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Miller v. Washington Trotting Association, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 30, 2017



          Nora Barry Fischer U.S. District Judge


         Presently before the Court is a Motion for Reconsideration filed by Defendant Washington Trotting Association, LLC, (Docket No. [17]), Defendant's Brief in Support, (Docket No. [18]), and Plaintiff Timothy Miller's response thereto, (Docket No. [20]). Defendant seeks reconsideration of this Court's Order of March 14, 2017, remanding this matter, sua sponte, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) based on the jurisdictionally defective Notice of Removal filed in this case. (Docket No. 16). After careful consideration of the parties' positions and for the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration [17] is denied.


         Miller is a Pennsylvania citizen and works as a table games dealer at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, located in Washington County, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 1-1). The Meadows previously operated as an incorporated business, Washington Trotting Association, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. (Id.). The Meadows was sold in the fall of the 2016 to Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. and the incorporated business was converted to Washington Trotting Association, LLC. (Id.). The ultimate parent company of Washington Trotting Association, LLC, is now Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. which is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Nevada. (Docket Nos. 1-3; 6).

         In this lawsuit, Miller complains that the Meadows adopted a policy whereby he and other dealers were required to share tips with supervisors. (See Amended Complaint, Docket No. 1-1 at 27-47). Miller believes that this policy is contrary to regulations governing casinos in the Commonwealth. (Id. at ¶ 9). He alleges that he and the other table games dealers working at the Meadows were not paid the full percentage of tips that were owed to them because the tip pools were diluted by the presence of the supervisors. (Id.). Miller seeks to bring claims on his own behalf and for those individuals similarly situated to him pursuant to the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law; breach of contract; and/or breach of implied contract. (Id.). Miller generally claims damages for himself and the other class members for unpaid wages; liquidated damages in an amount of 25% of those wages; interest; and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. (Id. at 42-45).

         Miller initially filed a Complaint in Civil Class Action in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County on December 27, 2016, naming Washington Trotting Association, Inc.; Washington Trotting Association, LLC; and Cannery Casino Resorts, LLC as Defendants. (Docket No. 1-1 at 5). In this Complaint, Plaintiff specifically noted that Washington Trotting Association, Inc. was converted to Washington Trotting Association, LLC in the fall of 2016. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16). Counsel for the parties then entered into a Praecipe to Amend Complaint dated January 23, 2017 authorizing the filing of an Amended Complaint substituting “Washington Trotting Association LLC d/b/a The Meadows Racetrack and Casino for the Defendants named in Plaintiff's Complaint which was filed on December 27, 2016.” (Docket No. 1-1 at 25). Plaintiff filed the Amended Class Action Complaint on January 27, 2017, setting forth the causes of action noted above. (Docket No. 1-1 at 27-47).

         Thereafter, Defendant removed the case to this Court on February 21, 2017 “in accordance with the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Title 28 of the United States Code §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446.” (Docket No. 1). The Notice of Removal made no mention of the class action claims, arguing that subject matter jurisdiction was premised on diversity of the parties based on their citizenship and that the amount in controversy was in excess of $75, 000.00 due to an alleged admission in the Amended Complaint that the case sought damages in excess of the arbitration limits and that the attorneys' fees requested by plaintiff would exceed the jurisdictional amount. (Id.). Defendant filed its Answer on February 23, 2017. (Docket No. 5). The Court set the matter for a case management conference on March 16, 2017. (Docket No. 7). In advance of same, the parties filed a Rule 26(f) Report and Stipulation Selecting ADR Process. (Docket Nos. 11; 15). The Rule 26(f) Report specifically noted that Plaintiff was “contemplating filing a Motion to Remand to remand this case to state court” and that he would “do so on or before March 23, 2017.” (Docket No. 11 at ¶ 5).

         In preparation for the case management conference, the Court reviewed the file, determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case and entered an order remanding the case on March 14, 2017 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) and cancelling the case management conference. (Docket No. 16). On the next day, Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration and supporting brief, (Docket Nos. 17, 18), to which Plaintiff filed a response on March 22, 2017, (Docket No. 20). As the motion is fully briefed, it is now ripe for disposition.


         “Motions for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are granted sparingly ‘[b]ecause federal courts have a strong interest in finality of judgments.'” Jacobs v. Bayha, 2011 WL 1044638, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 18, 2011) (quoting Continental Cas. Co. v. Diversified Indus., Inc., 884 F.Supp. 938, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995)) (emphasis added). “Because of the interest in finality, at least at the district court level ... the parties are not free to relitigate issues the court has already decided, ” Williams v. City of Pittsburgh, 32 F.Supp.2d 236, 238 (W.D. Pa. 1998) (citing Rottmund v. Continental Assurance Co., 813 F.Supp. 1104, 1107 (E.D. Pa. 1992)), or to raise arguments that a party had the opportunity to present before the Court's decision, see United States v. Dupree, 617 F.3d 724, 732-33 (3d Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted). Rather, the purpose of a motion for reconsideration “is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.'” Max's Seafood Café v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985)). The moving party bears a heavy burden to demonstrate that an order should be reconsidered and the Court will only grant such a motion if the moving party shows: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence which was not available when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent a manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Café, 176 F.3d at 677 (citing North River Ins. Co. v. Cigna Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)).


         Here, Defendant does not point to an intervening change in the controlling law or the availability of new evidence which was not available when the Court issued its Order. (Docket No. 18). Instead, Defendant claims that the Court erred as a matter of law in remanding the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Id.). Defendant concedes that although this is a class action, it is not seeking to invoke the Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), or the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) and that the Court would not have jurisdiction under that statute. (Id.). Defendant further asserts that it has pled sufficient facts to demonstrate that this Court has diversity jurisdiction over the claims of the lead Plaintiff, Timothy Miller, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), estimating that the attorney's fees that may be recoverable in this action will likely exceed the jurisdictional amount of $75, 000.00 and that the named parties are completely diverse, i.e., Miller is a Pennsylvania citizen while Washington Trotting Association, LLC, is a citizen of Delaware and Nevada, based on the citizenship of its ultimate parent company. (Id.). In response, Plaintiff agrees that the Court should consider whether the assertion of subject matter jurisdiction over this matter is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (Docket No. 20). Plaintiff admits that if the full amount of potential attorneys' fees are considered then the individual claims by the lead plaintiff are likely in excess of the jurisdictional amount of $75, 000.00; however, Plaintiff concedes that he and his counsel have not researched whether the entire amount of attorneys' fees recoverable in this class action may be aggregated and considered by the Court in reaching the jurisdictional amount. (Id.). Finally, Plaintiff suggests that if the Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction over the individual claims, then the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the class action claims of the unnamed class members under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (Id.).

         It is well established that federal courts are of limited jurisdiction and “the party asserting federal jurisdiction in a removal case bears the burden of showing, at all stages of the litigation, that the case is properly before the federal court.” Frederico v. Home Depot,507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). Relevant here, the general removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), provides that “[e]xcept as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “A District Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 if the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and the parties are ‘citizens of different States.'” O'Connell v. New Jersey Tpk. Auth., 649 F.App'x 280, 283 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1)). “For a removal predicated upon diversity of citizenship, a proper exercise of federal jurisdiction requires satisfaction ...

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