The opinion of the court was delivered by: Theresa L. Springmann United States District Court Fort Wayne Division
Before the Court are the Plaintiff's Motion to Vacate the Arbitrator's Decision [ECF No. 47], filed on September 21, 2010, and the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 49], filed on October 5. The parties have fully briefed these Motions, and they are ripe for ruling. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny both Motions.
The Plaintiff filed his Complaint on October 9, 2007, alleging the Defendant breached its written lease agreement with the Plaintiff. On November 6, 2008, the Court issued an Opinion and Order denying the Defendant's fully-briefed Motion to Dismiss. On December 21, 2009, the Court issued an Opinion and Order granting the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court's Opinion and Order concluded that the Court lacked the ability to resolve the dispute because the lease agreement contained a valid arbitration clause. The Clerk then entered Judgment in favor of the Defendant on February 16, 2010.
On September 21, 2010, the Plaintiff filed his Motion to Vacate Arbitrator's Decision [ECF No. 47], seeking to reopen the terminated case in order for the Court to review the arbitrator's decision. Along with his Motion, the Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Law in Support [ECF No. 48] and exhibits. On October 5, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 49], which is accompanied by exhibits, and a Response [ECF No. 50] to the Plaintiff's Motion, which is also accompanied by exhibits. On October 15, the Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 51].
MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a party may assert the defense of lack of subject-matter jurisdiction by motion. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). "Subject-matter jurisdiction is the first question in every case, and if the court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction it must proceed no further." Ill. v. City of Chi., 137 F.3d 474, 478 (7th Cir. 1998). When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Alicea-Hernandez v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 320 F.3d 698, 701 (7th Cir. 2003). A court may look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence the parties have submitted on the issue to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists. Id. Nevertheless, the burden of proof lies with "the party asserting jurisdiction," which is the Plaintiff in this case. United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003).
On February 16, 2010, the Clerk entered Judgment in this case. In its December 21, 2009, Opinion and Order, the Court granted the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment "in as much as it applies to the applicability of the arbitration clause and not the merits of the case," (ECF No. 45 at 6), but the Court did not order the entry of Judgment. The Seventh Circuit has instructed that "the proper course of action when a party seeks to invoke an arbitration clause is to stay the proceedings rather than to dismiss outright." Halim v. Great Gatsby's Auction Gallery, 516 F.3d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 2008). It may have been appropriate for the Court to stay this case to permit the parties to pursue arbitration, but in any event, it was a mistake for the Clerk to enter judgment. Pursuant to Rule 60(a), the Court will order that the Judgment [ECF No. 46] entered in this case be vacated.
B. The Court's Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
Prior to the Clerk's entry of Judgment and the parties' participation in arbitration, this Court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The Court's subject-matter jurisdiction remains in-tact.
C. The Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
In its Motion to Dismiss, the Defendant argues that the Court should dismiss the Plaintiff's Motion to Vacate Arbitrator's Decision because the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction in this case. It appears ...