Breach of contract claim against Drexel University remanded to state court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jun 16, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – Per order of a federal judge, a Philadelphia man’s lawsuit alleging a breach of contract against Drexel University has been remanded to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

On June 2, Judge Gene E.K. Pratter of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania sent Festus Kandjabanga’s breach of contract suit back to state court, citing an improper removal to the District Court by the defense and a lack of proper jurisdiction.

On July 10, 2015, Kandjabanga filed a complaint in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas against Drexel University, alleging a breach of contract claim related to his architecture studies at the institution and a transfer of program credits to the Community College of Philadelphia.

However, on Jan. 26, the plaintiff further filed an entirely separate complaint in federal court against Drexel and seven individual Drexel administrators and professors, alleging multiple causes of action under Section 1983 for violations of his federal civil rights.

On Feb. 24, in the initial state court action, the plaintiff filed a motion requesting injunctive relief against Drexel, in connection with his breach of contract claim.

“In this motion, however, he referenced many of the same facts alleged in his federal complaint. On March 9, 2016, Drexel moved to remove the state court action to federal court on the basis that Mr. Kandjabanga’s state court action raised federal claims. Mr. Kandjabanga then moved for remand,” Pratter said.

According to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Pratter explained this removal could only take place if Kandjabanga’s litigation covered ground set aside for consideration of federal law.

“Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(a), a defendant may remove a civil action brought in state court for which the district courts of the United States would have had original jurisdiction,” Pratter stated. “As the parties here are not diverse, the Court would only have original jurisdiction over the matter if Mr. Kandjabanga’s state action raised a federal question.”

In this particular case, Pratter believed Kandjabanga “sought no such federal remedy.”

“The Court has reviewed the state court pleadings attached to the defendant’s response in opposition to the motion for remand as well as the notice of removal, and it is clear that despite parallels in the facts alleged in the state and federal proceedings, Mr. Kandjabanga has only alleged a state common law cause of action in his state court action that was removed here to federal court. The Court cannot read a federal cause of action into the plaintiff’s state complaint for purposes of establishing jurisdiction simply because Mr. Kandjabanga alleges facts which theoretically could give rise to a federal cause of action,” Pratter said.

Pratter concluding by granting the plaintiff’s motion to remand his case to state court.

“This Court does not have original jurisdiction over Mr. Kandjabanga’s state common law claims. Therefore, the removal was improper. The Court will remand to the state court,” Pratter said, adding this ruling did not affect Kandjabanga’s separate federal litigation, regarding alleged civil rights violations committed by Drexel University and its administrators and professors.

The defendant is represented by Michael E. Sacks of Hamburg & Golden, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-01114

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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