Cooper-Keel v. Keel-Worrell, 1:22-cv-1236

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
PartiesNEVIN P. COOPER-KEEL, JD, Plaintiff, v. GARRETT KEEL-WORRELL, Defendant.
Docket Number1:22-cv-1236
Decision Date14 April 2023




Plaintiff Nevin Cooper-Keel, proceeding pro se, filed a verified complaint against his cousin, Garrett Keel-Worrell, on December 28, 2022, invoking this Court's diversity jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (ECF No. 1 at PageID.1.) Plaintiff has since amended his complaint in response to Defendant's Rule 12(b)(1) motion. (ECF Nos. 5 and 11.)

Presently before me is Defendant's Renewed Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, erroneously brought as a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 14.) The motion is fully briefed and ready for decision. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), I recommend that the motion be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, concluding that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, but that Plaintiff fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 18 U.S.C. § 1512.[1]

I. Facts
A. Procedural Background

As noted above, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this action on December 28, 2022. He alleged state-law claims of: (1) harassment; (2) false imprisonment; (3) extortion; (4) invasion of privacy; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (ECF No. 1 at PageID.10-11.) On January 17, 2023, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment (motion to dismiss) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), asserting that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's complaint because Plaintiff failed to plead facts supporting that the amount-in-controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction is satisfied. (ECF No. 5.) On February 8, 2023, apparently relying on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B), Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, adding a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on Defendant's alleged violation of a federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1512, a claim for civil conspiracy, and a claim for slander and libel. (ECF No. 11.) On February 27, 2023, Defendant filed a renewed motion for summary judgment (motion to dismiss) under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), arguing that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and that Plaintiff fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 18 U.S.C. § 1512. (ECF No. 28.) Plaintiff filed his response on March 27, 2023. (ECF No. 28.) Defendant did not file a timely reply.

B. Factual Background

Because Defendant contends that Plaintiff fails to allege facts showing that the jurisdictional threshold is satisfied, I focus on the original complaint. This is because the amount in controversy is assessed as of the time the complaint is filed. See Klepper v. First Am. Bank, 916 F.2d 337, 340 (6th Cir. 1990) (“When determining whether the amount in controversy has been satisfied, we examine the complaint at the time it was filed.”) (citing Worthams v. Atlanta Life Ins. Co., 533 F.2d 994, 997 (6th Cir. 1976)).

Plaintiff resides in Allegan, Michigan, and Defendant resides in Visalia, California. (ECF No. 1 at PageID.1.) Although Plaintiff and Defendant are cousins, it is evident they have a contentious relationship. The complaint gives the strong impression that they despise one another. Plaintiff and Defendant are further connected by family farmland, in which their mothers and a third sister each owns an undivided one-third interest. The property seems to be the principle root of the conflict. Plaintiff resides on and farms a portion of it pursuant to a lease, but both parties have permission to hunt on it. (Id. at PageID.4-5.) Further complicating the relationship, the property is the subject of litigation in an Allegan County Circuit Court case between Plaintiff's mother and the aunt, on one side, and Defendant's mother on the other.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has harassed and stalked him for many years going back to at least 2015. Plaintiff claims that sometime during that year, Defendant had been intoxicated and was defaming him at a local restaurant in Allegan. After Plaintiff called Defendant and asked him to stop defaming him, Defendant went to Plaintiff's house and challenged Plaintiff to come out and fight. When Plaintiff refused, Defendant broke into Plaintiff's garage and found Plaintiff's children's pet goat, which had just died. Defendant hung the goat on Plaintiff's mailbox, which his children could see from their bedrooms. (Id. at PageID.2.)

On December 20, 2020, Defendant texted Plaintiff that he deserved to be shot. Defendant then said that he would be traveling to Michigan in a few days to see Plaintiff. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed for divorce from his wife in the Allegan County Circuit Court in June 2020. Defendant testified against Plaintiff in the trial pertaining to child custody. One week prior to testifying, Defendant sent a letter to Plaintiff's mother and their aunt requesting that they sell him their interests in the farm, apparently in exchange for his testimony favorable to Plaintiff in the child custody trial. (Id. at PageID.2-3.) Plaintiff does not allege that his mother and aunt acceded to Defendant's request. During the trial, which was broadcast by video, Defendant sent a text to Plaintiff's rebuttal witness while he was testifying. The text stated that Defendant was watching the witness's testimony. Plaintiff asked the judge if the text constituted witness intimidation, but the judge simply “shrugged.” (Id. at PageID.3-4.) Plaintiff alleges that before he filed for divorce, Defendant and Plaintiff's ex-wife did not like each other. During the divorce proceeding, however, Defendant went on a vacation with Plaintiff's ex-wife and Plaintiff's children. He went on a separate trip with Plaintiff's ex-wife to Las Vegas once the divorce was finalized. Plaintiff says that Defendant took these trips in order to inflict emotional distress on Plaintiff. (Id. at PageID.3.)

In September 2021, Defendant texted Plaintiff about getting his mother and aunt to give Defendant and his sister two-thirds of the family farm. Defendant refused Plaintiff's request to stop texting him, so Plaintiff blocked Defendant's phone number. (Id. at PageID.4.)

On June 22, 2022, Defendant emailed Plaintiff that he was coming out to the property to do some maintenance on his deer blinds and that there would be no reason for Plaintiff to speak to him. Defendant emailed Plaintiff the next day offering to help Plaintiff bail hay. Plaintiff declined the offer and told Defendant that he had previously blocked his phone number and had twice told Defendant to stop contacting him. On June 25, 2022, while Plaintiff and his neighbor were baling hay, Defendant stopped his truck across the street and sat and watched Plaintiff and his neighbor working. When Plaintiff asked who it was, Defendant responded, “you know who it is,” and told Plaintiff he wanted to help him bale hay. Plaintiff again told Defendant that he did not want his help, and Defendant drove off. The following day, Plaintiff discovered that a mechanism on his hay baler, which had been operable the prior evening, was broken. Plaintiff “think[s] Defendant probably sabotaged and broke [his] baler,” but he offers no factual allegations supporting his belief. (Id. at PageID.4-6.)

On November 11, 2022, Plaintiff was in his pole barn when Defendant walked inside, cornered Plaintiff, and asked him if he wanted any venison. Plaintiff told Defendant that he did not want his venison. (Id. at PageID.6.)

On November 13, 2022, Plaintiff took a guest, Justin Parker, around the property to look at some hunting spots before deer season opened. As they left Plaintiff's house and started into a field, Defendant drove by and waived to Mr. Parker. Defendant parked his car and followed Plaintiff and Mr. Parker into the field. Defendant then approached Plaintiff and began making offensive statements, including that Plaintiff's children did not love him. Plaintiff asked Defendant to stop, but Defendant followed them while continuing to say offensive things. Defendant also mentioned the lawsuit between their mothers. When Defendant followed Plaintiff and Mr. Parker onto Plaintiff's lawn, Plaintiff told Defendant he was trespassing and called 911. Before the police arrived, Defendant attempted to break into Plaintiff's garage. In addition, Defendant, who was carrying a crossbow, attempted to stop Mr. Parker from driving out of the driveway. Defendant's behavior, as well as his possession of a crossbow, caused Plaintiff to fear for his safety. Thus, on the advice of the 911 operator, Plaintiff went inside his house and locked his door while waiting for the police. (Id. at PageID.6-8.) During this time, Defendant called the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and reported that Plaintiff was harassing Defendant while he was hunting. On November 30, 2022, Plaintiff was charged with “hunters harassment.”[2] (Id.)

For relief, Plaintiff requests a total of $1 million in damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and wage loss he suffered as a result of Defendant's actions. (Id. at PageID.11.)

II. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
A. Motion Standard

A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) may be brought as either a facial attack or a factual attack. United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). A facial attack pertains to whether the plaintiff has alleged a sufficient factual basis in the complaint to support subject matter jurisdiction. Id. When the defendant raises a facial challenge, the court must take the...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT