Court Dismisses Lawsuit Brought by Former High School Student Athlete

Nov 30, 2012

A federal judge from the Eastern District of Texas has dismissed the lawsuit of a former high school student athlete, who, representing himself, had sued the school he attended, claiming that he “suffers from a chronic condition” because of a concussion he received while playing basketball.
 
The court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, since plaintiff Courtland Dewayne Lindsay had “not alleged facts showing that Whitehouse Jr. High School, its training department or the basketball court is a legal entity that may be sued.”
 
Lindsay alleged in his suit, filed on August 22, 2012, that he “played for a Whitehouse summer league team” in 2004 when he was fourteen years old.” The court noted that he did not state which sport he was playing, but did claim that “he fell and suffered a concussion” and “now suffers from a chronic condition.”
 
The court further wrote that, in the original complaint, “there is no basis for diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and (that he) did not identify a federal law that provides a basis for federal jurisdiction in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In addition, the plaintiff failed to allege facts showing that Whitehouse Jr. High School is an entity that can sue or be sued.” Thus the court gave him thirty days to file an amended complaint addressing the deficiencies.
 
The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 21, 2012 in which he named the “Whitehouse Training Department” and the “Whitehouse Basketball Court” as defendants.
 
In its analysis, the court noted that state courts should decide cases where federal courts do not have jurisdiction.
 
“The pleadings in this case do not reveal diversity of citizenship among the parties, as the plaintiff and the defendants reside in Texas,” wrote the court. “There is no basis for diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In addition, the plaintiff does not identify a federal law that provides a basis for federal jurisdiction in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The pleadings do not identify a basis for federal court jurisdiction and none is apparent from the alleged facts.
 
“Moreover, the plaintiff has not alleged facts showing that Whitehouse Jr. High School, its training department or the basketball court is a legal entity that may be sued. The capacity of a governmental entity to sue or be sued in federal court is determined by state law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b). As a result, for example, ‘although a municipal corporation and the individual members of its city council may have capacity to sue and be sued, the council itself may not be a legal entity for purposes of Rule 17(b).’ Wright, Miller, & Kane, 6A Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 1562, p. 454 (West Publishing, 2d ed. 1990). Under Texas law, a city or county can designate whether its departments or subdivisions can sue or be sued. See, e.g., Darby v. Pasadena Police Department, 939 F.2d 311, 313 (5th Cir.1991) (‘A Texas city is allowed to designate whether one of its own subdivisions can be sued as an independent entity.’). A plaintiff cannot sue a city or county department or subdivision unless it enjoys separate legal existence. Id.”
 
The court added that the plaintiff was given an opportunity to amend the complaint. “The amended complaint, however, does not show a basis for federal court jurisdiction,” wrote the judge. “The complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
 
Courtland Dewayne Lindsay v. Whitehouse Jr. High School, et al.; E.D.Tex.; CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:12CV562, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152898; 10/1/12
 
Attorneys of Record: Courtland Dewayne Lindsay, Plaintiff, Pro se, Tyler, TX.