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Valdez v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

November 21, 2019

JOE VALDEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.



         The Court has under consideration a Motion to Dismiss to Allow for Plaintiffs to File Their Claims in State Court (ECF No. 58). The motion is fully ripe and ready for ruling.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In May 2017, Plaintiffs commenced a state action in Karnes County, Texas, against Dr. Rayford Mitchell and BR Healthcare Solutions, LLC (“BR”). See ECF No. 58-1. In August 2017, the United States of America (“USA”) moved to be substituted as a defendant in lieu of Dr. Mitchell and filed a notice of removal. See ECF No. 58-2. To allow for Statutory Notice of claims against USA to proceed, the federal court granted USA's motion to dismiss without prejudice on September 20, 2017, see ECF No. 58-3, and remanded the case to Karnes County on October 3, 2017, see ECF No. 58-4. Eight months later, Plaintiffs filed a notice of non-suit without prejudice. See ECF No. 58-5.

         Two days following that dismissal, Plaintiffs commenced this medical malpractice action against USA and BR asserting jurisdiction under the Federal Tort Claims Act as to USA and supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) as to BR. See Pl.'s Orig. Compl. (ECF No. 1). Just over a year later, Plaintiffs completed the settlement of their claims with USA. See Joint Stip. Dismissal (ECF No. 34). Three months later, Plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint to remove USA as a defendant, which the Court granted while noting that no defendant had filed a response to the motion. See ECF Nos. 47, 56.

         Because this case lacks any current federal claim, Plaintiffs filed the motion now before the Court on September 25, 2019, arguing that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. While agreeing that the matter is within the discretion of the Court, BR urges the Court to retain supplemental jurisdiction based upon its view of the factors to be considered in deciding whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. In reply, Plaintiffs' strenuously disagree with BR's assessment of the relevant factors. BR objects that the reply exceeds the ten-page limit established by the local rules and highlights an alleged pattern of Plaintiffs violating local rules. Because it need not consider the reply brief to decide the jurisdic-tional issue presented, it does not consider the reply brief or BR's objections.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs do not identify the legal basis for their motion. Based on the motion and response, the parties agree that resolution of the motion depends on consideration of factors relevant to supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), which ultimately invoke the Court's discretion. Furthermore, the motion clearly reflects that Plaintiffs seek to voluntarily dismiss the remaining claims so that they may proceed with them in state court. Rule 41(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs voluntary dismissals by plaintiffs. Rule 41(a)(1) provides two ways for plaintiffs to voluntarily dismiss an action without court order. Because those two circumstances are absent in this case, Plaintiffs may not voluntarily dismiss this case without court order.

         It thus appears that Plaintiffs proceed with their motion under Rule 41(a)(2), which provides that this “action may be dismissed at the plaintiff's request only by court order, on terms that the court considers proper.”[1] A dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2) is without prejudice unless the court orders otherwise. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). This rule essentially invokes the Court's discretion, which includes whether dismissal is warranted at all, whether the dismissal should be with or without prejudice, and what terms the court deems proper for a warranted dismissal. See United States v. $13, 275.21, More or Less, in U.S. Currency, No. SA-06-CA-171-XR, 2007 WL 316455, at *5 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 31, 2007). Given the briefing in this case, that discretion also appears intertwined with the discretion to decline supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). See Heggemeier v. Caldwell Cnty., Tex., 826 F.3d 861, 872 (5th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (recognizing that whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction is within discretion of trial courts).

         By its terms, § 1367(c) provides four alternate reasons that a court may invoke to “decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim”:

(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or (4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.

         When determining whether a court has abused its discretion in retaining or declining supplemental jurisdiction over State claims, the Fifth Circuit has considered these enumerated reasons as statutory factors to be balanced with the common law factors of “judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity” identified in Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988). See, e.g., Enochs v. Lampasas Cnty., 641 F.3d 155, 161-62 ...

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