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Huerta v. United States Department of Agriculture LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 15, 2017

BRENDAN HUERTA, Plaintiff,
v.
AKIMA FACILITIES MANAGEMENT, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DECLINE SUPPLEMENTAL JURISDICTION

          KANDIS A. WESTMORE United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Brendan Huerta brings the instant action against Defendant Akima Facilities Management LLC, alleging that he was injured while delivering a piece of heavy equipment to a laboratory facility that Defendant managed. (First Amended Compl. ("FAC") ¶¶ 2, 15-21.) Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion requesting that the Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. (Plf.'s Mot., Dkt. No. 81.)

         The Court deems the matter suitable for disposition without hearing pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b) and VACATES the hearing set for November 16, 2017. Having considered the papers filed by the parties and the relevant legal authority, the Court DENIES the motion, for the reasons set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 6, 2014, Plaintiff delivered heavy equipment to a United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA")/Agricultural Research Service ("ARS") in Albany ("Subject Premises"). (FAC ¶ 15.) Plaintiff was assisted by Doe 1, who was either an employee of USDA and/or ARS, or the government contractor responsible for facility operations at the ARS facility.[1] (FAC ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is the government contractor. (FAC ¶ 17.) The equipment was to be lowered from the truck to a lift gate, but while lowering the lift gate, Doe 1 suddenly and abruptly stopped the lift gate. (FAC ¶ 20.) The sudden stop caused the equipment to become unstable and fall onto Plaintiff, who was unable to get out of the way in time. (FAC ¶¶ 20-21.) As a result, Plaintiff suffered serious bodily injuries. (FAC ¶ 21.)

         Plaintiff then brought this suit against the USDA and ARS, as well as Doe defendants. (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) On August 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint, substituting Defendant in place of Doe Defendant 2. (FAC ¶ 2.) Plaintiff asserted federal question jurisdiction based on the Federal Torts Claim Act. (FAC ¶ 12.) Plaintiff brought claims of: (1) negligence as to Doe 1; (2) vicarious liability as to the federal entities; (3) negligent hiring, training, and/or retention of unfit employee as to the federal entities; (4) vicarious liability as to Defendant; (5) negligent hiring, training, and/or retention of unfit employee as to Defendant; and (6) premises liability as to the federal entities and Defendant. Defendant was served on September 12, 2016. (Dkt. No. 37.)

         On October 11, 2016, the USDA and ARS filed a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 38.) The USDA and ARS filed a declaration identifying Mr. Willard Davis as Doe 1. (Dixson Decl. ¶ 11, Dkt. No. 38-1.) On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff and the USDA and ARS stipulated to dismissal of the federal defendants. (Dkt. Nos. 40, 41.) Plaintiff then moved for entry of default as to Defendant Akima, and entry of default was entered on November 22, 2016. (Dkt. Nos. 44, 46.) On December 12, 2016, Plaintiff moved for default judgment. (Dkt. Nos. 47, 50.)

         On December 29, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to set aside the entry of default, explaining that its failure to respond to the first amended complaint was a result of an operating system upgrade. (Dkt. No. 55 at 4.) On March 1, 2017, the Court granted Defendant's motion to set aside default and denied Plaintiff's motion for default judgment as moot. (Dkt. No. 70 at 1-2.)

         On March 21, 2017, the parties filed a joint case management conference statement, identifying the basis of jurisdiction as diversity jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 72 at 1.) On March 28, 2017, the Court conducted a case management conference, setting deadlines for initial disclosures and the amendment of the complaint. (Dkt. No. 74.) On September 5, 2017, the parties filed a second joint case management conference statement, again asserting diversity jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 79 at 1.) Plaintiff also asserted that he did not anticipate amending the pleadings. (Id. at 3.) On September 12, 2017, the Court conducted a further case management conference, in which the Court discussed jurisdiction, and was informed that it was no longer an issue. The Court also raised Plaintiff's statement that he did not anticipate amending the pleadings, but stated that it would set an amendment deadline of November 13, 2017 as a control date. Defendant also stated that the parties were scheduling depositions for both Plaintiff and Mr. Davis.

         On September 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant motion requesting that the court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, so that Plaintiff could re-file the instant case in state court. On October 9, 2017, Defendant filed its opposition, on the ground that diversity jurisdiction existed in the case. (Def.'s Opp'n, Dkt. No. 85.) On October 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed his reply, arguing that although he could have alleged diversity jurisdiction, he had not. (Plf.'s Reply, Dkt. No. 86.) On October 13, 2017, the Court ordered the parties to file a joint supplemental brief on whether Defendant Akima would be prevented from removing the case on the basis of diversity jurisdiction if the Court was to decline exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. (Dkt. No. 87.) On October 26, 2017, the parties filed a joint supplemental brief, in which Plaintiff raised the possibility of actually naming Mr. Davis in the place of Doe 1, which would potentially destroy diversity jurisdiction because Plaintiff believed Mr. Davis was a California citizen. (Dkt. No. 88 at 3.) As of the date of this order, Plaintiff has not moved to substitute Mr. Davis into the case, and the deadline for amendment has passed.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         In general, a federal court must have federal question or diversity jurisdiction over a case. Per 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), "in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy . . . ." 28 U.S.C. §1367(c)(3), however, permits a district court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction if "the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction." While 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) permits dismissal of state law claims when federal claims are dismissed before trial, it does not mandate dismissal. Acri v. Varian Assocs., 114 F.3d 999, 1000 (9th Cir. 1997). In determining whether to dismiss supplemental claims, the district court considers the following Gibbs factors: judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity. Acri, 114 F.3d at 1001; see also United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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