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Groves v. Farthing

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 10, 2015

JACQUELINE GROVES, Plaintiff,
v.
JONATHAN PAUL FARTHING, et al., SECTION

ORDER

SUSIE MORGAN, District Judge.

Before the Court are two motions: (1) a motion to remand to state court filed by Plaintiff Jacqueline Groves[1] and (2) a motion for leave to conduct a deposition related to the pending motion to remand filed by Defendants Amica Mutual Insurance Company and Amica General Agency, LLC ("Amica").[2] For the following reasons, both motions are DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On February 13, 2015, Plaintiff Jacqueline Groves filed a petition for damages in Orleans Parish Civil District Court alleging she suffered severe injuries, including but not limited to a fractured pelvis and a traumatic brain injury, after Defendant Jonathan Paul Farthing, an uninsured driver operating a motorcycle, struck Plaintiff while she was riding a bicycle.[3] Plaintiff named Farthing and Amica, Plaintiff's alleged uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage provider, as defendants.[4]

On March 5, 2015, Amica filed a notice of removal in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, invoking the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship.[5] On April 2, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case to Orleans Parish Civil District Court, [6] and Amica filed a motion on April 29, 2015 for leave to conduct a deposition related to the motion to remand.[7]

LAW AND ANALYSIS

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and possess only the authority conferred upon them by the United States Constitution or by Congress.[8] Federal law allows for state civil suits to be removed to federal courts in certain instances.[9] Generally, removal jurisdiction is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), which provides:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.[10]

In this case, Amica invoked the Court's diversity jurisdiction when removing this action to federal court.[11] Section 1441(b)(2) limits removal jurisdiction in diversity cases. When removal is based on diversity jurisdiction, the action "may not be removed if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought."[12] This limitation is often referred to as the "forum defendant rule."[13] The Fifth Circuit has held that failure to comply with the forum defendant rule renders removal procedurally defective rather than jurisdictionally defective.[14] Thus, to determine whether removal is proper when original jurisdiction is based on diversity and a forum defendant is named, the Court must undertake a twostep analysis: (1) jurisdictionally, the parties must be completely diverse and the amount-in-controversy requirement must be met, and (2) procedurally, no named defendants served prior to removal may be citizens of the forum state.

In this case, the first prong clearly is satisfied. Diversity jurisdiction exists as the parties are completely diverse and the amount-in-controversy requirement is met.[15] Plaintiff argues, however, the Court must remand this case for failure to satisfy the second prong of the test because Defendant Farthing is a citizen of Louisiana-the forum state-and he was served prior to removal.[16] Thus, to conclude whether the second prong of the test is met, the Court must determine (1) when the case was removed to federal court, and (2) whether Farthing was served prior to that time.

When Was the Case Removed to Federal Court?

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a), defendants seeking to remove a civil action from state court must file in the federal district court "a notice of removal... containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal, together with a copy of all process, pleadings, and orders served upon such... defendants in such action."[17] Section 1446(b) provides the time period during which a notice of removal must be filed and further states that "[w]hen a civil action is removed solely under section 1441(a), all defendants who have been properly joined and served must join in or consent to the removal of the action."[18] Most importantly for our purposes, § 1446(d) provides:

Promptly after the filing of such notice of removal of a civil action the defendant or defendants shall give written notice thereof to all adverse parties and shall file a copy of the notice with the clerk of such State court, which shall effect the removal and the State court shall proceed no further unless and until the case is remanded.[19]

Amica argues this case was removed on March 5, 2015 at 1:21 p.m. when the notice of removal was filed in the federal district court.[20] Attached to the notice of removal is a "Certificate of Compliance with Requirement to Give Notice of Removal" in which Amica certifies that, in compliance with 28 U.S.C. § 1446(d), a copy of the notice of removal had been filed with the clerk of the state court prior to the filing with this Court and written notice of the removal also had been given to all parties in the action.[21] Plaintiff does not dispute that by March 5, 2015 at ...


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