United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
ALFA MUTUAL INSURANCE CO. as subrogee of Noel and Sandra Forsythe Plaintiff,
JONES STEPHENS CORP. Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff,
COASTAL NINGBO HARDWARE MANUFACTURING CO., LTD, ; and NINGBO BEST METAL & PLASTIC MANUFACTURING CO., LTD., Third-Party Defendants.
C. Carlson, United States Magistrate Judge.
current form the instant case, which has been filed in
federal court in Pennsylvania, involves a dispute between two
Alabama corporations involving a property damage claim that
arose in the state of Alabama. Given these facts, it is
hardly surprising that we are now being asked to determine
whether federal subject matter jurisdiction exists in this
case. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that
diversity jurisdiction does not lie here.
Mutual Insurance Company (“Alfa Mutual”) brought
this action as the subrogee of Noel and Sandra Forsythe
against the defendant Jones Stephens Corporation
(“Jones Stephens”). This action concerns water
loss and property damage to Noel and Sandra Forsythe's
property located at 536 Hamilton Hills Court in Auburn,
Alabama. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 3, 22). The damage allegedly
resulted from a “water supply line and/or its component
parts, ” which were “designed, manufactured,
marketed, sold, and/or distributed” by Defendants Jones
Stephens, Coastal Ningbo Hardware Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
(“Coastal Ningbo”), Watts Regulator Co.
(“Watts Regulator”), and Ningbo Best Metal &
Plastic Manufacturing Co. (“Ningbo Best Metal”).
(Id., ¶ 21). Alfa Mutual made a $312, 620.00
payment to its insured policy holders, Noel and Sandra
Forsythe, for property and personal damage. (Id.,
¶¶ 22-23) Alfa Mutual sought judgment against Jones
Stephen for the amount Alfa Mutual paid to the insureds, plus
any additional costs resulting from this litigation.
(Id., ¶ 6).
Stephens filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
alleging a lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds
that there is not complete diversity between the parties.
(Doc. 49) After review of the record, we find that the
defendants have demonstrated that complete diversity does not
exist between Alfa Mutual and Jones Stephens, and thus, this
Court does not have jurisdiction over the instant action.
Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, we will grant
Jones Stephens' motion to dismiss.
complaint alleges that Defendants Jones Stephens, Coastal
Ningbo, Watts Regulator, and Ningbo Best Metal
“designed, manufactured, marketed, sold, labeled and/or
distributed the toilet water supply line and/or its component
parts which were connected to a bathroom toilet” in
Noel and Sandra Forsythe's residence. (Doc. 1, ¶
16). On approximately May 10, 2015, there was a water leak in
the residence resulting from a fractured polymeric coupling
nut which secures the water supply line to the toilet tank.
(Id., ¶¶ 19, 21) This caused substantial
damage to the property. (Id., ¶ 22). Alfa
Mutual ultimately paid an amount in excess of $312, 620.00 to
its insureds, Noel and Sandra Forsythe, pursuant to the terms
of the policy agreement (Id., ¶ 23).
9, 2017, Alfa Mutual filed this action against Jones
Stephens, Coastal Ningbo, Watts Regulator, and Ningbo Best
Metal, in federal court, seeking compensation for the money
it paid to its insureds. (Id., ¶¶ 6-9, 11,
20-21). The complaint asserts claims of negligence, strict
products liability, failure to warn, and breach of warranty
against all defendants. (See generally Doc. 1). Alfa
Mutual alleges that this Court has jurisdiction over this
matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the
defendants are from different states and the amount in
controversy exceeds $75.000. (Id., ¶ 13).
Stephens filed a motion to dismiss on June 26, 2017 pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
arguing that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction
over the case. (Doc. 11). However, the motion was deemed
premature because an answer had not yet been filed by the
defense and thus, the motion was dismissed without prejudice
to allowing Jones Stephens to re-file the motion in the
proper procedural manner. (Id., at 4-5). Thereafter,
the plaintiff moved to voluntarily dismiss Defendants Coastal
Ningbo and Ningbo Best from the action as a result of
difficulties that arose from being able to provide these
international defendants with proper service. (Doc. 23,
¶ 6). This motion was granted, and the defendants were
dismissed from the case. (Doc. 24). Additionally, a third
defendant-Watts Regulator-was dismissed from the case on the
stipulation of all parties. (Doc. 28).
case was later referred to the undersigned and on June 3,
2019, Jones Stephens filed the instant motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc.
49). The defendant asserts that there is not complete
diversity, as is required under 28 U.S.C. § 1332,
because “Alfa Mutual and its subrogors, Noel and Sandra
Forsythe, are citizens of Alabama, which is the same as the
citizenship” of Jones Stephens. (Id., ¶
11). Alfa Mutual filed a timely response on June 24, 2019,
contending that Pottsville, Pennsylvania should be considered
Jones Stephen's principal place of business in this case,
and thus Jones Stephens should be considered a citizen of
Pennsylvania for purposes of the instant litigation. (Doc. 51
at 5-6). The motion has been fully briefed and is, therefore,
ripe for resolution.
review of the record, we conclude there is, in fact, a lack
of subject matter jurisdiction, as both the plaintiff and the
defendant are citizens of Alabama, and complete diversity
does not exist. Accordingly, we will grant the
defendant's motion to dismiss.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
defendant has moved to dismiss this state-law products
liability claim pursuit to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure due to a lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Rule 12(b)(1) permits the dismissal of an
action for “lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) thus challenges the
power of the court to hear a case or consider a claim.
Petruska v. Gannon Univ., 462 F.3d 294, 302 (3d Cir.
2006). When faced with a 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff has
the burden to “convince the court it has jurisdiction.
Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169,
178 (3d Cir. 2000); see also Kehr Packages v. Fidelcor,
Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991) (“when
subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Rule
12(b)(1), the plaintiff must bear the burden of
12(b)(1) motion may be treated as either a facial or factual
challenge to the court's subject matter jurisdiction.
See Morten v. First Fed. Sav. And Loan Ass'n,
549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1997). First, a facial attack
“contests the sufficiency of the pleadings.”
Common Cause of Pa. v. Pennsylvania, 558 F.3d 249,
257 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Taliaferro v. Darby Twp.
Zoning Bd., 458 F.3d 181, 187-88 (3d Cir. 2006). Such a
facial challenge “attacks the complaint on its face
without contesting its alleged facts, [and] is like a
12(b)(6) motion in requiring the court ‘to consider the
allegations of the complaint as true.'” Hartig
Drug Company, Inc. v. Senju pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., 836
F.3d 261, 268 (3d Cir. 2006). Thus, in ruling on such a
motion, the court assumes the truth of the allegations in the
complaint but must analyze the pleadings to determine whether
they state an action that comes within the court's
jurisdiction. United States ex rel. Atkinson v. Pa.
Shipbuilding Co., 473 F.3d 506, 514 (3d Cir. 2016). A
facial 12(b)(1) motion should be granted ...