In plaintiff’s lawsuit alleging defendant police officers were grossly negligent in failing to obtain prompt medical assistance and delaying in order to conduct sobriety tests after plaintiff was injured in a one-vehicle accident, the Norfolk U.S. District Court says plaintiff has failed to state any federal claims, and his suit is remanded back to state court.
Plaintiff’s original complaint was filed in Isle of Wight Circuit Court on July 13, 2015. Defendants filed a notice of removal to federal court on July 31, 2015. Plaintiff contends all counts in the original complaint were state law negligence claims and any references to federal law were not intended to raise independent federal claims; however, the face of the original complaint demonstrates otherwise. Under each of the four counts included in the original complaint, plaintiff alleged that various defendants had deprived him of his rights, privileges and immunities secured by the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Constitution and the laws of both the U.S. and Virginia. He also alleged defendants wrongfully deprived him of his “right to freedom from the seizure of his person without warrant lawfully issued, as guaranteed” by the Fourth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and “41 U.S.C. § 1983.” These pleadings clearly set forth multiple causes of action arising under federal law that established a sufficient basis for the court to exercise federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The court issued an order dismissing plaintiff’s federal and state claims, but allowed plaintiff to amend count II.
The federal claims in the instant action were dismissed or removed during the pretrial period and this action has been pending before the court for approximately six months. Where, as here, dismissal of the federal claim occurs early in the pretrial period, concerns of fairness and judicial economy are less likely to be significant, and concerns of comity and federalism are more likely to predominate and counsel against retaining jurisdiction. Although both parties have expended effort in briefing, the instant action remains at a stage where significant resources have yet to be expended by the parties and the court. The court finds that neither party would be unduly burdened or prejudiced by resolving the remaining state law claim for gross negligence in state court. Also, the primary responsibility for developing and applying state law rests with state courts. Despite the court’s doubts regarding the merits of plaintiff’s case, the court finds it in the best interest of comity to remand the remaining state law claim to state court.
Dunlevy v. Coughlin (Doumar) No. 2:15cv347, Feb. 10, 2016; USDC at Norfolk, Va.; Shannon B. Bayona for plaintiff; Carlene B. Johnson for defendants. VLW 016-3-066, 8 pp.