United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
ORDER AND OPINION
matter is before the court by way of Plaintiff Brandon
Peake's (“Peake”) Motion for Reconsideration
(ECF No. 54) of this court's Order entered on September
5, 2019 (the “September Order”) (ECF No. 53). In
the September Order, the court denied Peake's Motion to
Remand the case to the Fairfield County Court of Common
Pleas. (ECF No. 53.) Defendant Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.
(“SMAI”) opposes the Motion for Reconsideration
and asserts that Peake has not presented any arguments
entitling him to reconsideration of the September Order. (ECF
No. 55 at 1.) For the reasons stated below, the court
GRANTS Peake's Motion for
Reconsideration (ECF No. 54) and REMANDS the
case to the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas.
RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
filed this products liability action in the Fairfield County
Court of Common Pleas on December 19, 2018. (See
generally ECF No. 1-1 at 2-4.) Peake names three
Defendants: (1) Suzuki Motor Corporation (“SMC”),
(2) American Suzuki Motor Corporation (“ASMC”),
and (3) SMAI (collectively, “Defendants”).
Id. Peake's chief allegation is that the
defective condition of a Suzuki Quadrunner 4WD-allegedly
designed, manufactured, and sold by Defendants-resulted in
serious and severe head and bodily injuries to Peake.
(Id. at 3-4; ECF No. 11 at 1-3.)
February 11, 2019, SMAI filed its Notice of Removal (ECF No.
1), alleging that the case is removable to this federal court
under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b), based on diversity of
citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. §1332; (ECF No. 1.)
February 28, 2019, Peake filed his Motion to Remand (ECF No.
16). Peake's main argument supporting remand is that SMAI
improperly removed the action without the consent of all
“properly joined and served defendants” as
required under the removal statute. 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b)(2)(A). (See generally ECF No. 16.)
Specifically, Peake argued that SMC was a “properly
joined and served defendant” because the South Carolina
Secretary of State accepted service on its behalf on January
7, 2019, pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-9-245(a)
(2019).Peake asserted that, despite being properly
served, SMC failed to consent to removal. Peake did not
attach any exhibits to his Motion to Remand.
March 14, 2019, SMAI timely filed its Opposition to
Peake's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 24), contending that
SMC was not properly served because it does not “do
business” in South Carolina and therefore, service
through the Secretary of State was improper. SMAI further
argued that, because SMC is a foreign corporation with no
business in South Carolina, Peake was required to serve SMC
through the Hague Convention process and failed to do so.
March 21, 2019-more than thirty days after the deadline to
file his Motion to Remand-Peake filed a Reply (ECF No. 27) in
response to SMAI's Response (ECF No. 26). In that Reply,
Peake offered three documents in support of his Motion to
Remand: (1) what appears to be a screenshot of a map showing
several Suzuki car dealers located in South Carolina; (2) a
screenshot of the “About Us” page on the Suzuki
website, and (3) what appears to be Suzuki Motor of America,
Inc.'s business filing with the South Carolina Secretary
of State (which shows that SMAI is a foreign corporation
incorporated in California). (ECF Nos. 27-1, 27-2, 27-3; ECF
No. 45.) Then, again, on June 18, 2019-more than three months
after he filed his motion to Remand-Peake filed an addendum
to his Motion to Remand reiterating the same exhibits he
offered in his Reply. In his June 18, 2019 filing (ECF No.
45), Peake explained, “in order to meet the 30-day
requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1447, Mr. Peake did not have
ample time to conduct a thorough investigation of SMC's
contacts with South Carolina before submitting his Motion to
Remand…in support of his Motion to Remand, Mr. Peake
respectfully requests the Court hereby incorporate the
exhibits attached…alongside his Motion to
Remand.” (ECF No. 45 at 2.) The court denied
Peake's Motion to Remand. Now, Peake's Motion for
Reconsideration of the September Order is before the court,
which the court considers below.
Motion for Reconsideration
allows a party to seek an alteration or amendment of a
previous order of the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Under Rule
59(e), a court may “alter or amend the judgment if the
movant shows either (1) an intervening change in the
controlling law, (2) new evidence that was not available at
trial, or (3) that there has been a clear error of law or a
manifest injustice.” Robinson v. Wix Filtration
Corp., 599 F.3d 403, 407 (4th Cir. 2010); see also
Collison v. Int'l Chem. Workers Union, 34 F.3d 233,
235 (4th Cir. 1994). It is the moving party's burden to
establish one of these three grounds in order to obtain
relief under Rule 59(e). Loren Data Corp. v. GXS,
Inc., 501 Fed.Appx. 275, 285 (4th Cir. 2012). The
decision whether to reconsider an order pursuant to Rule
59(e) is within the sound discretion of the district court.
Hughes v. Bedsole, 48 F.3d 1376, 1382 (4th Cir.
1995). A motion to reconsider should not be used as a
“vehicle for rearguing the law, raising new arguments,
or petitioning a court to change its mind.” Lyles
v. Reynolds, C/A No. 4:14-1063-TMC, 2016 WL 1427324, at
*1 (D.S.C. Apr. 12, 2016) (citing Exxon Shipping Co. v.
Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 485 n.5 (2008)).
court recaps the timeline because it is significant here. On
February 11, 2019, SMAI filed its Notice of Removal. On
February 28, 2019, Peake filed his Motion to Remand. Peake
does not dispute that he did not attach any documents to his
Motion to Remand at the time it was filed. On March 14, 2019,
SMAI filed a Response to Peake's Motion to Remand and on
March 27, 2019, Peake filed a Reply to the Response
whereby Peake first attached documents in support of his
Motion to Remand. Peake argues that the court erred by not
granting his Motion to Remand based on new evidence submitted
in his Reply brief and in an addendum filed four months after
removal. As a threshold matter, under D.S.C. Local Rule 7.07,
“replies to responses are discouraged.” More
importantly, a court's decision to decline review or
consideration of a supplemental response or its attachments
does not constitute a clear error of law, nor is it necessary
to prevent manifest injustice. See Motorists Mut. Ins.
Co. v. Teel's Restaurant Inc., 2009 WL
5065223, *1 (N.D.Ind. Dec. 23, 2009) (holding that the
court's failure to consider a reply brief in support of a
motion before issuing its ruling was not manifest error of
law such that motion for reconsideration should be granted).
the court has not committed any clear error of law,
Peak's Motion for Reconsideration has persuaded the court
to review its previous decision. It is a well-established
rule that when ruling a motion to remand, the decision is
determined by the “well-pleaded complaint rule, which
requires the court to examine the face of the plaintiff's
properly pleaded complaint.” Rivet v. Regions Bank
of Louisiana, 522 U.S. 470, 475 (1998) (quoting
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987)). The court, however, “may
consider materials outside of the complaint, including
documents appended to a notice of removal or a motion to
remand that convey information essential to the court's
analysis…” Romano v. Kazacos, 609 F.3d
512, 520, 520 n.4 (2d Cir. 2010) (emphasis added); see
also Scott v. Greiner, 858 F.Supp. 607, 609 n.1 (S.D.
W.Va. 1994) (noting that a district court may look beyond the
complaint to determine whether an essential federal question
exists to preclude remand).
September Order, the court found that Peake had not alleged
that SMC “does business in the state” as defined
by § 15-9-245(a) and, therefore, Peake failed to show