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Kokosing Construction Co., Inc. v. Laborers' International Union of North America

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 14, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court upon the Joint Motion (ECF DKT #16) to Proceed as Proposed by the Parties. For the following reasons, the Joint Motion is denied. The above-captioned case is dismissed without prejudice for want of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Kokosing Construction Company, Inc. filed its Complaint for Declaratory Judgment on March 1, 2019. Plaintiff alleges that it entered into an agreement with Defendant Laborers' International Union of North America, Local 860 to settle pending grievances over hiring and assignment of employees for the I-271 Project. Plaintiff alleges Defendant “has since attempted to impose additional requirements not included in the Settlement Agreement upon [Plaintiff] and is threatening additional grievances and/or litigation on [Plaintiff's] current hiring methods.” (Complaint, ECF DKT #1 at ¶ 12). (Emphasis added). Plaintiff contends it has no adequate remedy at law and asks the Court to enforce the Settlement Agreement and order Defendant to comply with its terms.

         Defendant answered on April 9, 2019, and asserts Counterclaims for Declaratory Judgment; Breach of Labor Contract pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (29 U.S.C. § 185); and Specific Performance. Defendant alleges that Plaintiff has refused to abide by the terms of the Settlement Agreement and has initiated a frivolous Declaratory Judgment lawsuit in order to thwart the intent of the parties' contract and to cause imminent injury to Local 860 and its members.

         Following a Telephonic Case Management Conference on June 6, 2019, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause “why its Complaint should not be dismissed for failing to set forth a case or controversy justiciable in federal court . . . [and] to convince the Court that Plaintiff is not simply asking for an improper advisory opinion.” (ECF DKT #13).

         Plaintiff filed a timely response (ECF DKT #15). Plaintiff argues that a real and immediate dispute exists between parties having adverse legal interests and that the genuine and substantial controversy warrants the issuance of a declaratory judgment.

         At a Telephone Status Conference on July 3, 2019, the Court committed to consider Plaintiff's contentions and ordered the parties to file a proposal as to how the case should proceed.

         The parties ask the Court to retain jurisdiction over the case; but if the Court were inclined to dismiss the Complaint, then maintain jurisdiction over Defendant's Counterclaims.


         Federal jurisdiction

         Federal District Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Bender v. Williamsport Area School District, 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986) (citing Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)). “Subject matter jurisdiction is the unwaivable sine qua non for exercise of the federal judicial power.” Crabtree v. Wal-Mart, 2006 WL 897210 at *1 (E.D.Ky. April 4, 2006), slip copy; Richmond v. International Business Machines Corporation, 919 F.Supp. 107 (E.D.N.Y. 1996) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)). Want of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by the parties or by the Court on its own initiative. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(h)(3); Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc., 306 U.S. 583 (1939). “[D]efects in subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived by the parties and may be addressed by a court on its own motion at any stage of the proceedings.” Curry v. U.S. Bulk Transport, Inc., 462 F.3d 536, 540 (6th Cir. 2006), citing Owens v. Brock, 860 F.2d 1363, 1367 (6th Cir. 1988). The burden rests upon the plaintiff to establish affirmatively that the Court possesses subject matter jurisdiction over the case or controversy. See e.g., Thomson v. Gaiskill, 315 U.S. 442 (1942).

         Federal Question

         District courts have original jurisdiction over “actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (emphasis added). Original federal question jurisdiction exists “only [in] those cases in which a well-pleaded Complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff[‘]s right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law.” Eastman v. Marine Mechanical Corp., 438 F.3d 544, 550 (6th Cir. 2006); Thornton v. Southwest DetroitHosp., 895 F.2d 1131, 1133 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. LaborersVacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983)). “[The well-pleaded complaint] rule provides that ‘federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of ...

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