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Rhea v. Career General Agency, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

June 7, 2019

JAMES RHEA PLAINTIFF
v.
CAREER GENERAL AGENCY, INC., GUIDEONE AMERICA INSURANCE COMPANY AND DENNIS BASDEN DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, Doc. #9.

         A. Background

         On October 22, 2018, Plaintiff initiated his cause in the Circuit Court of Union County, Mississippi by filing his complaint against all three defendants. In his state court complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he “owned and operated ‘Rhea Insurance Agency' in Union County, Mississippi.”

         Plaintiff alleges that in October of 1971 he was “solicited, encouraged and enticed to become an insurance sales agent for Defendant Career General Agency, Inc.” Career General Agency, Inc. (“Career General”) is a subsidiary of GuideOne America Insurance Company (“GuideOne”). Plaintiff alleges that “Career General … and/or GuideOne … contracted for association with other insurance companies” and allowed “agents to sell directly with these companies.” One company with whom Career General and/or GuideOne are alleged to have associated with is Dairyland Insurance Company (“Dairyland”). According to Plaintiff, “Career General … and/or GuideOne … associated with Dairyland … for agents to sell Dairyland's insurance through Career General.”

         Because of the contracts, Plaintiff alleges that “a field representative for Dairyland came to [his] office and offered him a contract.” He accepted.

         Plaintiff then alleges that in late 2007, the defendants ordered him to attend a meeting in their Georgia office to discuss the Dairyland situation. Plaintiff's state court complaint asserts that he was unsure “why he would be ordered to appear” and that he “asked the Defendants if [he] could bring his attorney with him to the meeting.” Defendant Dennis Basden (“Basden”), state representative of Career General and/or GuideOne, “told Plaintiff that he would not need an attorney or any legal advice” and further advised him that “he could not bring his attorney” to the meeting.

         On November 2, 2007 Plaintiff visited Georgia and attended the meeting without his attorney but instead brought a fellow agent along with him. However, Plaintiff alleges that Career General's and/or GuideOne's Vice-President instructed the other agent to leave the room. Once the agent had left the room, the Vice-President “told Plaintiff that he must sign a promissory note for $100, 000” for having breached his contract with Career General by selling Dairyland policies. Plaintiff alleges that he was also instructed to “sign over his Dairyland book of business to Defendants and forfeit all loss-ratio bonuses that he was contractually entitled to.” Plaintiff further expresses that he was, again, informed that he could not call his attorney and that his only two choices were to either sign the promissory note or be fired.

         Plaintiff signed the promissory note, requiring him to pay Career General and/or GuideOne monthly payments through November 2012, and alleges in his state court complaint that he did so under duress. According to Plaintiff, Career General and/or GuideOne “forced [him] to sign another promissory note in May of 2009” that would extend the payments to October 2017.

         Plaintiff's state court complaint asserts the following claims against the defendants: unconscionability and conversion; unjust enrichment; negligent infliction of emotional distress; and punitive damages.

         On January 1, 2019 the defendants removed this case to federal court arguing that Defendant Basden was fraudulently joined to defeat diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff, on January 17, 2019, filed his Motion to Remand to State Court, Doc. #9. The Court, having reviewed the parties' submissions along with relevant case law and authority, is now prepared to rule.

         B. Standard

         “[A]ny civil action brought in a State Court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “Under the federal removal statute, a civil action may be removed from a state court to a federal court on the basis of diversity . . . because the federal court has original subject matter jurisdiction over such cases.” Int'l Energy Ventures Mgmt., L.L.C. v. United Energy Grp., Ltd., 818 F.3d 193, 199 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)). “On 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)).

         C. ...


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