Kathryn G. Collier and Benjamin M. Seitz, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
SP Plus Corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
April 25, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 16 C 10587 -
Charles R. Norgle, Judge.
Manion, Hamilton, and Barrett, Circuit Judges.
case presents an unusual circumstance: both parties insist
that the plaintiffs lack Article III standing to sue. They
draw opposing conclusions from this premise, however. The
plaintiffs say that without standing their case could not be
removed from state court using 28 U.S.C. § 1441; the
defendant justifies removal but says the case then required
dismissal for lack of standing. The district court agreed
with the defendant and dismissed the case. But the case was
not removable, because the plaintiffs lack Article III
standing-negating federal subject-matter jurisdiction.
Accordingly, we vacate the judgment and remand for the
district court to return the case to state court.
operates public parking facilities at Dayton International
Airport and is headquartered in Chicago. Collier and Seitz
allege that they used these parking lots in 2015 and received
receipts that included the expiration date of their credit or
debit cards. Printing that information, they say, violated
the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act
("FACTA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681c(g)(1).
and Seitz filed a class-action complaint in the Circuit Court
of Cook County alleging that SP Plus willfully violated
FACTA. They requested statutory and actual damages, stating
that actual damages "exceed Twenty-Five Thousand
Dollars." The complaint did not describe any concrete
harm that the plaintiffs had suffered from the printed
receipts' exposure of their cards' expiration dates;
no one, for example, had experienced credit-card fraud or
removed the action to federal court, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a), arguing that the district court had
federal-question jurisdiction because the claim arose under a
federal statute. A week later SP Plus moved to dismiss the
complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for
lack of Article III standing because the plaintiffs did not
allege an injury in fact, thereby "depriv[ing] this
Court of subject matter jurisdiction." Collier and Seitz
responded by moving to remand to state court, arguing that it
was SP Plus's responsibility to establish subject-matter
jurisdiction and that, without it, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)
required the district court to return their case to state
court. Because Article III does not apply in state court,
they presumably hoped that their case could stay alive there
despite their lack of a concrete injury.
district court denied the motion to remand because
"FACTA is a federal statute, so the case arises under
federal law" and the court had jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1331. The court then analyzed the standing
question. Collier and Seitz had failed to allege an actual
harm, the court stated, because they did not support their
request for actual damages with factual allegations. Relying
on Spokeo, Inc., v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540 (2016),
and Meyers v. Nicolet Restaurant of De Pere, LLC,
843 F.3d 724 (7th Cir. 2016), the court determined that
Collier and Seitz could not establish standing by stating
only that the defendant had violated statutory requirements.
Thus, the court reasoned, Collier and Seitz "ha[d] not
established subject matter jurisdiction." The court
granted Collier and Seitz leave to amend their complaint.
When they did not, the court dismissed the case with
party invoking federal jurisdiction, SP Plus had to establish
that all elements of jurisdiction-including Article III
standing-existed at the time of removal. See Lujan v.
Def. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992) ("The
party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of
establishing" Article III standing); Tri-State Water
Treatment, Inc., v. Bauer, 845 F.3d 350, 352-53 (7th
Cir. 2017) (cert. denied) ("the party seeking
removal" must establish federal jurisdiction). Removal
is proper only when a case could originally have been filed
in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Ne. Rural
Elec. Membership Corp. v. Wabash Valley Power Ass'n,
Inc., 707 F.3d 883, 890 (7th Cir. 2013). SP Plus reasons
that was true of Collier and Seitz's federal-law claim
because § 1441(a) allows removal of cases over which
federal courts would have had "original
jurisdiction" and 28 U.S.C. § 1331 grants district
courts "original jurisdiction" over claims
"arising under" a federal statute. But reliance on
the phrase "original jurisdiction" is not enough,
because federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction only
if constitutional standing requirements also are satisfied.
See Spokeo, Inc., 136 S.Ct. at 1547-48 (plaintiff
lacks standing, and court lacks jurisdiction, without
"concrete and particularized" invasion of legally
protected interest that is "actual or imminent");
Dunnet Bay Const. Co. v. Borggren, 799 F.3d 676,
688-89 (7th Cir. 2015) (unlike prudential standing,
constitutional standing is jurisdictional).
to establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction, SP Plus
must also show that Collier and Seitz have Article III
standing-specifically, that they suffered an injury beyond a
statutory violation. The company disagrees and suggests that
once removal based on a federal question gets a
defendant's foot in the door of a federal court, the
slate is wiped clean and the defendant can challenge
jurisdiction. But § 1447(c) makes clear that the
district court must remand the case to state court if
"at any time before final judgment it appears
that the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction." (Emphasis added.)
it is clear that Collier and Seitz's complaint did not
sufficiently allege an actual injury. A mere reference to
"actual damages" in the complaint's prayer for
relief does not establish Article III standing. See
Diedrich v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 839 F.3d 583, 588
(7th Cir. 2016) (requiring "sufficient factual
allegations of an injury resulting from defendants'
conduct" to state a plausible claim for relief);
Silha v. ACT, Inc., 807 F.3d 169, 174 (7th Cir.
2015) (adopting Twombly-Iqbal standard for
evaluating Rule 12(b)(1) motions). The single reference here
falls far short of an allegation that the plaintiffs suffered
a concrete harm or appreciable risk of harm apart from the
statutory violation. See Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1548;
Meyers, 843 F.3d at 727-29.
next contends that the conclusory request for "actual
damages" is unfair because it allows Collier and Seitz
to clarify what concrete injury they suffered "after it
is too late" for removal. So SP Plus requests that we
order Collier and Seitz to "amend their Cook County
Complaint to support their allegations of actual damages or
strike these allegations from that Complaint." This is
impossible. We have no basis to order these plaintiffs how to
plead their case in state court after remand. Further, a
state's standing doctrine is "the business" of
its own courts; "it is not for [this court] to venture
how the case would there be resolved." Smith v. Wis.
Dep't of Agric., Trade, & Consumer Prot., 23
F.3d 1134, 1142 (7th Cir. 1994).
event, there is no unfairness here. If, after remand, Collier
and Seitz were to amend their complaint to state an injury in
fact, 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3) would permit SP Plus to
then remove the case to federal court. See Walker v.
Trailer Transit, Inc., 727 F.3d 819, 820-21 (7th Cir.
2013) (observing that, if an initial pleading is not
removable, defendant has 30 days to remove once it becomes
clear "the case is or has become removable"). And
even if Collier and Seitz do not amend, SP Plus could remove
if they ...