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Davis v. Fluor Enterprises Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 20, 2018

Walter R. Davis, Plaintiff,
v.
Fluor Enterprises Inc., Defendant.

          ORDER AND NOTICE

          Shiva V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge

         Walter R. Davis (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed this action against Fluor Enterprises Inc. (“Defendant”) seeking damages related to a slip and fall. [ECF No. 1 at 1]. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge.

         Standard of Review

         Plaintiff filed his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff states on May 24, 2017, he was working as an engineering technician performing soil density testing at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station Units 2. [ECF No. 1 at 1, 4-5]. Plaintiff alleges he was walking when the ground surface material dislodged causing him to turn his left ankle outward and damage his ligament. Id. at 5. Plaintiff claims he received treatment for his ankle at Doctor's Care and was ultimately referred to an orthopedist who scheduled him for surgery on September 20, 2017. Id. at 7. Plaintiff states he was out of work for more than five months and was not able to walk without the aid of crutches until January 10, 2018. Id. at 8. Plaintiff contends Defendant's employees negligently constructed the walkway surface, creating a hazardous and dangerous condition that led to his injury. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id. at 13-15.

         Discussion

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, “constrained to exercise only the authority conferred by Article III of the Constitution and affirmatively granted by federal statute.” In re Bulldog Trucking, Inc., 147 F.3d 347, 352 (4th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, a federal court is required, sua sponte, to determine if a valid basis for its jurisdiction exists “and to dismiss the action if no such ground appears.” Id. at 352; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”). Although the absence of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time during the case, determining jurisdiction at the outset of the litigation is the most efficient procedure. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999).

         There is no presumption that a federal court has jurisdiction over a case, Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999), and a plaintiff must allege facts essential to show jurisdiction in his pleadings. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); see also Dracos v. Hellenic Lines, Ltd., 762 F.2d 348, 350 (4th Cir. 1985) (“[P]laintiffs must affirmatively plead the jurisdiction of the federal court.”). To this end, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1) requires that the complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction[.]” When a complaint fails to include “an affirmative pleading of a jurisdictional basis a federal court may find that it has jurisdiction if the facts supporting jurisdiction have been clearly pleaded.” Pinkley, 191 F.3d at 399 (citation omitted). However, if the court, viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to a plaintiff, finds insufficient allegations in the pleadings, the court will lack subject matter jurisdiction. Id.; see also Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood, Inc., 669 F.3d 448, 452-53 (4th Cir. 2012) (holding that when the alleged federal claim is “‘so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy, '” then subject matter jurisdiction does not exist) (citation omitted).

         Plaintiff alleges the court has jurisdiction over his claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. See [ECF No. 1 at 2]. The diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), requires complete diversity of parties and an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000. Complete diversity of parties in a case means that no party on one side may be a citizen of the same state as any party on the other side. See Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373‒74 nn.13‒16 (1978). The undersigned finds the court does not have diversity jurisdiction over this case as both Plaintiff and Defendant are citizens of South Carolina. Because Plaintiff's complaint fails to demonstrate complete diversity of citizenship satisfying the requirement of § 1332(a), his complaint is subject to summary dismissal.

         NOTICE CONCERNING AMENDMENT

         Plaintiff may attempt to correct the defects in his complaint by filing an amended complaint within 14 days of this order, along with any appropriate service documents. Plaintiff is reminded that an amended complaint replaces the original complaint and should be complete in itself. See Young v. City of Mount Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2001) (“As a general rule, an amended pleading ordinarily supersedes the original and renders it of no legal effect.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If Plaintiff files an amended complaint, the undersigned will conduct screening of the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint or fails to cure the deficiencies identified above, the court will recommend to the district court that the claims be dismissed without further leave to amend.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

         Notice of Right to File Objections to Report ...


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