United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION TO REMAND BUT DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT is the  Motion to Remand and for Costs
filed by the plaintiff, Jackson County, Mississippi. The
defendant Singing River Health System (“SRHS”)
filed a  Joinder in the Motion to Remand, and the
defendant Singing River MOB, LLC (“MOB”) filed a
response in opposition to the Motion to Remand. After
reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record in this
matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the
Motion to Remand should be granted, but Jackson County's
Motion for Costs should be denied.
March 16, 2009, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors
passed a resolution authorizing Jackson County to lease
property known as the Singing River Hospital Campus to SRHS.
The resolution required the lease agreement to comply with
Miss. Code Ann. § 41-13-15 and include provisions for
termination for the convenience of the owner of the property.
The resolution also provided that the Board of Trustees of
SRHS “may not encumber the property in any way without
written approval of the Board of Supervisors.” (Compl.,
Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1.) The Jackson County Board of Supervisors
authorized the SRHS Board of Trustees “to sub-lease a
portion of the Singing River Hospital Campus to Johnson
Development Company for the System Medical Office
Project[.]” (Id.) The Jackson County Board
further resolved that “any other sub-lease or agreement
desired by the Board of Trustees of Singing River Hospital
System must be approved, in advance, by the Board of
Supervisors.” (Id.) As a result, Jackson
County and SRHS entered into a lease agreement for a
October 28, 2009, SRHS and MOB entered into a Ground Lease
pursuant to which SRHS agreed to lease the Singing River
Hospital Campus to MOB “for the purpose of
construction, operation, and ownership of a medical facility
and medical office building.” (Compl., Ex. D at §
4.1, ECF No. 1-1.) On that same date, SRHS and MOB entered
into four subleases in which SRHS agreed to rent from MOB
part of the building to be constructed on the property.
7, 2018, Jackson County filed the present lawsuit against
SRHS and MOB in the Chancery Court of Jackson County,
Mississippi. Jackson County seeks a declaratory judgment that
the lease between Jackson County and SRHS is void, because
the lease did not comply with the Jackson County Board of
Supervisors' resolution. In the alternative, Jackson
County seeks a declaration that the lease between SRHS and
Jackson County is voidable at the discretion of Jackson
removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction, but SRHS did not consent to the removal. The
members of MOB are residents of Alabama. Jackson County and
SRHS are residents of Mississippi.
may remove an action from state court to federal court if the
action is one over which the federal court possesses subject
matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
The removing party bears the burden of demonstrating that
federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper.
De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th
Cir. 1995). “When a civil action is removed solely
under section 1441(a), all defendants who have been properly
joined and served must join in or consent to the removal of
the action.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446. This requirement is
called “the rule of unanimity.” Powers v.
United States, 783 F.3d 570, 576 (5th Cir. 2015). The
Fifth Circuit has held that nominal or formal parties are
also excepted from the rule of unanimity. Farias v. Bexar
Cty. Bd. of Trustees, 925 F.2d 866, 871 (5th Cir. 1991).
U.S.C. § 1332 confers federal diversity jurisdiction
over civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, and the civil action is between citizens of different
states. The parties do not dispute that the amount in
controversy is satisfied in this case or that MOB and Jackson
County are citizens of different states. However, MOB argues
that this Court should realign the parties, designating SRHS
as a plaintiff. In the alternative, MOB contends that SRHS is
improperly joined as a defendant. Jackson County counters
that MOB's removal violates the rule of unanimity,
because SRHS did not join in the removal. It is undisputed
that SRHS was served with process; thus, the Court will first
address improper joinder in order to determine whether SRHS
was required to join in the removal petition.
joinder can be established in two ways: (1) actual fraud in
the pleading of jurisdictional facts, or (2) inability of the
plaintiff to establish a cause of action against the
non-diverse party in state court.” Davidson v.
Ga.-Pac., L.L.C., 819 F.3d 758, 765 (5th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Mumfrey v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., 719 F.3d
392, 401 (5th Cir. 2013)). MOB only raises the second method
here. “The test ‘is whether the defendant has
demonstrated that there is no possibility of recovery by the
plaintiff against an in-state defendant, which stated
differently means that there is no reasonable basis for the
district court to predict that the plaintiff might be able to
recover against an in-state defendant.'”
Id. (quoting Smallwood v. Ill. Cent. R.R.
Co., 385 F.3d 568, 573 (5th Cir. 2004)).
making this inquiry, courts first examine the allegations
contained in the complaint. Id. “If a
plaintiff can survive a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge for failure
to state a claim, there is ordinarily no improper
joinder.” Id. “When ‘a complaint
states a claim that satisfies 12(b)(6), but has misstated or
omitted discrete facts that would determine the propriety of
joinder . . . the district court may, in its discretion,
pierce the pleadings and conduct a summary
inquiry.'” Id. (quoting Mumfrey,
719 F.3d at 401).
R. Civ. P. 57(b)(1) provides, “Any person interested
under . . . written contract, or other writings constituting
a contract or whose rights, status, or legal relations are
affected by a . . . contract . . . may have determined any
question of construction or validity arising under the . . .
contract . . . and obtain a declaration of rights, status or
other legal relations thereunder.” The only parties to
the lease that Jackson County asks the Court to declare void
or voidable are Jackson County and SRHS. In essence, Jackson
County alleges that SRHS sub-leased the property at issue to
MOB in violation ...