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Fuller v. Tennessee Valley Authority

July 13, 2007

STACEY FULLER AND BRENT FULLER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry S. Mattice, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The issue currently before the Court is the basis for the Court's jurisdiction over the remaining Defendants: James Webster, Joshua Howard, Cynthia Galloway, William Wright, and Debra Capehart.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed the complaint in this matter on April 15, 2004, against Defendants Tennessee Valley Authority ("TVA"), Stone & Webster, James Webster, Joshua Howard, Michael Goodwin, Cynthia Galloway, William Wright, Debra Capehart, and various John Does who were unnamed employees and managers of TVA and Stone & Webster. [Court Doc. No. 1.] Defendants TVA, Stone & Webster, Michael Goodwin, and the John Does were previously dismissed from this case. [Court Doc. Nos. 32, 38, 83, 88.]

Because Defendants James Webster, Joshua Howard, Cynthia Galloway, William Wright, and Debra Capehart failed to plead or otherwise respond to the complaint after being properly served, the Clerk entered the default of such Defendants upon the request of Plaintiffs. [Court Doc. Nos. 30, 89.] On April 25, 2007, Plaintiffs moved for the entry of a default judgment against Defendants Webster, Howard, Galloway, Wright, and Capehart [Court Doc. No. 92], and the Court referred such motion to U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee for a report and recommendation as to the liability of such Defendants for the causes of action alleged by Plaintiffs and as to the amount of damages due to Plaintiffs as a result of each Defendant's liability for such causes of action [Court Doc. No. 95].

On May 30, 2007, Magistrate Judge Lee held an evidentiary hearing with respect to Plaintiffs' motion for default judgment. [Court Doc. No. 99.] At such hearing, Magistrate Judge Lee inquired about the basis for the Court's jurisdiction in this action with respect to Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants Webster, Howard, Galloway, Wright, and Capehart. [Court Doc. No. 100.] On June 5, 2007, Magistrate Judge Lee issued an order requiring Plaintiffs to file a brief concerning the jurisdiction of this Court. [Court Doc. No. 100.] Plaintiffs filed such brief on June 27, 2007. [Court Doc. No. 101.]

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs present two main arguments with respect to the basis for this Court's jurisdiction over their claims against Defendants Webster, Howard, Galloway, Wright, and Capehart: (1) that the Court has original federal question jurisdiction over the relevant claims because they arose in a "federal enclave" and (2) that, even if the Court does not have original jurisdiction over the relevant claims, the Court should exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over such claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The Court will address each argument in turn.

A. Federal Enclave Jurisdiction

Plaintiffs first assert that the Court has original federal question jurisdiction over their claims against Defendants Webster, Howard, Galloway, Wright, and Capehart pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Walburn v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 431 F.3d 966, 970 (6th Cir. 2005); Hudson v. Coleman, 347 F.3d 138, 141 (6th Cir. 2003). As a result, "it is presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction." Hudson, 347 F.3d at 141. Thus, in the case at bar, it is Plaintiffs' burden to establish that the Court has federal question jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' remaining claims. Plaintiffs have attempted to meet their burden by asserting that this Court has federal enclave jurisdiction over such claims, citing Akin v. Ashland Chemical Co., 156 F.3d 1039 (10th Cir. 1998).

Federal enclave jurisdiction is derived from Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that Congress has the power "[t]o exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District . . . as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful buildings . . . ." U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 17. Such places over which Congress exercises exclusive legislation and authority pursuant to this clause are "federal enclaves." Akin, 156 F.3d at 1034; Lord v. Local Union No. 2088, 646 F.2d 1057, 1059 (5th Cir. 1981). It is settled law that tort actions which arose from incidents occurring in federal enclaves may be initiated in or removed to federal court as part of the district court's federal question jurisdiction. Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1250 (9th Cir. 2006); Akin, 156 F.3d at 1034; Mater v. Holley, 200 F.2d 123, 124-25 (5th Cir. 1952).

In the case at bar, Plaintiffs' claims arise from an incident that occurred at TVA's Sequoyah nuclear power plant, which is located in Tennessee. Thus, in order to prove that federal enclave jurisdiction applies to Plaintiffs' claims, Plaintiffs must ...


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