United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 5). For
the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.
a civil action originally filed in the Civil District Court
for the Parish of Orleans by Plaintiff Delories Carter on May
21, 2018. Defendant Government Employees Insurance Company
(“GEICO”) removed the case to this Court,
invoking diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff Delories Carter
(“Carter”) responded with the instant Motion to
Remand on grounds that the parties lack complete diversity.
GEICO responds, arguing that the actual parties in interest
satisfy diversity requirements.
case arises out of an automobile accident that occurred in
Orleans Parish on June 16, 2017, when an automobile owned and
operated by Defendant Mateal Lawhorn (“Lawhorn”),
a Louisiana resident and Plaintiff's sister, was struck
by an automobile owned and operated by Albert Cornish
(“Cornish”). Plaintiff was a passenger in
Lawhorn's vehicle when the accident occurred, and she
sued Cornish and his liability insurer, State Farm, in a
separate proceeding. Cornish and State Farm accepted full
responsibility for this accident, and State Farm paid its
policy limits of $30, 000.00 to the injured parties.
Lawhorn carries a policy of insurance with GEICO, and this
policy includes uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist
coverage (“UM/UIM”) for Lawhorn and her
passengers if they meet certain requirements. The relevant
requirements in the policy here are that the passenger must
be related to Lawhorn and must also reside in the same
household. Plaintiff alleges that because she is
Lawhorn's biological sister and because she resides with
Lawhorn, Plaintiff is insured under the policy and she may
recover if, as she alleges here, her damages exceed the
limits of the tortfeasor's policy.
filed the instant suit on May 21, 2018, against Lawhorn and
GEICO, alleging that the settlement of policy limits by State
Farm was inadequate to compensate her for her injuries and
damages caused by the accident and asserting bad faith claims
against GEICO. Plaintiff has made a demand in this lawsuit
for UM/UIM benefits under GEICO's policy by virtue of her
status as a passenger in the Lawhorn vehicle.
subsequently filed a Notice of Removal on diversity grounds.
Plaintiff now seeks to remand this case arguing a lack of
complete diversity between the parties. Specifically,
Plaintiff notes that both Plaintiff and Lawhorn are residents
of Louisiana and argues that GEICO is a resident of Louisiana
for purposes of this lawsuit, as the holder of the insurance
policy that covers Plaintiff. Defendant GEICO opposes this
Motion, setting forth the following two arguments: (1)
Lawhorn was improperly joined to this suit to defeat
diversity, and (2) because Plaintiff seeks UM/UIM coverage,
rather than liability insurance, Plaintiff's citizenship
cannot be imputed to GEICO. GEICO argues, therefore, that
complete diversity exists.
a defendant may remove a civil state court action to federal
court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the
action. The burden is on the removing party to
show “[t]hat federal jurisdiction exists and that
removal was proper.” When determining whether federal
jurisdiction exists, courts consider “[t]he claims in
the state court petition as they existed at the time of
removal.” Removal statutes should be strictly
construed, and any doubt should be resolved in favor of
matter to fall within the Court's diversity jurisdiction,
the parties must be citizens of different states and the
amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000. The parties do
not appear to dispute that the amount in controversy
requirement is met. Likewise, the parties do not appear to
dispute that Plaintiff is a citizen of Louisiana and
Defendant Lawhorn is a citizen of Louisiana. The parties do,
however, dispute the citizenship of Defendant GEICO and
whether Defendant Lawhorn was properly joined. GEICO argues
that the non-diverse defendant, Mateal Lawhorn, is
fraudulently joined and that without her, diversity exists
and jurisdiction is established. Plaintiff responds that
Lawhorn was properly joined and that, at any rate, GEICO is
also a citizen of Louisiana for the purposes of this lawsuit.
This Court will consider each argument in turn.
Defendant Mateal Lawhorn's ...