United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky at Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss of
Defendant, Nationwide Insurance Company
(“Nationwide”), requesting the Court dismiss the
Complaint of Plaintiff, RSI, LLC (“RSI”) pursuant
to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and (c). [DE 4].
For the reasons set forth herein, Nationwide's Motion to
Dismiss is GRANTED.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
alleges that, in 2015, Nationwide's insured, Holmes by
Troy, LLC, a non-party, failed to properly install a
waterproofing tarp at “Plaintiff's house[, ]”
located in the City of Richmond, in Madison County, Kentucky.
[Id.]. As a result of this alleged failure, the roof
of the house sustained water damage. [Id.]. Holmes
by Troy, LLC, did not remediate the water damage or make any
repairs. [Id.]. RSI alleges that it submitted repair
bids to Nationwide, amounting to approximately $36, 000.
[Id.]. Nationwide allegedly offered to pay about
half that amount for the claimed damages, which RSI rejected.
result, on July 30, 2019, RSI, LLC filed the instant action
against Nationwide in Madison Circuit Court. [DE 1-2 at 1,
PageID #12]. RSI demands Nationwide pay the difference, lost
rent from September 1, 2015 of $1, 000 per month to present,
totally $43, 000, in damages, as well as punitive damages.
[Id. at 2, PageID #13]. Notably, RSI purports to
proceed pro se. [DE 1-2 at 1, PageID #12]. The
complaint was signed by Douglas Riddle, who claims to be a
member of RSI, LLC. [Id. at 3, PageID #14].
August 23, 2019, Nationwide removed the action to this Court,
[DE 1], and filed the instant motion, [DE 4], arguing the
Court should dismiss RSI's complaint because, among other
things, it was filed by a non-attorney member of RSI on
behalf of the limited liability corporation. [DE 4 at 1-2,
PageID #20-21; DE 4-1 at 3-6, PageID #24-27]. On September 5,
2019, RSI filed a “Notice” with the Court, which
we construe as a Response to Nationwide's Motion to
Dismiss. [DE 5]. On September 10, 2019, Nationwide responded
in support of its motion to dismiss. [DE 6]. Accordingly,
this matter is now ripe for review.
argues that RSI's Complaint is void because it was filed
by a non-attorney member of RSI on behalf of the limited
liability corporation. [DE 4 at 1-2, PageID #20-21; DE 4-1 at
3-6, PageID #24-27]. Notably, RSI does not dispute that its
Complaint was filed “pro se, ” by a
non-attorney in Madison Circuit Court. [DE 5; see
also, DE 1-1; DE 1-2]. Rather, RSI states, in part, it
“...now realizes it cannot represent itself pro se in
any court other than Small Claims...Unfortunately, hired
counsel is not admitted to practice in Federal Court. RSI is
now looking for an attorney approved in Federal Court to work
with.” [DE 5 at 1, PageID #47]. RSI's excuse is
law allows parties to “plead and conduct their own
cases personally or by counsel.” See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1654. This has been “uniformly construed to mean
that a corporation cannot appear otherwise than through
counsel.” U.S. v. 9.19 Acres of Land, 416 F.2d
1244, 1245 (6th Cir. 1969) (per curiam) (internal
citations omitted). Indeed, “under longstanding
tradition ‘a corporation can only appear by
attorney.'” Bass v. Leatherwood, 788 F.3d
228 (2015) (quoting Osborn v. Bank of U.S., 22 U.S.
738, 829 (1824). The United States Supreme Court continues to
endorse this tradition, stating, “[i]t has been the law
for the better part of two centuries ... that a corporation
may appear in the federal courts only through licensed
counsel.” See Rowland v. Cal. Men's
Colony, 506 U.S. 194, 201-02 (1993). “The
rationale for the rule applies equally to all artificial
entities.” Id. at 202. Thus, it is black
letter law that LLCs may not appear pro se in
Federal court litigation.
courts have further recognized that the appropriate remedy is
to invalidate the actions taken by the non-lawyer in federal
court. See Prunte v. Universal Music Grp., 484 F.2d
165, 166, n. 1 (D.C. Cir. 1990); see also,
Polston v. Millenium Outdoors, LLC, Civ. Action No.
6:16-cv-16-KKC, 2017 WL 878230, at *10, n. 3 (E.D. Ky. March
6, 2017) (stating “[b]lack letter law invalidates any
actions taken by [the non-lawyer] on behalf of [the
instant case, RSI, LLC does not dispute that the Complaint
was not filed by an attorney. [DE 5; see also, DE
1-1; DE 1-2]. Nor does Mr. Riddle assert that he is an
attorney. [DE 1-2 at 3, PageID #14; DE 5]. In fact, RSI
openly acknowledges that “...now realizes it cannot
represent itself pro se in any court other than Small
Claims...Unfortunately, hired counsel is not admitted to
practice in Federal Court.” [DE 5 at 1, PageID #47]. As
a result, we find that application of clear federal law
necessarily invalidates Mr. Riddle's filing of the
Complaint on behalf of RSI, LLC. Accordingly, IT IS
ORDERED as follows:
Nationwide's Motion to Dismiss, [DE 4], is, and hereby
shall be, GRANTED;
RSI, LLC's Complaint, [DE 1-1; DE 1-2], is, and hereby