United States District Court, District of Columbia
Carolyn E. O'Connor, Plaintiff,
Extra Space Storage Corp., et al. Defendants.
matter is before the Court on its initial review of
plaintiff's pro se complaint and application for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court will
grant the plaintiffs application and dismiss the complaint
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
subject matter jurisdiction of the federal district courts is
limited and is set forth generally at 28 U.S.C. §§
1331 and 1332. Under those statutes, federal jurisdiction is
available only when a "federal question" is
presented or the parties are of diverse citizenship and the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. A party seeking
relief in the district court must at least plead facts that
bring the suit within the court's jurisdiction.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Failure to plead such
facts warrants dismissal of the action. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
jurisdiction to exist under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, there must
be complete diversity between the parties, which is to say
that the plaintiff may not be a citizen of the same state as
any defendant." Bush v. Butler, 521 F.Supp.2d
63, 71 (D.D.C. 2007) (citing Owen Equip. & Erection
Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373-74 (1978)). It is a
"well-established rule" that in order for an action
to proceed in diversity, the citizenship requirement must be
"assessed at the time the suit is filed."
Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. v. K N Energy, Inc., 498 U.S.
426, 428 (1991). To that end, "the citizenship of every
party to the action must be distinctly alleged [in the
complaint] and cannot be established presumptively or by mere
inference," Meng v. Schwartz, 305 F.Supp.2d 49,
55 (D.D.C. 2004), and an "'allegation of residence
alone is insufficient to establish the citizenship necessary
for diversity jurisdiction, '" Novak v. Capital
Mgmt. & Dev. Corp., 452 F.3d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir.
2006) (quoting Naartex Consulting Corp. v. Watt, 722
F.2d 779, 792 n.20 (D.C. Cir. 1983)). To satisfy the
amount-in-controversy requirement, moreover, "the sum
claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is apparently
made in good faith." St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v.
Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938). A court may
reject the sum claimed, if it finds "to a legal
certainty that the claim is really for less than the
jurisdictional amount." Id. at 289.
resides in an apartment in Washington, D.C. She alleges that
similar to her lawsuit against Cube Smart, O'Connor
v. Dep't of Insurance, Securities and Banking, No.
19-cv-3245 (UNA), the lead defendant in this case, Extra
Space Storage, charged her "for non-existent personal
property insurance on her property" that was stored at
defendant's rental unit "from May to November
2019." Amended Compl. at 1, ECF No. 3. Plaintiff alleges
that Extra Space offered no option to purchase or to refuse
the insurance but instead forced her to pay "[t]he small
amount of $11.00 monthly" by "automatically"
including the charge in her monthly billing statement.
Id. Plaintiff "surmises," among other
things, that Extra Space Storage "is scamming consumers
on a nationwide basis... by charging consumers for
non-existence individual insurance coverage."
Id. at 2. In addition to Extra Space Storage and
officers of that company, plaintiff has sued three other
companies and their respective officers or executives based
on their employees' alleged responses to plaintiffs
inquiries about obtaining a copy of her insurance policy
covering the stored property. Plaintiff seeks $20 million for
Negligence; $20 million for violations of the Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO");
$20 million for violations of the Federal Trade Commission
Act; and $20 million each for "Intentional Acts"
and "Bad Faith Dealings." Am. Compl. at 3-4. Her
"basic claim" for "compensatory damages begins
at One Hundred Million Dollars." Id. at 4-5.
Federal Question Jurisdiction
complaint fails to present a federal question. First, the
Federal Trade Commission Act plaintiff has invoked is
"enforced exclusively" by the Federal Trade
Commission, and it "does not provide for a private cause
of action." Samuel v. Wells Fargo & Co.,
311 F.Supp.3d 10, 20 (D.D.C. 2018) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted).
the RICO Act provides that "any person injured in his
business or property by reason of a violation of section
1962" may sue for treble damages in district court. 18
U.S.C. § 1964(c). Plaintiff has not alleged such an
injury. Regardless, § 1962 makes it unlawful for any
person to receive "any income derived, directly or
indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity
...," and "[racketeering activity" encompasses
"any act which is indictable" under a specific list
of federal criminal offenses known as "predicate
offense[s]." 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1)(B); RJR
Nabisco, Inc. v. European Cmty., 136 S.Ct. 2090, 2096-97
(2016). Plaintiffs conclusory RICO allegation, Am. Compl. at
3, satisfies none of the foregoing requirements. See
Edmondson & Gallagher v. Alban Towers Tenants
Ass'n, 48 F.3d 1260, 1264-65 (D.C. Cir. 1995)
(addressing factors). And claims, such as this, that are
"insubstantial" or "otherwise completely
devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy"
deprive the Court of subject matter jurisdiction. Steel
Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 89
complaint also provides no. basis to proceed in diversity.
Plaintiff has pled no facts from which the Court can
ascertain her citizenship and that of each defendant. Even if
she had, the Court finds with "legal certainty"
that plaintiffs claims are "really for less than"
$75, 000 and are not made in good faith. The claims are based
on a total insurance charge of at most $77.00 (allegedly
$11.00 added to plaintiffs monthly storage bill between May
and November 2019), which even plaintiff admits is
"small." Am. Compl. at 1.
foregoing reasons, this case will be dismissed for want of
jurisdiction. A separate order ...