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Farar v. Coffield

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 25, 2019

ELEANOR M. FARAR, Plaintiff,
EARLIE WESTON COFFIELD, III, et al., Defendants.



         This case involves negligence claims arising from an incident in which Defendant Earlie Weston Coffield, III (“Mr. Coffield”) allegedly drove an automobile and hit and injured Plaintiff Eleanor M. Farar (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Farar”) while she was walking across a street in Washington, D.C. Pending before the Court is Ms. Farar's Consent Motion to Remand Case to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Motion to Remand”). See Pl.'s Consent Mot. Remand Case to Sup. Ct. of D.C. (“Pl.'s Mot. Remand”), ECF No. 27. Ms. Farar contends that the addition of a non-diverse defendant in her amended complaint deprived this Court of jurisdiction, and therefore requests that the Court remand this action to the District of Columbia Superior Court. See Pl.'s Mot. Remand ¶ 4. In addition, Defendant and Cross-Claim Plaintiff Government Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”) has moved for summary judgment and proposes that the Court resolve its summary judgment motion even if the remaining claims are dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See GEICO's Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 35. Having considered the parties' submissions and the attachments thereto, [1] the Court DISMISSES this matter for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, and DENIES AS MOOT Defendant GEICO's Motion for Summary Judgment.


         I. Factual Allegations

         On February 23, 2017, Ms. Farar, a resident of Washington, D.C., was crossing H Street, N.E. at 6th Street, N.E. in Washington, D.C. on foot when an automobile driven by Mr. Coffield collided with Ms. Farar. See Am. Compl. at Count I ¶ 1. Ms. Farar was walking in the pedestrian crosswalk when she was struck, and she characterizes the collision as negligent and careless. See Id. The vehicle that Mr. Coffield was driving was part of an “auto sharing program.” See Id. Defendant GetAround, Inc. (“GetAround”) and the alleged title owner of the vehicle, Defendant Mariano de Jesus Siguenza (“Mr. Siguenza”), allegedly co-owned the vehicle. Id.

         II. Procedural History

         On October 5, 2017, Ms. Farar initiated this action by filing a complaint against Defendants Mr. Coffield, GetAround, and GEICO seeking damages for negligence and personal injury. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.[2] Ms. Farar did not raise any claims under federal law[3]and asserted diversity jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), as a basis for filing in federal court. See Id. at 1 ¶ 1.[4] On March 22, 2018, Ms. Farar sought leave to amend her complaint to add Mr. Siguenza as a defendant, based on information obtained in discovery. See Pl.'s Consent Mot. for Leave to File First Am. Compl., ECF No. 25. The Court granted Ms. Farar leave to amend on April 3, 2018. See 4/3/2018 Min. Order. In the Amended Complaint, Ms. Farar named Mr. Siguenza as a defendant and alleged that he was a resident of Washington, D.C. See Am. Compl. at 2 ¶ 5.

         Shortly after filing the Amended Complaint, Ms. Farar filed a Motion to Remand. See Pl.'s Mot. Remand. Ms. Farar asserted that the addition of Mr. Siguenza as a defendant deprived the Court of diversity jurisdiction because Mr. Siguenza and Ms. Farar were District of Columbia residents. See Id. ¶ 4. Although the Amended Complaint alleges that Mr. Coffield also resides in the District of Columbia, Ms. Farar did not allege that his change in residence divested the Court of diversity jurisdiction. See Am. Compl. at 2 ¶ 3 (alleging that Mr. Coffield testified to being a D.C. resident although he lived in Maryland when the first complaint was filed). See generally Pl.'s Mot. Remand (discussing only Mr. Siguenza's residence in its analysis of diversity jurisdiction). Defendant GEICO filed a response in which it: asserted that it had not consented to remanding the case; argued that because this case originated in federal court, the removal statute that Ms. Farar cited as a basis for remand does not apply; noted that the record lacked evidence to confirm that Mr. Siguenza is a citizen of the District of Columbia; suggested that the Court might have diversity jurisdiction; and requested “additional time to consider its options.” Def. GEICO's Resp. to Mot. Remand ¶¶ 1, 7-14 & n.1, ECF No. 29. The remaining defendants named in the original complaint, GetAround and Mr. Coffield, filed no response, and Mr. Siguenza had not yet been served at that time. Ms. Farar filed a reply to GEICO's response, although she labeled it a “sur-reply, ” seeking a hearing and asking that GEICO “advise the Court and counsel of its position” on the Motion to Remand. See Pl.'s Sur-reply to Def. GEICO's Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. Remand at 1, 5, ECF No. 31.

         By June 20, 2018 Minute Order, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties regarding whether the addition of a new defendant who had not yet consented to proceed before a magistrate judge - Mr. Siguenza - affected the Court's authority to rule on Plaintiff's pending Motion to Remand. Ms. Farar and all three Defendants filed memoranda in response to the Court's Minute Order. See generally Getaround's Mem., ECF No. 43; Pl.'s Mem. of Law, ECF No. 44; Def. Coffield's Mem. of Law, ECF No. 45; Def. GEICO's Suppl. Mem., ECF No. 46. In a subsequent filing, Ms. Farar proposed to serve Mr. Siguenza with the Amended Complaint so that he could state his position regarding proceeding before a Magistrate Judge. See Pl.'s Surreply to GEICO's Resp. to Pl.'s Partial Consent Mot. for Status Hr'g ¶¶ 5-6, ECF No. 49.

         By Minute Order dated October 10, 2018, the Court extended the time in which Ms. Farar could serve Mr. Siguenza. Ms. Farar filed proof of service on October 17, 2018, demonstrating that she had timely served Mr. Siguenza with the Amended Complaint. See Return of Service/Affidavit, ECF No. 53. On November 5, 2018, Mr. Siguenza filed his Answer to the Amended Complaint, see ECF No. 54, and a Notice indicating that he consented to proceeding before the undersigned for all purposes, including trial. See Notice, Consent, and Reference of a Civil Action to a Magistrate Judge, ECF No. 55. The parties have all now consented to proceed before a Magistrate Judge in this action, thereby resolving any prior ambiguity regarding the Court's authority to resolve the pending motions.


         I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, if the Court finds “at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Federal courts may address questions of subject matter jurisdiction even if no party has moved to dismiss the action. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 671 (2009) (“Subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be forfeited or waived and should be considered when fairly in doubt.”); G. Keys PC/Logis NP v. Pope, 630 F.Supp.2d 13, 15 (D.D.C. 2009) (“When it perceives that subject matter jurisdiction is in question, the Court should address the issue sua sponte.”); see also Noel Canning v. NLRB, 705 F.3d 490, 496 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (noting that “federal courts, being courts of limited jurisdiction, must assure themselves of jurisdiction over any controversy they hear”), aff'd but criticized, 134 S.Ct. 2550 (2014).

         When evaluating subject matter jurisdiction, the Court “must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff['s] favor.” G. Keys PC/Logis NP, 630 F.Supp.2d at 16. However, the Court “need not accept factual inferences drawn by plaintiffs if those inferences are not supported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiff['s] legal conclusions.” Masoud v. Suliman,816 F.Supp.2d 77, 79 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting Speelman v. United States,461 F.Supp.2d 71, 73 (D.D.C. 2006)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court also may consider information outside of the complaint and look to “undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by ...

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