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Brandner v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 13, 2018

KATHLEEN BRANDNER, ET AL.
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.

          NOTICE

          RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have fourteen (14) days after being served with the attached Report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge which have been accepted by the District Court.

         ABSOLUTELY NO EXTENSION OF TIME SHALL BE GRANTED TO FILE WRITTEN OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT.

         MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (R. Doc. 4) filed on July 16, 2018. The motion is opposed by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. (R. Doc. 8). Plaintiffs have filed a Reply. (R. Doc. 13).

         I. Background

         On or about January 19, 2017, Plaintiffs initiated this litigation in the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana. (R. Doc. 1-4). Plaintiffs allege that a vehicle operated by Defendant Morgan Lanoux struck their vehicle from behind on or about April 6, 2016. (R. Doc. 1-4 at 5). As a result of the collision, Plaintiffs allege they suffered injuries and damages, including physical and mental injuries, medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, lost wages and/or earning capacity, and property damage. Plaintiffs sued the alleged driver of the vehicle, as well as the alleged primary insurer, uninsured motorist insurer, and umbrella insurance carrier. (R. Doc. 1-4 at 6).

         Defendants removed the suit to federal court on May 31, 2018, alleging the existence of diversity jurisdiction. (R. Doc. 1 at 1). Defendants acknowledge that Defendant Lanoux is a citizen of Louisiana, but argue that, during a May 4, 2018 deposition, Plaintiff Kathleen Brandner “clearly and definitely indicated her intention to abandon and discontinue any claim against Morgan Lanoux, the only non-diverse defendant present.” (R. Doc. 1 at 3). Plaintiffs filed their Motion to Remand (R. Doc. 4) on July 16, 2018, arguing a lack of complete diversity, or alternatively, insufficient jurisdictional amount.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Legal Standard

         A defendant may remove “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). When original jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, the cause of action must be between “citizens of different States” and the amount in controversy must exceed the “sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)-(a)(1). Subject matter jurisdiction must exist at the time of removal to federal court, based on the facts and allegations contained in the complaint. St. Paul Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253 (5th Cir. 1998) (“jurisdictional facts must be judged as of the time the complaint is filed”). Remand is proper if at any time the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction [and] possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted). The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, is strictly construed and any doubt as to the propriety of removal should be resolved in favor of remand. Gasch v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co., 491 F.3d 278, 281-82 (5th Cir. 2007); see also Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002) (“Any ambiguities are construed against removal because the removal statute should be strictly construed in favor of remand.”); Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001) (“We must presume that a suit lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum.”).

         B. ...


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