United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
ARIE D. BAX, S. NAKI RICHARDSON-BAX, JOSEPH CHRISTOFF, and FELICIA CHRISTOFF, Plaintiffs,
ALLSTATE INSURANCE CO., Defendant.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on plaintiffs' motion to amend
their complaint, ECF No. 8, and plaintiff's motion to
remand, ECF No. 9. For the reasons set forth below, the court
denies without prejudice the motion to amend the complaint
and denies the motion to remand.
facts of this case are relatively straightforward. Plaintiffs
Joseph and Felicia Christoff (“the Christoffs”)
purchased a flood insurance policy for their house
(“the Policy”). The Policy was issued by
defendant Allstate Insurance Co. (“Allstate”).
The Christoffs subsequently sold their house to plaintiffs
Arie D. Bax (“Bax”) and S. Naki Richardson-Bax
(“Richardson-Bax”). Bax and Richardson-Bax were
allegedly added as “other insureds” to the
Policy. On October 8, 2016, Bax and Richardson-Bax's home
was damaged by a flood, and Bax and Richardson-Bax submitted
a claim under the Policy to Allstate. After investigating the
claim, Allstate issued a coverage denial letter on October
result, plaintiffs filed suit against Allstate in the Court
of Common Pleas for the Fourteenth Judicial District in
Beaufort County, South Carolina on May 7, 2019. The complaint
brings causes of action for breach of contract and bad faith.
Allstate removed the action to federal court on June 14,
2019. Then on July 1, 2019, plaintiffs filed a motion to
amend the complaint, ECF No. 8, and a motion to remand, ECF
No. 9. Allstate responded to the motion to remand on July 15,
2019, ECF No. 10, but did not respond to the motion to amend
the complaint. Plaintiffs did not file a reply. The motions
are now ripe for review.
party seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction,
defendants have the burden of proving jurisdiction upon
motion to remand. Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369
F.3d 811, 816 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mulcahy v. Columbia
Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994));
see Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 73
(1996) (stating that the party seeking to remove a case from
state court to federal court bears the burden of
demonstrating that jurisdiction is proper at the time the
petition for removal is filed). In deciding a motion to
remand, the federal court should construe removal
jurisdiction strictly in favor of state court jurisdiction.
Id. “If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a
remand is necessary.” Mulcahy, 29 F.3d at 151
(citations omitted), Pohto v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
2011 WL 2670000, at *1 (D.S.C. July 7, 2011) (“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.”).
simultaneously filed a motion to amend their complaint and a
motion to remand. The court discusses each in turn.
Motion to Amend Complaint
seek to amend their complaint to add Kinghorn Insurance of
Beaufort LLC as a defendant and to add several new causes of
action. Plaintiffs attached their proposed amended complaint
to their motion. Allstate did not file a response to the
motion. When a party fails to respond to a motion, the court
decides the motion on the record before it. Local Civ. Rule
argue that they should be permitted to amend their complaint
because they sought permission to amend within 21 days of
receiving Allstate's answer, pursuant to Rule 15(a)(1)(B)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and because there is
nothing here to prevent the court from freely giving leave,
pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2). The court first notes that, at the
time plaintiffs filed their motion, plaintiffs did not need
to seek leave from the court to amend their complaint. Rule
15 provides that “[a] party may amend its pleading once
as a matter of course” within 21 days of
service of a responsive pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B)
(emphasis added). The court points this out to clarify that
plaintiffs filing their motion within 21 days of receiving
Allstate's answer is irrelevant to the court's
that the 21-day time period to amend as a matter of course
has passed, the court must consider if “justice so
requires” the court give leave. In considering the
issue, the court is a bit perplexed by plaintiffs'
request for the court to accept proposed amended complaint.
The caption of the proposed amended complaint contains
information for the state court, not this court. Clearly,
this court cannot give leave to plaintiffs to amend their
complaint in state court, and the court cannot accept a state
court complaint in federal court. As such, the court denies
the motion to amend without prejudice. If plaintiffs want to
amend their complaint in this court, they may refile their
motion with a properly captioned proposed amended complaint.