United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
SHEILA DOUGLAS, SUSIE HALL, MORRIS T. HALL, JR., Plaintiffs
SOUTHWESTERN ENERGY PRODUCTION COMPANY, a/k/a, SWN PRODUCTION COMPANY, LLC, and SUSQUEHANNA GATHERING COMPANY, LLC, a/k/a SUSQUEHANNA GATHERING COMPANY I, LLC, and DTE ENERGY a/k/a DTE MIDSTREAM, Defendant
MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge
matter comes before the court upon the court's sua
sponte inquiry regarding subject matter jurisdiction.
Upon review, the court concludes that it does indeed possess
subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28
August 28, 2017, plaintiffs, Sheila Douglas, Susie Hall, and
Morris T. Hall, Jr., (“Plaintiffs”), brought this
negligence suit against defendants Southwestern Energy
Production Company, a/k/a SWN Production Company, LLC,
(“SWN”), Susquehanna Gathering Company, LLC,
a/k/a Susquehanna Gathering Company I, LLC,
(“Susquehanna”), and DTE Energy, a/k/a DTE
Midstream, (“DTE”), (collectively,
“Defendants”), in the Court of Common Pleas of
Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, alleging that Defendants
harmed Plaintiffs' lands and residences due to, among
other things, negligent misuse of the land and improper
installation of a pipeline. (Doc. 1-1).
and DTE filed preliminary objections but, before a ruling was
issued on them, Defendants removed the action to this court.
(Doc. 1). The Defendants then moved for dismissal, (Doc. 6),
which the court granted without prejudice on September 13,
2018, (Doc. 25). The court additionally issued an order
directing the parties to file briefs addressing whether the
court had diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 27).
filed an amended complaint on September 28, 2018, (Doc. 29),
but did not file a jurisdictional brief. Susquehanna and DTE
filed their brief on September 28, 2018, (Doc. 31), as did
SWN, (Doc. 30). SWN filed a supplemental jurisdictional brief
on October 1, 2018, (Doc. 32), addressing what it viewed as
Plaintiffs' attempt to defeat diversity jurisdiction
through the amended complaint.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only
that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is
not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)
(internal citations omitted). “[F]ederal courts are
without power to adjudicate the substantive claims in a
lawsuit, absent a firm bedrock of jurisdiction. When the
foundation of federal authority is, in a particular instance,
open to question, it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve
such doubts, one way or the other, before proceeding to a
disposition of the merits.” Carlsberg Res. Corp. v.
Cambria Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 554 F.2d 1254, 1256
(3d Cir. 1977).
jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause.
Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases
to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of
announcing the fact and dismissing the cause.” Ex
parte McCardle, 74 U.S. 506, 514 (1868). This rule
“spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial
power of the United States and is inflexible and without
exception.” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better
Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998) (internal quotation
marks omitted). Thus, “[i]t is presumed that a cause
lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting
jurisdiction.” Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377
(internal citations omitted).
jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. §1332(a), which
states that federal courts have “original jurisdiction
of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, and is between . . . citizens of different
States.” Complete diversity, wherein no plaintiff is a
citizen of the same state as any defendant, is necessary.
Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412,
419 (3d Cir. 2010). Natural persons are citizens of the
states where they are domiciled. Id. Corporations
are citizens of the states in which they are incorporated, as
well as the states in which they have their principal place
of business. Id. To determine the citizenship of a
limited liability corporation (“LLC”), the court
must treat it as a partnership, which takes on the
citizenship of each of its partners. Id. at 420.
“And as with partnerships, where an LLC has, as one of
its members, another LLC, the citizenship of unincorporated
associations must be traced through however many layers of
partners or members there may be to determine the citizenship
of the LLC.” Id. (internal quotation marks
28 U.S.C. §1441(a), a defendant may remove an action
brought in state court to federal district court if the
claims fall within the scope of federal jurisdiction. The
defendant's right to remove is to be determined by the
plaintiff's pleading at the time of the petition for
removal, and the burden is on the defendant to show the
existence of federal jurisdiction. Abels v. State Farm
Fire & Cas. Co, 770 F.2d 26, 29 (3d Cir. 1985).
Where a plaintiff does not specifically aver in the complaint
that the amount in controversy is less than the
jurisdictional minimum, but there is not a factual dispute as
to the amount in controversy, the court should apply the
legal certainty test outlined in St. Paul Mercury Indem.
Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283 (1938). See
Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193-94 (3d Cir.
2007). The legal certainty test holds that the amount of
damages asserted by the party claiming jurisdiction controls
so long as it is made in good faith, and the action will be
dismissed only if the party challenging jurisdiction can show
from the “face of the pleadings, it is apparent, to a
legal certainty, that the plaintiff cannot recover [over $75,
000], or if, from the proofs, the court is satisfied to a
like certainty that the plaintiff never was entitled to
recover that amount.” Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. at
Citizenship of the Parties
undisputed that all Plaintiffs are citizens of Pennsylvania.
As to the Defendants, in the complaint, Plaintiffs allege
that SWN and DTE Energy are “foreign
corporations” with places of business at Pennsylvania
addresses, and that Susquehanna is a “domestic limited
liability company, ” also with a place of business at a
Pennsylvania address. (Doc. 1-1, at 4). However, in both
their notice of removal and their jurisdictional briefs,
Defendants aver that DTE is a Michigan corporation with its