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Massey v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

January 24, 2018

ANGEL MASSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Timothy C. Batten, Sr., United States District Judge

         This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff Angel Massey's motion [7] to remand to state court.

         I. Background

         This case arises from a state law breach of contract and negligence action filed by Massey against State Farm and a now-dismissed Defendant, Corndawgs, Inc. d/b/a Serv Pro of Clayton County ("Corndawgs"). Massey originally filed this case on March 27, 2017 against both Defendants in the State Court of Clayton County, Georgia.

         At the time this case was filed in state court, the parties were non-diverse under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Both Massey and Corndawgs were citizens of the State of Georgia. On July 28, the state court granted Corndawgs's motion to dismiss based on insufficient service of process, leaving only State Farm and Massey in the case. State Farm timely removed the case to this Court. As a result, upon removal the only remaining parties were diverse: Massey from Georgia and State Farm from Illinois.

         Massey opposes removal in a pleading the Court construes as a motion [7] to remand. After considering the motion and State Farm's response, the Court ordered supplemental briefing regarding whether the "voluntary-involuntary rule" bars removal in this case. The Court examines whether removal was appropriate in light of the parties' briefing on the original motion and supplemental briefing pursuant to the Court's order.

         II. Legal Standard

A civil action originally filed in a state court may be removed to a federal district court if the district court has original jurisdiction over the case. Id. § 1441(a). The burden is on the removing party, here State Farm, to establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction. Friedman v. N.Y.Life Ins. Co., 410 F.3d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 2005). "If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). "Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and there is a presumption against the exercise of federal jurisdiction, such that all uncertainties as to removal jurisdiction are to be resolved in favor of remand." Russell Corp. v. Am. Home Assurance Corp., 264 F.3d 1040, 1050 (11th Cir. 2001).

         III. Analysis

         State Farm removed this case on the basis of diversity of citizenship jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Massey asserts that removal was not proper because the presence of Corndawgs, a now-dismissed Defendant and Georgia resident, defeats diversity jurisdiction. Because the Court agrees with Massey, this case must be remanded.

         A. Removal from State Court

         Congress has granted federal district courts original subject-matter jurisdiction over two major categories of civil actions: those that "aris[e] under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States"- or, federal-question jurisdiction, id. § 1331-and those that involve an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000 and that are "between citizens of different States, between U.S. citizens and foreign citizens, or by foreign states against U.S. citizens"-or, diversity jurisdiction, Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005) (citing id. § 1332).

         When, as here, the purported jurisdictional basis for removal is Section 1332(a)(1)-a civil action satisfying the amount-in-controversy requirement and between "citizens of different States"-there must be "complete diversity of citizenship. That is, diversity jurisdiction does not exist unless each defendant is a citizen of a different State from each plaintiff." Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978).

         Whether diversity jurisdiction exists is determined by examining the citizenship of the parties at the time the complaint is filed and at the time of removal. See Roecker v. United States,379 F.2d 400, 407 (5th Cir. 1967); Ritts v. Dealers All. Credit Corp.,989 F.Supp. 1475, 1476 (N.D.Ga. 1997); 15 James Wm. Moore, Moore's Federal PRACTICE § lO2.2l[l] (3d. ed. 2017) ("If a case is filed in state court and a defendant seeks removal to federal court, diversity of citizenship generally must exist both at the time the original action is filed and at the time the removal petition is filed."); see also Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Hillman,796 ...


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