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Bray v. Automatan, LLC

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

March 4, 2016

OREN BRAY and GREAT AMERICAN ALLIANCE INSURANCE COMPANY as subrogee of Oren Bray, Plaintiffs,
v.
AUTOMATAN, LLC, AUTOMATAN HOLDINGS, LLC, and AUTOMATAN, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND

MARY GEIGER LEWIS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This case was filed as a products liability action. In the Complaint, Plaintiff Oren Bray (Plaintiff Bray) and Plaintiff Great American Alliance Insurance Company (Plaintiff GAA) bring claims of negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty against Defendants Automatan, LLC, Automatan Holdings, LLC, and Automatan, Inc. (collectively, Defendants Automatan). The Court has jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1446 and 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. Having carefully considered the motion, the response, the reply, the record, and the relevant law, it is the judgment of this Court that Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand will be denied.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The underlying facts are not in dispute. On May 4, 2012, Plaintiff Bray, an employee of Concept Packaging, was cleaning a machine manufactured by Defendants Automatan when his hand was pulled into the machine, causing serious injuries to his hand, arm, and other parts of his body. ECF No. 1-1 at 5, Amended Complaint ¶¶ 5-9. Concept Packaging had its workers' compensation insurance with Plaintiff GAA, which paid $48, 549.29 to Plaintiff Bray for medical bills, as well as indemnity and lost wages. Id. at 5-6, Amended Complaint ¶¶ 12-14.

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint, and then an Amended Complaint in the Spartanburg County Court of Common Pleas. After Defendants Automatan removed the case to this Court, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand, Defendants Automatan filed their response, and Plaintiffs filed their reply. Consequently, Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is now ripe for review.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"A civil action in any State court arising under the workmen[s'] compensation laws of such State may not be removed to any district court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1445. Therefore, if the Court held that this action arises under the workers' compensation laws of South Carolina, then it would be required to grant Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. See id.

A party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing the existence of federal jurisdiction. Mulachey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). Because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns, a district court must strictly construe removal jurisdiction. Id. (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100 (1941)). If federal jurisdiction is in doubt, remand to state court is necessary. Mulachey, 29 F.3d at 151.

IV. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

The Court summarizes Plaintiffs' arguments in the same manner that they did in their memorandum in support of their Motion to Remand:

ISSUE 1: Is [Plaintiff GAA, ] as subrogee of [Plaintiff] Bray[, ] a proper party plaintiff under the laws of South Carolina, specifically, S.C. Code [Ann.] § 42-1-560 [(concerning the rights and remedies against a third party ...

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