural
person.”); Travaglio v. Am. Exp. Co., 735 F.3d
1266, 1269 (11th Cir. 2013) (“Residence alone is not
enough.” (citing Denny v. Pironi, 141 U.S.
121, 123, 11 S.Ct. 966, 35 L.Ed. 657 (1891))).
amended complaint, Mr. Nevels does not specify his state of
citizenship, merely stating that he is an “individual
private resident of Jefferson [C]ounty.” (Doc. 12 at
1). He also does not specify the full names - much less the
states of citizenship - of the newly added Defendants, who
are only referenced in the case caption as “Tommy,
Carl, Dean, Cindy.” Id.
Mr. Nevels has added Fictitious Defendants A, B, & C as
parties in the body of his amended complaint and has added
“John Doe” in the case caption. Generally
speaking, fictitious-party pleading is not permitted in
federal court. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734,
738 (11th Cir. 2010). The Eleventh Circuit has created a
limited exception that is triggered only when the
plaintiff's description of the fictitious parties is
“so specific as to be ‘at the very worst,
surplusage.'” Id. (citing Dean v.
Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1215-16 (11th Cir. 1992)). Mr.
Nevels has failed to provide any description of John
Doe or fictitious defendants A, B, and C, and he has failed
to list their states of citizenship.
Nevels's complaint contains additional jurisdictional
deficiencies with respect to his treatment of Piggly Wiggly,
as he minimally and inadequately alleges Piggly Wiggly and
the “property owner” are “residents of the
State of Alabama.” (Doc. 12 at 1). First, if Mr. Nevels
is a citizen of the state of Alabama, as he has implied, and
he concedes that at least one defendant is a citizen of the
state of Alabama, then the lack of diversity would prevent
him from relying on § 1332(a)(1), as he and Piggly
Wiggly would both be citizens of the same state.
Mr. Nevels does not clarify whether Piggly Wiggly is
organized as a business entity under federal or state law. If
Piggly Wiggly is “a corporation chartered pursuant to
federal law, ” then “[i]t would not be a citizen
of any state for diversity purposes and diversity
jurisdiction would not exist unless the corporation's
activities were sufficiently ‘localized' in one
state.” Loyola Fed. Sav. Bank v. Fickling, 58
F.3d 603, 606 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing Westcap Government
Securities, Inc. v. Homestead Air Force Base Federal Credit
Union, 697 F.2d 911, 911-12 n.1 (11th Cir.
the other hand, Piggly Wiggly is organized under state law,
then “[t]he precise question posed under the terms of
the diversity statute is whether such an entity may be
considered a ‘citizen' of the State under whose
laws it was created.” Carden v. Arkoma
Associates, 494 U.S. 185, 187, 110 S.Ct. 1015, 1017, 108
L.Ed.2d 157 (1990). Further, for a non-corporate entity
organized under state law, diversity jurisdiction typically
“depends on the citizenship of ‘all the members,
' Chapman, 129 U.S., at 682, 9 S.Ct., at 427,
‘the several persons composing such association, '
Great Southern, 177 U.S., at 456, 20 S.Ct., at 693,
‘each of its members, ' Bouligny, 382
U.S., at 146, 86 S.Ct., at 273.” Carden, 494
U.S. at 195-96, 110 S.Ct. at 1021; see also Id. at
195, 110 S.Ct. at ...