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Southard v. Newcomb Oil Co., LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

February 27, 2019

MICHAEL SOUTHARD PLAINTIFF
v.
NEWCOMB OIL CO., LLC d/b/a NEWCOMB OIL CO. DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on several motions. Plaintiff filed four motions: 1) Motion to Remand (DN 7); 2) Motion to Stay Briefing on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (DN 8); 3) Motion to Expedite Briefing on Motion to Stay (DN 9); and 4) Motion for Leave to File Sur-Reply, or Alternatively, Motion to Strike Exhibits Submitted by Defendant (DN 22). Defendant filed three motions: 1) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Stay Pending Individual Arbitration (DN 6); 2) Motion to Stay Briefing on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand Pending Decision on Defendant's Motion to Compel Arbitration (DN 10); and 3) Defendant's Contingent Motion for Leave to File Response to Sur-Reply (DN 25).

         For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (DN 7), and deny Defendant's Motion to Stay Briefing on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (DN 10) as moot.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On November 9, 2018, Plaintiff Michael Southard (the “Plaintiff”) commenced this putative class action against Defendant Newcomb Oil Co., LLC d/b/a Newcomb Oil Co. (“Newcomb Oil”) in the Jefferson Circuit Court. DN 1-2. Plaintiff's original complaint alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., in addition to Kentucky statutory and common law claims. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff brought state law claims for failure to pay overtime under KRS § 337.285 (Count II), failure to provide meal and rest periods under KRS §§ 337.355, 337.365, and 446.070 (Count III), untimely payment of wages and unlawful withholding of wages under KRS §§ 337.055 and 337.060 (Count IV), failure to furnish statement of wage deductions under KRS § 337.070 (Count V), and unjust enrichment (Count VI). On December 6, 2018 Newcomb Oil removed the action to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction and supplemental jurisdiction. DN 1.

         On December 12, 2018, Plaintiff amended his complaint as a matter of course pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), removing the sole federal claim. DN 5. That same day, Newcomb Oil moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, compel arbitration or, in the alternative, stay pending individual arbitration (hereinafter “Motion to Compel Arbitration”). DN 6. On December 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. DN 7.

         The next day brought a flurry of competing motions starting with Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Briefing on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, which asserted that the Court must resolve the Motion for Remand before the Motion to Compel Arbitration. DN 8. Plaintiff also filed a motion asking the Court to expedite briefing on Plaintiff's motion to stay. DN 9. In response, Newcomb Oil filed its own motion to stay asking the Court to stay briefing on Plaintiff's motion to remand pending the Court's resolution of Newcomb Oil's Motion to Compel Arbitration. DN 10.

         On January 2, 2019, having received no ruling on Plaintiff's motion to stay briefing on the motion to compel, Plaintiff filed its response to Newcomb Oil's Motion to Compel Arbitration (DN 11), to which Newcomb Oil replied (DN 16). On January 10, 2019, having received no ruling on its motion to stay briefing, Newcomb Oil filed its response opposing Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (DN 12), to which Plaintiff replied (DN 20).

         February brought even more motion practice. On February 5, 2019, Plaintiff moved for leave to file a sur-reply regarding Newcomb Oil's exhibits attached to Newcomb Oil's Motion to Compel Arbitration. DN 22. Newcomb Oil filed a response in opposition (DN 23), and filed a contingent motion for leave to file a response to the sur-reply. DN 25.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Both parties urge the Court to decide their respective motion first. Newcomb Oil's position is that the Court should decide its Motion to Compel Arbitration because “arbitrability is a mandatory threshold issue that should be decided at the earliest possible stage in this proceeding, ” before discretionary matters such as supplemental jurisdiction. DN 10, at 1-2. In contrast, Plaintiff asks the Court to address its Motion to Remand first on the grounds that “[a] federal court must resolve issues of subject matter jurisdiction before it decides the merits of a claim.” DN 8-1, at 1 (citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't., 523 U.S. 83, 93 (1998)) (emphasis in original).

         Because Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is based upon subject matter jurisdiction, the Court addresses it first. As grounds for remand, Plaintiff asserts first that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the amended complaint contains no federal claims. Alternatively, Plaintiff argues that the Court should decline to assert supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

         Plaintiff's post-removal amended complaint did not deprive this court of original subject matter jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction is determined by examining the complaint as it existed at the time of removal. Harper v. AutoAlliance Int'l. Inc., 392 F.3d 195, 210 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Long v. Bando Mfg. of Am., Inc., 201 F.3d 754, 758 (6th Cir. 2000) (holding that the district court was not divested of subject matter jurisdiction upon the dismissal of plaintiff's federal claims)). Plaintiff's original complaint at the time of removal asserted both state and federal statutory claims - making subject matter jurisdiction ...


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