United States District Court, District of Columbia
L. FRIEDRICH JUDGE
the Court are the parties’ cross-motions for summary
judgment, see Griffith’s Mot., Dkt. 38;
EduCap’s Cross-Mot., Dkt. 41, and their supplemental
briefing on the basis for this Court’s jurisdiction,
see EduCap’s Suppl. Br., Dkt. 47;
Griffith’s Suppl. Br., Dkt. 48. For the reasons that
follow, the Court will dismiss the case without prejudice for
lack of jurisdiction and deny the cross-motions for summary
judgment as moot.
to plaintiff Natasha Griffith, HSBC Bank extended a student
loan to Robert Blocker on February 13, 2007, and Griffith
co-signed the loan so that Blocker could attend Bowie State
University. Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 25–26,
Dkt. 23. When Blocker eventually defaulted, defendant EduCap,
Inc., a student loan servicer, filed a debt collection action
against Griffith in D.C. Superior Court. Id.
¶¶ 28–29, 31. The complaint in that action
identified the plaintiff as “EDUCAP Inc. on behalf of
HSBC Bank USA, National Association.” Id.
¶ 29; see also Griffith’s Mot. Attach. 3
(Verified Compl.) at 1, Dkt. 38-3.
26, 2015, the D.C. Superior Court granted EduCap’s
motion for summary judgment and entered judgment against
Griffith in the amount of $24, 855.80, plus interest and
certain attorney fees. May 26, 2015 Order & J. at
9–10, Dkt. 41-7. In the course of that ruling, the
Superior Court rejected one of Griffith’s several
arguments: that “Edu[C]ap [was] not the real party in
interest and only HSBC ha[d] the right to file suit against
her.” Id. at 4.
February 2016, however, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed
the grant of summary judgment on EduCap’s monetary
claims because EduCap was not the real party in interest, and
only the real party in interest-here, HSBC-may sue to enforce
a substantive right. Griffith’s Mot. Attach. 3 (Feb.
24, 2016 Mem. Op. & J.) at 96–97. It then remanded
“for the trial court to exercise the responsibility
entrusted to it by [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 17(a),
namely to allow ‘a reasonable time for ratification of
commencement of the action by, or joinder or substitution of,
the real party in interest, ’ HSBC.” Id.
at 97 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(a)(3)).
remand, the trial court accepted the invitation to substitute
HSBC, reasoning that there was no evidence of bad faith or
“willful waiver of a fair opportunity to join”
HSBC and that Griffith had “not made compelling
arguments as to whether HSBC’s substitution would
prejudice her case.” July 11, 2016 Order at 5, Dkt.
41-8. It explained that “the underlying facts, law, and
loan instruments w[ould] remain the same, whether Edu[C]ap or
HSBC prosecute[d] the claim.” Id. But it
refused to grant summary judgment in favor of HSBC, on the
ground that Griffith would be prejudiced if she were denied
an opportunity to obtain discovery against the bank.
Id. at 5–6. HSBC then continued to prosecute
its claims for nine months before it dismissed the action
with Griffith’s consent. See Griffith’s
Mot. Attach. 3 (Apr. 20, 2017 Order) at 100.
Griffith sued EduCap, Weinstock, Friedman & Friedman, and
HSBC in this Court for violations of the federal Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, violations of the D.C. Debt
Collection Law (DCDCL), abuse of process, and malicious
prosecution. Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 50–87. Among
other things, she alleged that “EduCap ha[d] been
filing thousands of debt collection lawsuits across the
country falsely claiming to be the real party in interest by
suing ‘on behalf of HSBC Bank USA, N.A., ’”
id. ¶ 23, and that it “willfully
engag[ed] in unfair or unconscionable conduct to collect
[Griffith’s] debt in filing suit falsely claiming
Griffith ‘entered into a written promissory note with
EduCap.’” id. ¶ 70. In support of
this Court’s jurisdiction, she alleged that the federal
claim provided federal question jurisdiction and that the
Court also had diversity jurisdiction because there was
complete diversity of citizenship and the amount in
controversy exceeded $75, 000. Id. ¶¶
parties have submitted several rounds of briefing since
Griffith filed her third amended complaint. In response to a
motion to dismiss, this Court dismissed all but the DCDCL
claim against EduCap. See Sept. 10, 2018 Order, Dkt.
36. Within a week, Griffith moved for summary judgment
without seeking discovery. See Griffith’s
Mot.; see also Joint Case Mgmt. Report at 2, Dkt. 42
(“The parties agree that discovery should not commence
until the Court issues its ruling on the parties’
cross-motions for summary judgment.”). EduCap then
timely filed an opposition and cross-motion for summary
judgment. See EduCap’s Cross-Mot. And after
reviewing the parties’ submissions, the Court sua
sponte ordered supplemental briefing “addressing
whether the Court has jurisdiction over the sole remaining
claim in this action” and, to the extent the parties
maintain that the Court has diversity jurisdiction,
explaining “with specificity how the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Sept. 6, 2019 Minute
Order. The parties have since provided that supplemental
briefing. See EduCap’s Suppl. Br.;
Griffith’s Suppl. Br.
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and it is
“presumed that a cause lies outside this limited
jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The plaintiff
therefore bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction.
Id.; see also Spokeo v. Robins, 136 S.Ct.
1540, 1547 (2016). Moreover, “because it involves a
court’s power to hear a case, ” subject matter
jurisdiction “can never be forfeited or waived.”
Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006)
(internal quotation marks omitted). To the contrary, courts
have “an independent obligation to determine whether
subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a
challenge from any party.” Id.; see also
Gonzalez v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 141 (2012)
(“When a requirement goes to subject-matter
jurisdiction, courts are obligated to consider sua sponte
issues that the parties have disclaimed or have not
presented.” (italics omitted)). And if a court
“determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action” under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3).
parties maintain that the Court may exercise jurisdiction
over this case, but they disagree on the basis of that
jurisdiction. Griffith argues that the Court has diversity
jurisdiction. See Griffith’s Suppl. Br. at
2–5. EduCap argues that the amount in controversy does
not permit diversity jurisdiction, but it contends that the
Court should nevertheless exercise supplemental jurisdiction
based on the now-dismissed federal claim. See
EduCap’s Suppl. Br. at 2–3. The Court concludes
that it does not have diversity jurisdiction, and it declines
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.