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Ouma v. Asher

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

May 30, 2019

WASHIE OUMA, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff Washie Ouma ("Ouma") filed this lawsuit pro se against five defendants: Tyler Asher ("Asher"), David H. Long ("Long"), Liberty Mutual Insurance ("Liberty"), Katherine Morton ("Morton"), and the Katherine Morton Law Office ("Law Office") (collectively, "Defendants").

         Before the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rules") 12(b)(2), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6). (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 13 ("Motion").) For the reasons set forth below, this action should be dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction, . and Defendants' Motion should be DENIED as MOOT.


         On May 17, 2018, Ouma commenced this action by filing a court-supplied form complaint in United States District Court for the District of Oregon. (Compl., ECF No. 1 ("Compl.").) Though the Complaint is not easily decipherable, its allegations apparently stem from events surrounding a lawsuit adjudicated in Oregon state court to which Ouma was party. (Compl., Attach. I[1]("Statement"), at 2-3.) The case concerned a car accident involving Ouma. (Id.) The opposing party was the other driver represented by legal counsel retained by his insurer, Safeco Insurance Company ("Safeco"), which is ostensibly owned by Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. (Statement, at 1.) At trial, Safeco introduced into evidence emergency room records which presumably documented the injuries Ouma sustained in the accident. (Id. at 3.) The judgment subsequently entered by the state court was adverse to Ouma, who alleges the unfavorable state court judgment was reached in reliance on the emergency room records that were "intentionally forged/stole [n]" by an unidentified Safeco employee for use as evidence in that case. (Id. at 1-3.) Ouma claims Defendants have "re-victimized and re-harmed [him] and . . . have added an insult to some of the injuries caused ... by their negligent insured driver." (Id. at 2.)

         The Complaint names Ouma, a resident of Oregon, as the sole plaintiff. (Compl., at 2.) Though five defendants are listed in the case caption, the Complaint names only Asher and Long, both residents of Massachusetts, and Morton, a resident of Oregon, in the space provided for "The Defendants." (Id. at 2-3.) As a basis for jurisdiction, Ouma checked both boxes on page 4 of the Complaint, indicating that both diversity and federal question jurisdiction apply in this case. With respect to diversityjurisdiction, Ouma names only Asher, reiterating Asher's Massachusetts address, and Liberty, which Ouma lists as being incorporated under the laws of Oregon with its principal place of business in Massachusetts. (Id. at 4-5.) As the basis for federal question jurisdiction, Ouma identifies a federal criminal statute - 18 U.S.C. § 1028 ("Section 1028") - which criminalizes "[f]raud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information." (Compl., at 4.) Ouma seeks money damages exceeding $5 million dollars. (Id. at 6.)

         Legal Standard

         Unlike state courts, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, at 377 (1994). Thus, federal courts can hear only those types of cases authorized by Article III of the United States Constitution or by statute. Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). "It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction[.]" Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377 (internal citation omitted). "The objection that a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised by aparty, or by a court on its own initiative, at any stage in the litigation, even after trial and the entry of judgment." Arbaugh v. Y& H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006) (internal citations omitted). Accordingly, a federal court must dismiss those cases over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction and may do so sua sponte. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3); Arbaugh, 546 U.S. at 514.

         As the Ninth Circuit has instructed, however, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally," Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A complaint filed pro se "'must be held to less, stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, '" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)). A pro se litigant will be given leave to amend his or her complaint unless it is clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000).


         Congress has divided a district court's subject matter jurisdiction under Article III into three categories: (1) federal question jurisdiction - those cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, pursuant to 28 U.S. C, § 1331 ("Section 1331"); (2) diversity jurisdiction - cases involving citizens of diverse states, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 ("Section 1, 332"); and (3) cases of admiralty law under 28 U.S.C. § 1333. The presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction "is governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiffs properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987), Alternatively, whether diversity jurisdiction exists is dependent on the following requirements: (1) the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs, and (2) there must be complete diversity of citizenship among the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). More simply, if any defendant is a citizen of the same state as the plaintiff, diversity is destroyed and the court lacks jurisdiction unless a federal question applies. Tosco Corp. v. Communities for a Better Env't, 236 F, 3d495, 499 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Defendants' Motion does not challenge the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in this case. Nevertheless, this court has an independent obligation to confirm it has the power to decide the controversy before it. Ruhr gas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999) Because Ouma claims both federal question and diversity jurisdiction apply, the court analyzes each in turn.

         I. Federal ...

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