The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson, United States District Judge
Presently before the Court are motions by Defendant Turner Construction ("Defendant") to dismiss individual Complaints brought by Plaintiffs Patrick O'Flaherty ("O'Flaherty") and William Moore ("Moore") for failure to bring suit within the statute of limitations. In the alternative, Defendant moves to have the plaintiffs' claims transferred to the Southern District of New York, pursuant to 408(b)(3) of the Air Transportation System Safety and Stabilization Act ("ATSSSA"). Both O'Flaherty and Moore allege that Defendant was in breach of contract when it failed to compensate them for their services in connection with construction and clean-up work at Ground Zero.
Since Defendant moves to dismiss the plaintiffs' Complaints pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), all facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true.
Defendant is a construction company that conducts operations throughout the United States. O'Flaherty Compl. ¶ 1. After the attacks on the World Trade Center ("WTC") on September 11, 2001, the City of New York retained Defendant's services for debris removal and cleanup operations at Ground Zero. Both plaintiffs "reported to ground zero...to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts" and allege they worked at the site "over the course of the next month or so." Id. ¶2. Each plaintiff, according to their respective Complaints, had a different role in the cleanup operation. O'Flaherty was retained by Defendant as an independent contractor. Id. ¶5. In order to be paid for his services, O'Flaherty submitted a W-4 and signed a disclaimer with Defendant. Id. ¶6. Moore, too, was an independent contractor working for Turner but was also named Branch Chief in the Joint Task Force operated by the Office of Emergency Management for the City of New York. Moore Compl. ¶¶4-6. Moore was sponsored for this position by his union, Teamsters Local 469. Id. ¶ 7. Additionally, Moore provided Defendant with his normal hourly rates and benefits package. Id. ¶8. Upon completion of the cleanup operation, both plaintiffs allege they were not compensated for their services. Id. ¶9; O'Flaherty Compl. ¶7. Numerous attempts made by both plaintiffs to secure their past due wages have allegedly failed. Moore Compl. ¶8; O'Flaherty Compl. ¶10.
Moore and O'Flaherty filed separate causes of action in New Jersey Superior Court, Monmouth County Vicinage on January 15, 2008 and October 27, 2007 respectively. Both actions were removed by Defendant to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
When reviewing a motion to dismiss on the pleadings, courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (citation and quotations omitted). Recently, in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), the Supreme Court clarified the 12(b)(6) standard. Specifically, the Court "retired" the language contained in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Id. at 1968 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46). Instead, the factual allegations set forth in a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 1965. As the Third Circuit has stated, "[t]he Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus:'stating... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).
At the onset, this Court must satisfy itself that there is proper subject matter jurisdiction over the case at bar. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ward Trucking Corp., 48 F.3d 742, 750 (3d Cir.1995) ("[T]he general rule that federal courts have an ever-present obligation to satisfy themselves of their subject matter jurisdiction and to decide the issue sua sponte applies equally in removal cases.").*fn1 Defendant claims that the Southern District of New York is vested with exclusive jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims. Specifically, Defendant contends that the Air Transportation System Safety and Stabilization Act ("ATSSSA") requires the plaintiffs' breach of contract claims to be brought in the Southern District of New York because the factual allegations arise out of cleanup work related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
ATSSSA states, in pertinent part, that:
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all actions brought for any claim (including any claim for loss of property, personal injury or death) resulting from or relating to the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001.
ATSSA § 408(b)(3). The Act's underlying purpose in consolidating jurisdiction over these claims into one forum "was to ensure consistency and efficiency in resolving the many expected actions arising from the events of September 11." The Canada Life Assurance Co. v. Convervium Ruckversicherung AG, 335 F.3d 52, 59 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing Cong. Rec. S9594 (Sept. 21, 2001)). Nonetheless, the broad jurisdictional grant of "any claim resulting from or relating to... September 11" has been construed to not include actions claiming "economic losses that would not have been suffered'but for' the events of September 11 but otherwise involve no claim or defense raising an issue of law or fact involving those events." Id.; Combined Insurance Co. Of America v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's London, 75 Fed. Appx. 799, 801 (2d Cir. 2003) (concurring with the Canada Life Court that this interpretation is "compelled by the language of the provision, canons of statutory construction, section 408(b)(3)s legislative purpose, and the need for judicial efficiency."). In declining to extend 408(b)(3) to economic harms alleged to be a "but for" consequence of the September 11th attacks, the Second Circuit stated:
We note at the threshold that appellant's jurisdictional theory is not simply that its claims can be brought in the Souther District of New York. Because Section 408(b)(3) provides exclusive jursdiction, [plaintiff's] theory necessarily is that its breach of contract action must be brought in the Southern District and cannot be brought anywhere else at least in the United States. In that context, the words "all actions brought for any claim... resulting from or relating to" the events of September 11, 2001 must be read either to draw the jurisdictional ...