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Jackson v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 22, 2018

GEORGE W. JACKSON, Third Party Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
HOME DEPOT U.S.A., INCORPORATED, Third Party Defendant-Appellant, and CAROLINA WATER SYSTEMS, INC.; CITIBANK, N.A., Defendants.

          Argued: December 5, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, at Charlotte. Graham C. Mullen, Senior District Judge. (3:16-cv-00712-GCM)

         ARGUED:

          Sidney Stewart Haskins, II, KING & SPALDING, LLP, Atlanta, Georgia, for Appellant.

          David Kevin Lietz, VARNELL & WARWICK, P.A., Lady Lake, Florida, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Merritt McAlister, J. Andrew Pratt, Zheyao Li, Atlanta, Georgia, Antonio E. Lewis, KING & SPALDING, LLP, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Daniel K. Bryson, WHITFIELD, BRYSON & MASON, LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina; Rashad Blossom, BLOSSOM LAW PLLC, Charlotte, North Carolina; Janet R. Varnell, VARNELL & WARWICK, P.A., Lady Lake, Florida, for Appellee.

          Before NIEMEYER, SHEDD and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

          DUNCAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Third-Party Defendant Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., filed a Petition for Permission to Appeal the district court's order remanding this case to state court. This court deferred ruling on Home Depot's Petition for Permission to Appeal pending consideration of the merits of the appeal. Home Depot argues that it is entitled to remove the class action counterclaim against it despite Fourth Circuit precedent to the contrary because either the Supreme Court has called this precedent into question or it is distinguishable here. Home Depot also appeals the district court's denial of its motion to realign the parties.

         We grant Home Depot's Petition for Permission to Appeal. For the reasons that follow, we affirm both the district court's decision to remand this case to state court and its denial of Home Depot's motion to realign the parties.

         I.

         On June 9, 2016, Citibank, N.A., filed a debt collection action against George W. Jackson in the District Court Division of the General Court of Justice of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Citibank alleged that Jackson failed to pay for a water treatment system he purchased using a Citibank-issued credit card. On August 26, 2016, Jackson filed an Answer in which he asserted a counterclaim against Citibank and third-party class action claims against Home Depot and Carolina Water Systems, Inc. ("CWS"). Jackson alleged that Home Depot and CWS engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices by misleading customers about their water treatment systems, and that Citibank was jointly and severally liable to him because Home Depot "directly sold or assigned the transaction to" Citibank. J.A. 51. On September 23, 2016, Citibank voluntarily dismissed its claims against Jackson without prejudice.

         Home Depot filed a notice of removal on October 12, 2016, citing federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"). Home Depot asserted that its notice of removal was timely under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) because it was filed within thirty days of its September 12, 2016, receipt of Jackson's counterclaim. On October 28, 2016, Home Depot moved to realign the parties with Jackson as plaintiff and Home Depot, CWS, and Citibank as defendants. On November 8, 2016, Jackson moved to remand. On November 18, 2016, Jackson amended his third-party complaint to remove any reference to Citibank.

         The district court denied Home Depot's motion to realign because it concluded that this was not a case "where there are antagonistic parties on the same side, " and granted Jackson's motion to remand because Home Depot did not meet the removal statute's definition of "defendant." See Citibank, N.A. v. Jackson, ...


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