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Crawford v. Pud # 1 of Cowlitz County

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

January 18, 2018

KELLY CRAWFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
PUD #1 of COWLITZ COUNTY, a municipal corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER REMANDING CASE

          ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the parties' response to the Court's order to show cause, if any they have, why this case should not be remanded to Cowlitz County, Washington Superior Court. Dkts. 29 and 30. The Court has reviewed the parties' responses (Dkts. 29 and 30) and the remaining file.

         Originally filed in Cowlitz County, Washington Superior Court, Plaintiff brings this case asserting that Defendant wrongfully terminated his employment only after he complained of other employees' racist and sexist comments and reported safety issues. Dkt. 1-2. As explained more fully below, this case should be remanded because this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction: the parties are not diverse and there is no federal question at issue. Further, even if the Court at one time had original jurisdiction, this Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed this case asserting claims for “retaliation, ” wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, unpaid wages in violation of Washington law, and disability discrimination contrary to Washington's Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”) RCW 49.60, et. seq. Dkt. 1-2, at 5-6. Under the section entitled “Damages, ” the Complaint claims that “[p]ursuant to RCW 49.52 et seq. and/or 29 U.S.C. et seq., Plaintiff is entitled to an award of double damages.” Id., at 7. It further asserts that “[p]ursuant to RCW 49.52 et seq., RCW 49.48 et seq., RCW 49.46 et seq., and/or 29 U.S.C. et seq., Plaintiff is entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees for having to bring this action to enforce his statutory rights.” Id. Under the section “Request for Relief, ” Plaintiff seeks “double damages for wages pursuant to RCW 49.52 et seq. and/or 29 U.S.C. et seq.” and an award of “statutory costs and attorney's fees pursuant to RCW 49.52 et seq., RCW 49.48 et seq., RCW 49.46 et seq., and/or 29 U.S.C. et seq.Id.

         Defendants removed this case on November 10, 2016, asserting that this Court has federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, due to Plaintiff's Complaint's references to “29 U.S.C. et seq.” in the “Damages” and “Requested Relief” sections. Dkt. 1, at 2.

         On December 19, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for summary dismissal of all claims and noted the motion for consideration on January 12, 2018. Dkt. 20. Plaintiff responded. Dkt. 24.

         On January 11, 2018, the undersigned ordered the Plaintiff to clarify whether he was raising any federal claims. Dkt. 26. The order stated:

On review of the Complaint, the motion for summary judgment (including attachments), and Plaintiff's response (and attachments) there is now a question as to whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction because the parties are not diverse and there does not appear to be a federal question at issue. Neither Plaintiff's Complaint nor his response to the motion for summary judgment references a federal claim. Plaintiff's Complaint's reference to an entire title of the United States Code is not sufficient. While both parties' briefs make reference to some federal cases (the Court is aware that the tests for discrimination claims under Title VII and WLAD are often, but not always, the same or similar), Plaintiff's response does not cite a federal statute and its arguments in opposition to the motion for summary judgment are based on solely on violation of state law - the WLAD. Dkt. 24. Before the Court rules on the merits of the motion for summary judgment, the Plaintiff should be ordered to clarify whether he is making a federal claim and specifically identify that claim. Plaintiff should be aware that he is not entitled to damages or relief under the federal law if he does not identify a federal claim.

Dkt. 26. The order provides further that, “if Plaintiff indicates that he is not bringing a federal claim, on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, both parties should be ordered to show cause, if any they have, why this case should not be remanded to Cowlitz County, Washington Superior Court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” Id.

         On January 16, 2018, the Plaintiff responded and stated that he “is not making any federal claims and the reference to the federal statute does not provide a remedy available under the claims and therefore should not be the sole basis for removal.” Dkt. 29. Plaintiff states further that he has “no objection to remand to the original court of filing and believes it is appropriate.” Id.

         On January 17, 2018, Defendant filed a response to the order to show cause, and argued that Court had original jurisdiction because the Plaintiff asserted a federal wage claim and conducted discovery related to that claim. Dkt. 30. It argues that the Court has, and should retain, supplemental jurisdiction. Id.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Jurisdiction is a threshold issue that must be raised sua sponte. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998). A federal court has original jurisdiction over cases involving federal questions, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, or where the parties are diverse citizens and the amount in controversy is over $75, 000, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A federal court may also exercise supplemental ...


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