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Young v. Axis Welding & Machine Works, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

May 3, 2019

JACOB K. YOUNG, Plaintiff,



         Defendant Axis Welding & Machine Works, Inc. (“Axis” or “Defendant”), has filed a motion for leave to amend its response to Plaintiff's Complaint in order to add a counterclaim alleging tortious conversion of property (Doc. 45, filed 4/1/19). Axis argues that the motion should be granted because the claim is ancillary to the primary action, in which Plaintiff Jacob K. Young (“Young” or “Plaintiff”) asserts claims against Axis for unpaid wages, overtime, and commissions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. Id. at 1. Axis asserts that the counterclaim relates to personal property owned by Axis that Young possessed while an employee of Axis and has refused to return.

         Axis attaches to the motion an amended response adding the counterclaim pursuant to this Court's supplemenetal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Doc. 45-1. In the amended response Axis alleges that Young had offered to store about $1, 400 worth of scrap bronze metal owned by Axis at his personal residence until Axis needed it, but that Young has refused to return the material since his termination by Axis despite repeated requests that he do so. Id. at 5-6.

         Young objects to the motion to amend, arguing that the alleged conversion of property is not sufficiently connected to the events underlying his complaint to warrant exercise of this Court's supplemental jurisdiction. Doc. 47. Specifically, he argues that the proposed counterclaim stems from a different set of operative facts because any conversion of property occurred after Axis terminated his employment and demanded the material be returned. Id. at 1-2. He asserts that the alleged conversion has no bearing on whether Young was properly paid and would merely delay and interfere with the proceedings. Id. at 2 (citing Pioch v. Ibex Eng'g Servs., 825 F.2d 1264 (11th Cir. 2016)).


         As an initial matter, the federal claims brought by Young in his original complaint under the FLSA clearly invoke this Court's federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (conferring original jurisdiction for “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States”). Axis seeks to bring a counterclaim for state-law conversion of scrap metal worth, according to Axis, about $1, 400. Thus, the counterclaim does not fall within this Court's jurisdiction over federal claims under § 1331, nor within the Court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, since the amount in controversy falls well below $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (conferring jurisdiction over “all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000”). Accordingly, Axis invokes this Court's supplemental jurisdiction in asserting its counterclaim.[1]

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, the Court has supplemental jurisdiction over all claims “so related to claims in the action within [the Court's] original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy….” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). However, the Court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim contemplated by subsection (a) where:

(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.

Id. § 1367(c).

         As the Eleventh Circuit has explained, § 1367(a) sets out the “permissible boundaries for the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction; that is, it delineates the power of the federal courts to hear supplemental claims and claims against supplemental parties.” Palmer v. Hosp. Auth. of Randolph Cty., 22 F.3d 1559, 1566 (11th Cir. 1994). Section 1367(c), on the other hand, delineates avenues by which the federal court may exercise its discretion not to hear a supplemental claim, despite its power to do so. Id.

         Thus, the Court must determine, first, whether it has the power to hear the counterclaim as set out in § 1367(a). To determine whether Axis' state law claim is “so related” to the federal claims asserted in this case that it forms part of the same case or controversy, the Court examines “whether the claims arise from the same facts, or involve similar occurrences, witnesses or evidence.” Hudson v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.,90 F.3d 451, 455 (11th Cir.1996). In other words, the relevant question is whether the state law counterclaim ...

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