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Thomas v. Exxon Mobil Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 31, 2017

TRAVIS THOMAS, ET AL
v.
EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION, ET AL.

         SECTION: “H” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. 44), Defendants Shell Oil Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Gentilly, LLC, Frontier Merger Sub LLC, and Cash America, Inc. of Louisiana's Motion for Review of and Objections to Magistrate Judge's Ruling on Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. 45), and Defendant Ingram Barge Company's Motion for Appeal of the Magistrate Judge's Order Granting Leave to Amend (Doc 47). For the following reasons, the ruling of the Magistrate Judge is AFFIRMED and the Motion to Remand is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs brings this action alleging that exposure to benzene and benzene-containing products at the hands of various defendants caused him to develop acute myeloid leukemia. Defendants Shell Oil Company and Exxon Mobil Corporation removed the action to this Court on grounds of diversity jurisdiction. The Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand, finding that Jafri's Faith, Inc. (“Jafri's”), the only non-diverse defendant, was fraudulently joined in an effort to defeat this Court's diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs then sought leave to amend their Complaint to assert more specific factual allegations against Jafri's. The Magistrate Judge granted their Motion. Plaintiffs now contend that this matter must be remanded due to the joinder of a non-diverse defendant. Defendants respond in opposition and have filed their own Motions for review of the Magistrate Judge's ruling permitting the filing of the Amended Complaint.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. Motion for Review of Magistrate Judge's Ruling

         With the consent of the presiding district judge, a magistrate judge may adjudicate non-dispositive pre-trial motions.[1] A magistrate judge is afforded broad discretion in resolving such motions.[2] A party aggrieved by the magistrate judge's ruling may appeal to the district judge within fourteen days after service of the ruling.[3] The district judge may reverse only upon a finding that the ruling is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”[4] In order to meet this high standard, the district judge must be “left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.”[5]

         II. Motion to Remand

         Generally, a defendant may remove a civil state court action to federal court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the action.[6] The burden is on the removing party to show “[t]hat federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper.”[7] When determining whether federal jurisdiction exists, courts consider “[t]he claims in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal.”[8] “In making a jurisdictional assessment, a federal court is not limited to the pleadings; it may look to any record evidence, and may receive affidavits, deposition testimony or live testimony concerning the facts underlying the citizenship of the parties.”[9] Removal statutes should be strictly construed, and any doubt should be resolved in favor of remand.[10]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         As noted above, there are three Motions pending before the Court: Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. 44), Defendants Shell Oil Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Gentilly, LLC, Frontier Merger Sub LLC, and Cash America, Inc. of Louisiana Motion for Review of and Objections to Magistrate Judge's Ruling on Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. 45), and Defendant Ingram Barge Company's Motion for Appeal of the Magistrate Judge's Order Granting Leave to Amend (Doc 47). The Court will first address the Motions for review of the Magistrate Judge's order granting leave to amend as those Motions are dispositive of the issues before the Court.

         I. Whether the Magistrate's Order Allowing Amendment was “Clearly Erroneous or Contrary to Law

         Defendants argue that the Magistrate's ruling was erroneous because (1) it was improper to consider a post-removal amendment that would deprive the court of jurisdiction, (2) the amended complaint still fails to state a claim against Jafri's, and (3) the Magistrate Judge applied the ...


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