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Matthew Lasher, et al v. Bank of America

October 25, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge John Adams

(Resolves Doc. 8)


This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion to remand (Doc. 8) this matter to the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. The Court has been advised, having reviewed the motion, response, reply, pleadings, and applicable law. For the reasons stated herein, the motion to remand is GRANTED.

I. Facts

Plaintiffs, Matthew and Morgan Lasher, filed suit against Defendants, Bank of America, N.A., ("the Bank"), Cutler Realty, Melissa Hackenberg, and First Preston Management, Inc., in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. A second amended complaint was filed on July 28, 2011, which prompted the matter to be removed by the Bank. On September 22, 2011, Plaintiffs moved to remand the matter, arguing that this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the complaint. The Bank responded in opposition, and the Plaintiffs have replied in support. The Court now resolves the motion.

II. Law & Analysis

Each of the claims raised by Plaintiffs arises under Ohio law. The sole mention of federal law occurs in the third cause of action titled "Liability Imposed by Operation of Law." Doc. 1-7 at 8. Specifically, in paragraph 41 of the second amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege as follows:

Pursuant [to] the Federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, Ohio Revised Code section 5302 et seq., and Title 9, Chapter 94, Article 4 of the Ordinances of the City of Akron, Defendant Bank of America was required to disclose the contamination of the property and to perform certain repairs to the property prior to its purchase by Plaintiffs, Matthew and Morgan Lasher.

Doc. 1-7 at 8. From this statement, the Bank contends that Plaintiffs have either filed a federal cause of action or presented a substantial federal question.

Under the substantial-federal-question doctrine, a state law cause of action may actually arise under federal law, even though Congress has not created a private right of action, if the vindication of a right under state law depends on the validity, construction, or effect of federal law. As an initial proposition, then, the law that creates the cause of action is state law, and original federal jurisdiction is unavailable unless it appears that some substantial, disputed question of federal law is a necessary element of one of the well-pleaded state claims, or that one or the other claim is really one of federal law. The mere presence of a federal issue in a state law cause of action does not automatically confer federal question jurisdiction, either originally or on removal. Such jurisdiction remains exceptional and federal courts must determine its availability, issue by issue. The Supreme Court has developed a standard, through an evolving case line, by which the federal interest in providing a forum for an issue is weighed against the risk that the federal courts will be unduly burdened by a rush of state law cases.

In Smith v. Kansas City Title & Trust Co., 255 U.S. 180, 199, 41 S.Ct. 243, 65 L.Ed. 577 (1921), the Supreme Court first acknowledged that federal jurisdiction may exist over an ordinary state-law cause of action where the right to relief depends upon the construction or application of the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that such federal claim is not merely colorable. . The Supreme Court, raising the jurisdictional question sua sponte, ultimately determined that federal jurisdiction was proper because of the significant federal interest in determination of the constitutionality of a federal statute. Subsequent cases have narrowed and refined the rule.

Mikulski v. Centerior Energy Corp., 501 F.3d 555, 565-66 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotations omitted). From this framework, a three part test has developed to assist in determining whether a substantial federal question has been presented: (1) the state-law claim must necessarily raise a disputed federal issue; (2) the federal interest in the issue must be substantial; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must not disturb any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities. Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 314 (2005). The Court now reviews these three prongs.

1. Raising a disputed federal issue

It is apparent from the filings in this matter that the parties ...

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