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Kunneman Properties LLC v. Marathon Oil Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

January 9, 2018

KUNNEMAN PROPERTIES LLC, on behalf of itself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
MARATHON OIL COMPANY including affiliated predecessors and affiliated successors, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. DOWDELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or Transfer and Brief in Support. This document was docketed as two separate motions: a motion to dismiss (Doc. 21) and a motion to transfer (Doc. 22). A better way to understand Defendant's filing-based on the content and organization of the document itself-is as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and a motion to dismiss or transfer due to improper venue. This is how Plaintiff understood the split between the two docketed items, and Plaintiff filed its responses accordingly. Plaintiff's first Response (Doc. 29), filed on October 9, addressed Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) arguments. The Court then granted Plaintiff an extension of time to respond to the “motion to transfer.” (Doc. 31). In that later Response (Doc. 35), Plaintiff addressed Defendant's venue-based arguments for transfer and/or dismissal. Defendant now contends that Plaintiff filed an untimely response to its motion to dismiss for improper venue by not including it in the earlier Response. (Doc. 36 at 2-3). The Court will not penalize Plaintiff for addressing the dismissal aspect of Defendant's venue arguments along with its discussion of transfer-especially when Defendant organized its initial brief in that manner. (See Doc. 21 at 2 of 34). In fact, the Court will follow suit and address the venue-based arguments together in this Order, leaving the Rule 12(b)(6) arguments for a later date.

         I. Background

         In its Complaint, Plaintiff Kunneman Properties LLC (“Kunneman”) brings several claims against Defendant Marathon Oil Company (“Marathon”), all concerning royalty payments on oil and gas wells in the State of Oklahoma. (Doc. 2). Plaintiff purports to bring its claims as a representative party on behalf of others similarly situated, though this Court has not yet considered Plaintiff's request for class certification pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c). (See id. at 34).

         Plaintiff asserts that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over these claims based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), which, in relevant part, grants federal district courts original jurisdiction in “any civil action in which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is a class action in which . . . any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). Plaintiff contends in its Complaint that the amount in controversy in this case exceeds the jurisdictional amount and that “members of the classes and Marathon are citizens of different states.” (Doc. 2 at ¶ 2).

         Plaintiff further contends that venue is proper in this District “because Marathon transacts business and is found within this District, and/or has agents within this District, and a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claims asserted herein occurred in this District.” (Id. at ¶ 3). Defendant disputes this characterization, arguing that “neither Marathon nor the claims have a sufficient connection to the Northern District to authorize venue under [28 U.S.C. §] 1391(b).” (Doc. 21 at 11 of 34).

         II. Discussion

         A. Challenge to Venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), a civil action may be brought in:

(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.

         Subpart (3) is not relevant here, as Plaintiff concedes that this action could have been brought in the Western District of Oklahoma. (See Doc. 35 at 12). The current dispute revolves, instead, around § 1391(b)(1) and (2). The Court finds it unnecessary to consider whether venue is proper under § 1391(b)(1) because it finds that venue is proper under § 1391(b)(2). See Atl. Marine Constr. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S.Ct. 568, 577 (2013) (“When venue is challenged, the court must determine whether the case falls within one of the three categories set out in § 1391(b). If it does, venue is proper . . . .”); see also ConocoPhillips Co. v. Jump Oil Co., 948 F.Supp.2d 1272, 1282 (N.D. Okla. 2013) (treating § 1391(b)(1) and § 1391(b)(2) as alternative, rather than hierarchical, venue provisions).

         The Tenth Circuit has set forth a two-part test for reviewing challenges to venue under § 1391(b)(2). Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618 F.3d 1153, 1166 (10th Cir. 2010). The court first “examine[s] the nature of the plaintiff's claims and the acts or omissions underlying those claims.” Id. Then, the court “determine[s] whether substantial ‘events material to those claims occurred' in the forum district.” Id. (citing Gulf Ins. Co. v. Glasbrenner, 417 F.3d 353, 357 (2d Cir. 2005)). In doing so, the court looks “not to a single triggering event prompting the action, but to the entire sequence of events underlying the claim.” Id. (quoting Uffner v. LaReunion Francaise, S.A., 244 F.3d 38, 42 (1st Cir. 2001)). A showing of “‘acts and omissions that have a close nexus' to the alleged claims” will meet the substantiality ...


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