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In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray repeats
February 2-over, and over, and over again-until he gets it right. In Sollitt
v. Keycorp (6th Cir. 2/1/12) [pdf], Kevin Sollitt and his former
employer are doomed to repeat his wrong discharge lawsuit, because the bank
took an aggressive position in removing his case to federal court.
(For the uninitiated who want to read all about the
removal of lawsuits from state court to federal court, click here, read, and then come back.)
In sum, the appellate court concluded that the Edge
Act-which permits claims involving international or foreign banking to be filed
in federal court-did not provide a basis for removal of Sollitt's state law
wrongful discharge claim. The Court was reluctant to subscribe "an inherently
limitless view" to the Edge Act's grant of federal jurisdiction:
Suppose, for example, that Sollitt had tripped and fallen
over a stack of carelessly placed printouts of foreign-currency transactions.
This meager association-ridiculous as it is-between the potential negligence
claim and the foreign banking transaction that generated the printouts, would
appear to suffice for Edge Act jurisdiction under so limitless a view. That
cannot be correct....
Sollitt accused a co-worker of misconduct, KeyCorp fired
Sollitt, and Sollitt sued in federal court for wrongful termination. KeyCorp's
firing of Sollitt was not an aspect of "banking" and, therefore, Sollitt's
claim of wrongful termination did not "arise out of" a banking transaction,
even though the entire episode arguably can be traced back to the PHC foreign
As a result, the case will be remanded back to state
court, where it was originally filed. In the interim, the parties litigated the
case, and the employer won summary judgment. Now, the parties are going back to
state court, (maybe) to do it all over again. The plaintiff will certainly want
the chance to re-present the factual issues raised in opposition to the summary
judgment motion, or present new issues he may have discovered.
The lesson? Be very careful when you remove cases. A
federal court's subject matter jurisdiction is always in play, at each stage of
litigation. An appellate court can bounce a case back to state court even if
the district court never even entertained the jurisdictional issue. When that
happens, you will have a Bill Murray moment:
Happy Groundhog Day.
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