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Boyd v. Guinyard

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

July 5, 2018

Richard Boyd, Plaintiff,
v.
Elton Latroy Guinyard, Sears Roebuck & Co., and Wolverine World Wide, Inc., Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         This matter is before the court pursuant to Plaintiff Richard Boyd's Motion to Remand this case to the Orangeburg County Court of Common Pleas. (ECF No. 24.) Defendants Elton Latroy Guinyard (“Defendant Guinyard”), Sears Roebuck & Co. (“Defendant Sears”), and Wolverine World Wide, Inc. (“Defendant Wolverine”) (collectively, “Defendants”) oppose Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and request that the court retain jurisdiction. (ECF No. 25.) For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 24).

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed a products liability action for negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty in the Orangeburg County Court of Common Pleas, naming Defendant Wolverine, Defendant Sears, and the correctly identified shoe salesman, Defendant Guinyard, as Defendants in the lawsuit.[1] (ECF No. 1-1.) On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 4.) Plaintiff's lawsuit centers around a staple that protruded through the insole of his boots-allegedly designed and manufactured by Defendant Wolverine and sold by Defendant Sears-resulting in a sore or abscess that formed on Plaintiff's left heel.[2] Id.

         On January 31, 2018, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1), asserting that the court possessed jurisdiction over the matter because complete diversity of citizenship exists between the parties and the amount in controversy is met.[3] (Id. at 2 ¶ 7.) Defendants' diversity of citizenship assertion is based on the contention that neither Defendants Sears nor Guinyard participated in the sale and/or distribution of the boots, which are the subject of Plaintiff's products liability claims. (Id. at 2 ¶ 6.)

         On March 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand, asserting that (1) removal of the case violates Fed.R.Civ.P. § 1446(c)(1) because the removal occurred more than one year after the action was commenced; (2) the removal violates § 1446(b)(1) and (3) because the removal occurred more than 30 days after Defendant Wolverine received the amended pleadings and no “other paper” existed to trigger a new 30-day window for removal; (3) removal violates § 1446(b)(2) because Defendant Guinyard did not consent to removal; and (4) Defendants Sears and Guinyard are not fraudulently joined. (ECF No. 24.)

         On March 16, 2018, Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, positing that (1) the removal was timely under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(1) due to Plaintiff's bad faith actions; (2) the removal was timely under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(1) because the case was removed within one year of the commencement of the second lawsuit; (3) the removal was timely under 28 U.S.C. §1446(b)(3); (4) Defendant Guinyard is a sham defendant added for the purposes of defeating diversity, and therefore, whether he consented to removal is irrelevant to whether Defendant Wolverine's removal was appropriate; and (5) Plaintiff's blatant efforts to deny Defendants their substantial right to removal should not be rewarded by a remand of the case. (ECF No. 25.)

         On March 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply to Defendants' Response maintaining that (1) Defendant Wolverine's removal was indeed untimely under § 1446(b)(3); (2) Plaintiff did not act in bad faith in order to prevent Defendants from removing the action within one year of filing; and (3) Defendants Sears and Guinyard were not fraudulently joined because Plaintiff had established a cause of action against these Defendants. (ECF No. 27.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Removal Based on Diversity Jurisdiction

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. A defendant is permitted to remove a case to federal court if the court would have original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A federal district court has “original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between - (1) citizens of different states….” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). This is known as diversity jurisdiction, and the statute requires complete diversity between all parties. Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. 267, 267 (1806). Complete diversity requires that “no party shares common citizenship with any party on the other side.” Mayes v. Rapoport, 198 F.3d 457, 461 (4th Cir. 1990). Additionally, a civil action otherwise removable solely on the basis of diversity jurisdiction may not be removed if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants are citizens of the state in which such action is brought. 28 U.S.C. 1441(b)(2). This type of removal is generally known as the “home state defendant rule.”

         In cases where the district court's jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, the party invoking federal jurisdiction has the burden of proving the jurisdictional requirements. See Strawn v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 298 (4th Cir. 2008) (holding that in removing a case based on diversity jurisdiction, the party invoking federal jurisdiction must allege diversity jurisdiction in the notice of removal and, when challenged, demonstrate basis for jurisdiction). Because federal courts are forums of limited jurisdiction, any doubt as to whether a case belongs in federal or state court should be resolved in favor of state court. See Auto Ins. Agency, Inc. v. Interstate Agency, Inc., 525 F.Supp. 1104, 1106 (D.S.C. 1981) (citations omitted).

         There are time requirements for a defendant to remove a case to federal court based upon alleged diversity of citizenship under § 1332. First, the notice of removal is required to be filed within 30 days “after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or proceeding is based.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1). Additionally, “if the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed within thirty days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3). According to § 1446(b)(2), “all defendants who have been properly joined and served must join in or consent to the removal of the action” and such consent must be provided by each defendant “within 30 days after receipt by or service on the defendant of the initial pleading or summons described in § 1446(b)(1).” Lastly, 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(1) provides that a case may not be removed on the basis of jurisdiction conferred by section § 1332 (diversity) more than one year after commencement of the action, unless the district court finds that the plaintiff has acted in bad faith in order to prevent a defendant from removing the action.

         B. Fraudulent Joinder

         “It is difficult for a defendant to remove a case if a nondiverse defendant has been party to the suit.” Fields v. Expedited Logistics Solutions LLC, Civil Action No. 5:16-cv-00728-JMC, 2016 WL 7173370, at *2 (D.S.C. Dec. 9, 2016) (quoting Mayes, 198 F.3d at 461). A defendant may accomplish this feat, ...


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