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Starlink Logistics, Inc. v. Acc, LCC

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division

June 3, 2019

STARLINK LOGISTICS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ACC, LCC and T&K CONSTRUCTION, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARDSON, JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are Motions to Dismiss (Doc. Nos. 13 and 14) filed by Defendants ACC, LLC (“ACC”) and T&K Construction, LLC (“T&K”), respectively. Plaintiff has filed Responses, each Defendant has filed a Reply, and the parties have filed supplemental materials.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         This action was filed by Plaintiff StarLink Logistics, Inc. against Defendants ACC and T&K for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) and Tennessee's Water Quality Control Act (“TWQCA”). Plaintiff also alleges state law claims for nuisance and negligence. Plaintiff has asserted 25 violations of a Tennessee General Permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activity (CGP”) issued to Defendants by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”), which is the state agency responsible for implementing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permits pursuant to the CWA.

         Plaintiff and ACC own adjacent properties in Maury County, Tennessee. ACC's property includes a former industrial landfill that received industrial waste from 1981 to 1993 and a “Waste Relocation Area” where industrial waste that had been buried was relocated between 2012 and 2016. Defendant T&K was hired by ACC to handle the waste relocation. Plaintiff's adjacent property includes several miles of Sugar Creek and Arrow Lake. In this action, Plaintiff alleges that during rain events, sediment-laden stormwater leaves ACC's property, where soil has been disturbed by construction activities associated with the Waste Relocation Area, and flows onto Plaintiff's property and into Sugar Creek and Arrow Lake. Plaintiff alleges, among other things, that Defendants have failed properly to maintain sediment control mechanisms for their construction activities. Plaintiff alleges 25 violations of the CGP[2], resulting in measurable degradation of the water quality in Sugar Creek and Arrow Lake.

         Plaintiff and ACC are counterparties not only in this lawsuit, but also in a related federal lawsuit styled StarLink Logistics, LLC v. ACC, LLC and Smelter Service Corp. Defendants allege that Plaintiff and ACC are counterparties to a state court action styled StarLink Logistics, Inc. v. ACC, LLC, et al.[3] The parties vehemently dispute whether the three actions are alike or different, whether any of them is duplicative of the other, and whether any of them should preclude any other. Given the ruling herein, the Court will not referee that dispute at this time.

         ACC asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). It also asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's state law claims as barred by the applicable statutes of limitations.[4] And in its supplemental brief, ACC requests dismissal of this case, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as duplicative of the two related lawsuits.

         T&K asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). T&K also asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's state law claims as barred by the applicable statutes of limitation. And in its supplemental brief, T&K asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), as barred by the rule against claim-splitting.

         MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARDS

         Rule 12(b)(1) - Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) generally come in two varieties: facial attacks and factual attacks. Gentek Bldg. Products, Inc. v. Sherman-Williams Co., 491 F.3d 320, 330 (6th Cir. 2007). A facial attack questions merely the sufficiency of the pleading. When reviewing a facial attack, a district court takes the allegations in the complaint as true. Id. If those allegations establish federal claims, jurisdiction exists. Id.

         A factual attack raises a factual controversy concerning whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists. Gentek, 491 F.3d at 330. Where there is a factual attack on the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), no presumptive truthfulness applies to the allegations. When a party attacks the factual existence of subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court must weigh the conflicting evidence to arrive at the factual predicate that subject-matter jurisdiction does or does not exist. Id. In making its decision, the district court has wide discretion to allow affidavits, documents, and even a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve jurisdictional facts. Id.; see also Cunningham v. Rapid Response Monitoring Servs., Inc., 251 F.Supp.3d 1187, 1192 (M.D. Tenn. 2017). As always, the party invoking federal jurisdiction has the burden to prove that jurisdiction. Global Technology, Inc. v. Yubei (XinXiang) Power Steering Sys. Co., Ltd., 807 F.3d 806, 810 (6th Cir. 2015).

         Defendants make a factual attack on subject-matter jurisdiction in this case. AAC specifically notes the factual (as opposed to facial) nature of its attack (Doc. No. 13-1 at 7), and the allegations and arguments of T&K reflect a factual attack as well.

         Rule 12(b)(6) - ...


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