United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division
DARROW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Claim, ECF No. 21, filed by Defendants Lisa Johnston, Dennis
Sprung, and The American Kennel Club, Inc. (collectively,
“Defendants”), against the Complaint, Ex. A, ECF
No. 1-1. Also before the Court is Plaintiff Ronald
Bombliss' Motion to Remand, ECF No. 12, Motion to Amend,
ECF No. 24, a Motion for Extension of Time to File Amended
Complaint, ECF No. 25, and a Motion for Leave to File
Electronically, ECF No. 26. For the following reasons, the
Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED and the other pending motions
Bombliss is a resident of Galva, Illinois and a longtime
breeder of Tibetan Mastiff dogs. On December 30, 2016,
Bombliss filed a complaint in Knox County, Illinois in
Illinois's Ninth Judicial Circuit, against defendants The
American Kennel Club (“AKC”); Dennis Sprung, the
AKC CEO; Lisa Johnson, AKC Customer Registration Support; and
Jack Norton, the AKC Director of Compliance. The AKC, a
registry and advocacy organization for breeders and owners of
purebred dogs, is headquartered in New York. Bombliss'
complaint alleged “Breach of Fiduciary Duty by
Constructive Fraud.” Defendants filed for removal of
the case to federal court in the Central District of
Illinois, based on diversity jurisdiction. Not. Removal, ECF
alleges that, in the interest of churning a profit by
registering more dogs, the AKC began the practice of
registering litters of puppies without verification that the
litter is the result of a legitimate breeding arrangement. To
that end, Bombliss alleges that the AKC is engaged in
fraudulent registration of dogs without verification from
“legal owners.” He alleges that one such instance
occurred when his Tibetan Mastiff, Kesang Camp's Silkbow
of Ho (“Silkbow”), sired a litter of puppies via
artificial insemination, to a registered Tibetan Mastiff dam
named Goddess Bhasundra Sendroma Komali, owned by
non-defendants Michelle and Kyle McConnell. The McConnells
applied to have the litter of puppies registered with the
AKC. The AKC administered DNA testing on the puppies to
determine that they were, in fact, offspring of Silkbow.
Pursuant to AKC policy, the puppies were then determined to
be purebreds, and the AKC attempted to secure Bombliss'
signature to complete the Litter Registration Application,
which Bombliss refused to provide. Bombliss alleges that the
need for his legal consent via his signature, on the DNA
testing forms as well as a Litter Registration Application,
was “bypassed, ” and that the AKC and the
McConnells perpetrated a fraud on him by going through with
the registration process without notifying him of the need
for his signature.
corresponded with Lisa Johnston, an AKC Customer Registration
Support employee, via letters, attached to the Complaint as
exhibits. In her letters, Johnston writes that according to
AKC procedures, “the owner of the sire is required to
sign an application to register a litter” unless a
signed agreement between all parties states that the sire
owner is not obligated to do so. Ltr. from Lisa Johnston to
Ronald Bombliss (Apr. 1, 2014), ECF No. 1-1 at 29. In later
correspondence, Johnston informed Bombliss that his
“interpretation of the American Kennel Club's rules
is inaccurate” and that he could present evidence of a
pending lawsuit between himself and the McConnells to dispute
the litter registration. Ltr. from Lisa Johnston to Ronald
Bombliss (Apr. 11, 2014), ECF No. 1-1 at 31.
Bombliss refused to sign what he deemed a “fraudulent
litter application, ” he alleges that the AKC, in
retaliation, suspended his membership and fined him $1, 000.
After the removal of the case to federal court, Defendants
filed a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 21, on March 2, 2017.
Bombliss filed a response and motion for leave to amend his
complaint on March 17, 2017, seeking a 90-day continuance
“in order to negate federal jurisdiction.”
Pl.'s Resp. and Mot. Leave Amend. 1, ECF No. 24.
claims $10 million in damages, including punitive damages,
and seeks to have his AKC membership reinstated, as well as
his fees and costs covered.
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand for Amended Complaint and
Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint
February 6, 2017, Bombliss filed a motion to remand this
proceeding to state court in Knox County, IL, where he
originally filed suit. See Mot. Remand, ECF No. 12.
Bombliss bases his motion only on the future prospect that he
might amend his complaint to add defendants “for their
intentional torts committed within Knox County, ” which
would destroy the basis for diversity jurisdiction.
Id. at 1.
may be appropriately removed from state court to federal
court when the action could have been filed originally in
federal court, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, and one such
statutorily-created basis for federal jurisdiction is
diversity jurisdiction, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
“28 U.S.C. § 1332 requires complete
diversity” of citizenship: “no plaintiff may be a
citizen of the same state as any defendant.” Altom
Transport, Inc. v. Westchester Fire Ins. Co., 823 F.3d
416, 420 (7th Cir. 2016). Additionally, 28 U.S.C. § 1332
imposes an amount in controversy requirement guaranteeing
that the value of the action exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C.
Bombliss is a resident of Illinois. Compl. ¶ 1. As for
Defendants, the AKC is headquartered and has its principal
place of business in New York, Dennis Sprung is a citizen of
New York, and both Lisa Johnston and Jack Norton are citizens
of North Carolina. Id. at 2-3. Bombliss does not
contend that the parties, as they currently exist, lack
diversity-only that diversity may be destroyed in the future
by an amended complaint he plans to file. As for the amount
in controversy, the jurisdictional threshold is uncontested
in this matter, and in such a scenario, the
“plaintiff's good faith allegation of the amount in
controversy” is accepted unless the Court can determine
“to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less
than the jurisdictional amount.” McMillian v.
Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 567 F.3d 839 (7th
Cir. 2009). Bombliss has claimed $10 million in damages, and
however unlikely that particular amount of recovery might be,
the Court is not able to determine with legal certainty that
the value of the claim is less than $75, 000. The Court finds
that it has jurisdiction over this proceeding by virtue of 28
U.S.C. § 1332, and will proceed to the merits.
related reasons, the Court denies Bombliss' motion for
leave to amend his complaint in this proceeding under Rule
15(a)(2). Pl.'s Resp. and Mot. Leave Amend. Though the
Court should “freely give leave when justice so
requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), it still has
discretion to deny a motion to amend under certain
circumstances. “Leave to amend may be denied where
there has been undue delay, bad faith, prejudice to the
opponent, dilatory motive on part of movant, or amendment
would be futile.” Figgie Int'l Inc. v.
Miller, 966 F.2d 1178, 1180-81 (7th Cir. 1992). Bombliss
repeatedly states that his purpose for amending the complaint
is to destroy diversity jurisdiction. Pl.'s Resp. and
Mot. Leave Amend. 1; Mot. Remand 1. That is not a sufficient
reason to allow amendment of a complaint. Schwartz v.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 174 F.3d 875, 878 (7th
Cir. 1999) (reiterating that a plaintiff “may not join
an in-state defendant solely for the purpose of ...