United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand to State Court. [Doc. #7]. The Court, having
reviewed the motion, the parties' submissions, and
applicable law, is now prepared to rule.
initiated this cause in the Circuit Court of Clay County,
Mississippi on May 15, 2017. In her original state court
complaint, Plaintiff alleged that on or about “December
28, 2015” she fell in the entrance of one of
Defendant's lots, specifically lot #887, and suffered
“severe injuries” after “a rail and/or step
broke.” [Doc. #2]. The relief sought in her original
state court complaint was “an amount less than $75,
000.00 as determined by a jury, together with all damages
allowed by law, and such other relief as this Court may deem
just and proper.” Id.
31, 2018-approximately two weeks after the one-year
anniversary of her initial filing-Plaintiff filed a Motion
for Leave to Amend her Complaint in the state court. In her
motion for leave to amend, Plaintiff sought to change two
items from her original complaint: (1) the date of the
accident, which had been incorrectly stated as December 28,
2015 in the original complaint, would be amended to read
“January 28, 2016”; and (2) the relief sought
would now be “an amount that is fair and reasonable as
determined by a jury . . ..” [Doc. #10]. Review of the
state court docket, submitted as Exhibit A to Defendant's
Notice of Removal [Doc. #1], suggests that Defendants did not
object to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend her
Complaint and the state court granted the motion on August
24, 2018. Plaintiff filed her amended complaint with the
state court on September 10, 2018.
days later, on September 12, 2018, Defendant West Point
Mobile Home Park, LLC removed the case to the Northern
District of Mississippi. The notice of removal alleges that
“the claim as presently filed by the Plaintiff …
states a claim to damages which satisfies the amount in
controversy requirement … sufficient to invoke the
jurisdiction of this Court, in that the amount sought by the
Plaintiff now … exceeds” $75, 000, and that the
plaintiff's initial state court complaint which stated
that the relief sought was “an amount less than $75,
000 as determined by a jury…” was “an
action ‘in bad faith in order to prevent (the)
defendant from removing the action (to this Court).”
September 18, 2018, the Plaintiff filed the present motion,
her Motion to Remand to State Court [Doc. #7], on
grounds that Defendant sought removal “more than
sixteen months after the case was filed in State Court”
and that a remand is warranted because Defendant has failed
to establish the existence of any bad faith in the filing of
the original complaint.
a motion to remand, ‘[t]he removing party bears the
burden of showing that federal jurisdiction exists and that
removal was proper.'” Barker v. Hercules
Offshore, Inc., 713 F.3d 208, 212 (5th Cir. 2013)
(citing Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Inc.
Co., 276 F.3d 720, 722 (5th Cir. 2002)). Ultimately,
“removal statutes are to be construed strictly against
removal and for remand.” Eastus v. Blue Bell
Creameries, L.P., 97 F.3d 100, 106 (5th Cir. 1996)
(citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313
U.S. 100, 108-09, 61 S.Ct. 868, 872, 85 L.Ed. 1214 (1941)).
And “[a]ny ambiguities are construed against
removal.” Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723 (citing
Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339
(5th Cir. 2000)).
to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), a defendant must file notice of
removal within thirty days after being served with a copy of
the initial pleading. However, “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).
removal is based on diversity jurisdiction, the case
“may not be removed . . . more than 1 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.” 28 U.S.C. §
1446(c)(1). “Conduct rises to the level of ‘bad
faith' when a party makes a ‘transparent attempt to
avoid federal jurisdiction.'” Kidwai v. Fed.
Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n¸ Civil Action No.
SA-13-CV-972-XR, 2014 WL 252026, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 22,
2014). “If . . . the district court finds that the
plaintiff deliberately failed to disclose the actual amount
in controversy to prevent removal, that finding shall be
deemed bad faith.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(3)(B).
Ultimately, a court must “determine whether bad faith
exists on a case-by-case basis” and must balance this
equitable exception with “the general rule that removal
jurisdiction is to be strictly construed [in favor of
remand], as its application ‘deprives a state court of
a case properly before it and thereby implicates important
federalism concerns.” Kidwai, 2014 WL 252026,
at *2 (quoting Carey v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
2:13-CV-2293, 2013 WL 5970487, at *3 (W.D. La. Nov. 7,
Notice of Removal, West Point alleges that removal, though
done more than one year after the commencement of the action,
is proper because Plaintiff engaged in bad faith in order to
prevent West Point from removing the case to federal court.
Plaintiff, in her motion to remand, argues that
Defendant's removal is improper and a remand is warranted
because Defendant sought removal “more than sixteen
months after the case was filed in State court, ”
Defendant fails to establish that Plaintiff engaged in bad
faith when filing the initial complaint, and because a change
of courts at this juncture would be inefficient as the case
has progressed significantly.
review of the parties' submissions, the Court is
perplexed by the progression of this case and the relevant
dates. There is no doubt that removal occurred past the
one-year anniversary of the commencement of this case.