United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
T'Nell Thomas and Clarence Joseph initiated this personal
injury action on January 5, 2017, against Defendants Douglas
Reed Aigen (“Mr. Aigen”) and Hi Mountain
Trucking, Inc. (“Hi Mountain”). (Doc. 1). Pending
before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave To Amend
Complaint (doc. 48) (the “Leave Motion”) filed on
December 1, 2017, pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of
their Leave Motion, Plaintiffs seek to add 3 new defendants
to this litigation: Hi American Transportation, Inc.
(“Hi American”), Dublin Logistics, Inc.
(“Dublin”), and Qualitas Insurance Company
(“Qualitas”). (Doc. 48 at 1 ¶ 3). Plaintiffs
also seek to assert a declaratory judgment count relating to
insurance coverage. (Doc. 48 at 2 ¶ 5). Mr. Aigen and Hi
Mountain do not oppose Plaintiffs' Leave Motion. (Doc. 48
at 1 ¶ 1).
to the Leave Motion is Plaintiffs' proposed second
amended complaint. (Doc. 48-1). Count One is a negligence
claim asserted against Mr. Aigen, Hi Mountain, Hi American,
and Dublin. (Doc. 48-1 at 4-5 ¶¶ 20-24). Count Two
is a wantonness claim asserted against this same set of
parties. (Id. at 5-7 ¶¶ 25-29). Count
Three is a negligent and/or wanton hiring, training, and
entrustment claim asserted against Hi Mountain, Hi American,
and Dublin. (Id. at 7-8 ¶¶ 30-33).
Finally, Count Four is a claim filed against Mr. Aigen, Hi
Mountain, and Qualitas pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment
Act (the “Act”), 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a),
regarding insurance coverage for punitive damages. (Doc. 48-1
at 8-10 ¶¶ 34-39).
those reasons explained below, the Leave Motion is
DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to Plaintiffs'
right to refile their motion, propose a new second amended
complaint, and otherwise address the Court's
jurisdictional/discretionary concerns as set out below.
General Principles Governing Subject Matter
state courts, federal tribunals are bodies of limited
jurisdiction, meaning that the grounds for the Court's
jurisdiction over the claims asserted by the plaintiff must
be present at the time the complaint is filed and must be
obvious on the face of the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The
law is clear that Plaintiffs, the parties seeking to invoke
federal jurisdiction in this case, have the burden to
demonstrate that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction
over each claim. See McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance
Corp. of Ind., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S.Ct. 780, 785, 80
L.Ed. 1135 (1936) (“They are conditions which must be
met by the party who seeks the exercise of jurisdiction in
his favor …. [and a]s he is seeking relief subject to
this supervision, it follows that he must carry throughout
the litigation the burden of showing that he is properly in
“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).
Consequently, the Court cannot ignore jurisdictional concerns
even if the parties have none.
the parties can neither manufacture the existence nor waive a
want of subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Am. Fire
& Cas. Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 17-18, 71 S.Ct. 534,
542, 95 L.Ed. 702 (1951) (“The jurisdiction of the
federal courts is carefully guarded against expansion by
judicial interpretation or by prior action or consent of the
parties.”); Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 398,
95 S.Ct. 553, 556-57, 42 L.Ed.2d 532 (1975) (“While the
parties may be permitted to waive nonjurisdictional defects,
they may not by stipulation invoke the judicial power of the
United States in litigation which does not present an actual
‘case or controversy, ' and . . . we feel obliged
to address the question of mootness [or ripeness] before
reaching the merits of appellant's claim.”)
(citation omitted); Jackson v. Seaboard Coast Line R.R.
Co., 678 F.2d 992, 1000 (11th Cir. 1982) (“The
jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter of a claim
involves the court's competency to consider a given type
of case[, ] and cannot be waived or otherwise conferred upon
the court by the parties.”) (footnote omitted).
Eleventh Circuit has explained that the doctrine of
ripeness-one subset of Article III's framework for
confirming the presence of a constitutionally-sound case or
controversy-involves both constitutional and
When determining if a claim is ripe for judicial review, we
consider both constitutional and prudential concerns. In some
circumstances, although a claim may satisfy constitutional
requirements, prudential concerns “counsel judicial
restraint.” See Digital, 121 F.3d at 589
(quoting Action Alliance of Senior Citizens v.
Heckler, 789 F.2d 931, 940 n.12 (D.C. Cir. 1986)). Our
inquiry focuses on whether the claim presented is “of
sufficient concreteness to evidence a ripeness for
review.” Id. Strict application of the
ripeness doctrine prevents federal courts from rendering
impermissible advisory opinions and wasting resources through
review of potential or abstract disputes. See id.
Our ripeness inquiry requires a two part “determination
of (1) the fitness of the issues for judicial decision and
(2) the hardship to the parties of withholding court
consideration.” Id. (citing Abbott Lab. v.
Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148-49, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 1515-16,
18 L.Ed.2d 681 (1967)[, abrogated on other grounds by
Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 105, 97 S.Ct. 980,
984, 51 L.Ed.2d 192 (1977)]; Cheffer v. Reno, 55
F.3d 1517, 1524 (11th Cir. 1995)). . . .
We have also recognized that the ripeness doctrine . . .
protects courts from abusing their role within the government
and engaging in ...