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Vaughn v. Lake Charles Joint Venture LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

September 12, 2017

ROBERT VAUGHN, ET AL
v.
LAKE CHARLES JOINT VENTURE, LLC., ET AL

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KATHLEEN KAY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court is a Motion to Remand [doc. #9] filed by plaintiffs, Robert Vaughn and Sara Vaughn. The motion is opposed by defendant, Lake Charles Joint Venture, LLC (“L.C. Joint Venture”).[1]

         For the reasons that follow the court recommends that the motion be GRANTED.

         I.

         Background

         Plaintiffs filed suit on April 13, 2017 in the 14th Judicial District Court, Parish of Calcasieu, Louisiana, for injuries allegedly sustained by Robert Vaughn when he slipped and fell in a bathroom at a hotel owned and operated by defendants.[2] Doc. 1, att. 1, pp. 1-4. L.C. Joint Venture was served with the petition on April 27, 2017. Id. at p. 16. Defendant SAI Hotel, Inc. was served on April 26, 2017. Id. at p. 15.

         While the case was pending in state court L.C. Joint Venture filed an exception of nonconformity and vagueness alleging, inter alia, that plaintiffs failed to set forth their domicile in the petition. Doc. 12, att. 1, pp. 35-36. Shortly thereafter, plaintiffs filed a supplemental and amending petition alleging that their domicile is the state of South Carolina. Id. at pp. 53-54.

         Defendant L.C. Joint Venture filed a Notice of Removal on July 5, 2017, alleging jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, diversity jurisdiction.[3] Doc. 1. It alleges that plaintiffs are residents of the state of South Carolina and that L.C. Joint Venture is a corporation “organized under the laws of the State of Louisiana, and whose members reside in the states of Louisiana and Texas.” Id. It further alleges that SAI Hotel, Inc. is a corporation “organized under the laws of the State of Louisiana, and whose members reside in the states of Louisiana and Texas.” Id.

         Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand on July 21, 2017. Doc. 9. Plaintiffs' motion to remand asserts that removal was improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2), commonly referred to as the “forum defendant rule.” They argue that, since L.C. Joint Venture alleges in the notice of removal that both it and SAI Hotel, Inc. are citizens of Louisiana, the case cannot be removed based on the forum defendant rule. Id.

         After the motion to remand was filed, L.C. Joint Venture filed a Supplemental and Amended Notice of Removal on July 26, 2017. Doc. 12. In its amended notice L.C. Joint Venture asserts that it is a limited liability company whose members are citizens of Texas and Louisiana. Id. It also states that SAI Hotel, Inc. consents to the removal and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.[4]

         In opposing the motion to remand L.C. Joint Venture does not deny that it is a citizen of Louisiana; rather, it argues that the forum defendant rule is inapplicable because it was not properly served with the supplemental and amending petition until July 12, 2017.[5] Doc. 15. In reply plaintiffs contend that both L.C. Joint Venture and SAI Hotel, Inc. were properly served with the original petition on April 27, 2017 and April 26, 2017, respectively, thus, under the forum defendant rule, removal was improper. Doc. 19.

         II.

         Law and Analysis

         Any civil action brought in a state court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction may be removed to the proper federal district court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). District courts have original jurisdiction over all civil actions where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The removing party bears the burden of showing that ...


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