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LUA v. U.S.

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 19, 2005.

FRANCISCO LUA, a Minor, by and Through His Mother and Natural Guardian, Claudia Camarillo, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: DANA SABRAW, District Judge


Plaintiff Francisco Lua filed this medical malpractice claim against the Defendants United States and Scripps Mercy Hospital. Lua asserted federal question jurisdiction based upon his claim against the United States of America, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b) (federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over tort claims against government employees); 42 U.S.C. § 233(a) (FTCA is exclusive remedy for malpractice claims against a federally supported health center). Lua's claim against Scripps was included based upon supplemental jurisdiction. Complaint ¶ 23. The Court recently dismissed the United States from the action on the ground that Lua did not comply with the administrative claims process and filed his lawsuit more than two years after the alleged injuries accrued. The dismissal was based upon the government's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).

The Court then requested briefing concerning jurisdiction over the state law claim against Scripps. Lua requests the Court dismiss the remaining defendant without prejudice, so that he may re-file the claim in state court. Scripps asks the Court to retain supplemental jurisdiction so that it can file a summary judgment motion. In the alternative, Scripps seeks a dismissal conditioned upon repayment of litigation costs. Scripps notes that Lua could have named Scripps in the action filed in state court against the physician.

  A federal court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims that are related to the federal claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). If a district court dismisses the federal claim that gave rise to federal court jurisdiction, the court has discretion whether to retain the state law claims. § 1367(c); Acri v. Varian Assoc., Inc., 114 F.3d 999, 1000 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). The court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim if the court has "dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction." § 1367(c)(3). "Certainly, if the federal claims are dismissed before trial, . . . the state claims should be dismissed as well." United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 838 U.S. 715, 726 (emphasis added). While Gibbs does not state a per se rule in most cases, Acri, 114 F.3d at 1000, there is an exception because "supplemental jurisdiction cannot exist without original jurisdiction." Herman Family Revocable Trust v. Teddy Bear, 254 F.3d 802, 805 (9th Cir. 2001). "The statute's plain language makes clear that supplemental jurisdiction may only be invoked when the district court has the hook of original jurisdiction on which to hang it." Id. When a district court has dismissed the federal claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the district court has "no power under either § 1367 or Article III of the Constitution to adjudicate any claims in the lawsuit." Id.

  Scripps argues that although the government captioned its motion to dismiss and the Court based its Order on Rule 12(b)(1), that the true nature of the motion was not jurisdictional, but instead is more properly treated as a failure to state a claim for relief. The Court need not resolve this issue; however, because even if dismissal of the state law claim is not required, Herman Family, 254 F.3d at 805-07, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over it. This case involves medical malpractice claims governed solely by state law; is in the early stages of pretrial proceedings; the discovery produced to date can be used in the state proceedings if Lua re-files in that forum; and the state court is equally convenient to these parties. "[I]n the usual case in which all federal-law claims are eliminated before trial, the balance of factors to be considered under the pendent jurisdiction doctrine — judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity — will point toward declining to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims." Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n. 7 (1988). At this juncture, the Court discerns no basis for shifting the litigation costs to Lua.


  Based upon due consideration of the briefs and the record before the Court, and for the reasons stated above, the Court DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE the state law claim against Defendant Scripps Mercy Hospital. Each party shall bear their own costs. As the other defendant has previously been dismissed, the Clerk may now terminate this civil action.



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