United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brought this action to enforce a class-action judgment
entered by this court in an earlier action, Weekes-Walker
v. Macon County Greyhound Park, Inc., 3:10-CV-895-WKW,
which was brought under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining
Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2109, also
known as the WARN Act. But Plaintiffs did not bring the
present action against the defendant in that earlier action,
Macon County Greyhound Park, Inc. (MCGP). Instead, they
brought it against Defendants KC Economic Development LLC
(KCED) and Milton McGregor in an effort to enforce the WARN
Act judgment against them as successors in interest to MCGP.
November 30, 2017, the Magistrate Judge filed a
Recommendation (Doc. # 25) that Defendants' motion to
dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant Rule
12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. # 11)
and Mr. McGregor's motion to dismiss for failure to state
a claim against him upon which relief can be granted pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6) (Doc. # 14) be denied. In doing so, the
Magistrate Judge also discharged an earlier order (Doc. # 7)
that Plaintiffs show cause why this action should not be
dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Defendants
timely filed objections (Doc. # 26), to which Plaintiffs
responded (Doc. # 27).
Plaintiffs have not shown that this court has subject-matter
jurisdiction, Defendants' objections are due to be
sustained, the Recommendation is due to be rejected,
Defendants' Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is due to be
granted, Mr. McGregor's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
is due to be denied as moot, and this case is due to be
complaint (Doc. # 1) asserts that this court has
subject-matter jurisdiction in this action - which, again,
seeks to enforce a prior federal-court judgment in a labor
law case - under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 based on the federal
common law doctrine of successor liability in the area of
federal employment law recognized by the Eleventh Circuit in
Hatfield v. A Nursetemps, Inc. 651 F. App'x 901
(11th Cir. 2016). The Hatfield court held that
“‘successor liability is appropriate in suits to
enforce federal labor or employment laws' to prohibit
employers who violated those laws from avoiding liability by
selling, or otherwise disposing of, their assets and
dissolving, and the acquirer likewise does not assume
liability in its purchase.” Id. at 906
(quoting Teed v. Thomas & Betts Power Sols.,
L.L.C., 711 F.3d 763, 766 (7th Cir. 2013)).
Magistrate Judge ordered Plaintiffs to show cause “why
this matter should not be dismissed for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction” in light of Peacock v.
Thomas, 516 U. S. 349 (1996). (Doc. # 7.) In
Peacock, the U. S. Supreme Court held that
federal courts do not “possess ancillary jurisdiction
over new actions in which a federal judgment creditor seeks
to impose liability for a money judgment on a person not
otherwise liable for the judgment.” 516 U. S. at
351. Plaintiffs responded by citing Hatfield again,
as well as Teed v. Thomas & Betts Power Sols.,
L.L.C., 711 F.3d 763, in which the Seventh Circuit
reached a similar conclusion to the one reached by the
Eleventh Circuit in Hatfield.
followed the Magistrate Judge's lead and jointly filed a
motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (Doc. # 11.) Defendants' motion primarily
relies on Peacock and Ellis v. All Steel
Construction Inc., 389 F.3d 1031 (10th Cir. 2004), in
which the Tenth Circuit applied Peacock. Mr.
McGregor also filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state
a claim against him upon which relief can be granted pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. # 14.)
filed responses to the motions. (Docs. # 18, 19.) Defendants
jointly filed a reply to Plaintiffs' response to the Rule
12(b)(1) motion (Doc. # 20), and Mr. McGregor filed a reply
to Plaintiffs' response to the Rule 12(b)(6) motion (Doc.
November 30, 2017, the Magistrate Judge discharged the
show-cause order and filed a Recommendation (Doc. # 15) that
the Rule 12(b)(1) and the Rule 12(b)(6) motion each be
denied. Defendants timely objected to the Recommendation
(Doc. # 26), and Plaintiffs responded to Defendants'
objections (Doc. # 27).
Defendants note in their objections (Doc. # 26, at 4-5),
Plaintiffs appear to have overlooked the procedural posture
of the Hatfield litigation at the time the Eleventh
Circuit issued its unpublished opinion. The Hatfield
plaintiffs obtained a judgment against the Hatfield
defendant, just as Plaintiffs obtained a judgment against
MCGP. But unlike Plaintiffs, the Hatfield plaintiffs
did not bring a new action to enforce that judgment against
the Hatfield defendant's successors in interest.
Instead, they moved - in the original action - to implead the
successors in interest pursuant Rule 69 of the Federal Rules
of Procedure, a motion the district court granted.
Hatfield, 651 F. App'x at 903.
while Hatfield supports Plaintiffs' assertion
that Defendants may be held liable for the judgment against
MCGP, Hatfield offers no support for Plaintiffs'
assertion that this court has subject-matter jurisdiction
over a separate action that seeks to enforce a judgment from
another action against Defendants. Several of the other cases
Plaintiffs cite in addition to Hatfield are
similarly distinguishable in that there was an independent
basis for federal subject-matter jurisdiction. See Golden
State Bottling Co. v. NLRB, 414 U.S. 168, 170-173
(1973); Teed, 711 F.3d at 764; Bd. of Trs.,
Sheet Metal Workers' Nat'l Pension Fund v. Elite
Erectors, Inc., 212 F.3d 1031, 1033 (7th Cir. 2000);
Curevo v. Airport Servs., Inc., 984 F.Supp.2d 1333,
1335-36 (S.D. Fla. 2013); Bagwell v. Peachtree Doors
& Windows, Inc., No. 2:08-CV-191-RWS-SSC, 2011 WL
1497831, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Feb. 8, 2011).
Plaintiffs have also cited a few cases that allowed a
freestanding action for a claim against a successor in
interest. But the courts in those cases did not directly
address subject-matter jurisdiction, much less explain why
Peacock did not apply. See Einhorn v. M.L.
Ruberton Constr. Co., 632 F.3d 89 (3d Cir. 2011);
Chi. Truck Drivers, Helpers & Warehouse Workers Union
(Indep.) Pension Fund v. Tasemkin, Inc., 59 F.3d 48 (7th
Cir. 1995). Those cases thus merely imply that a federal
court has subject-matter jurisdiction in the situation
presented in ...