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Morehead v. Nixon

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

December 11, 2019

CHAD MOREHEAD, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
v.
ERIKA L. NIXON, individually and as an Employee and Agent of Greyhound Lines, Incorporated, and GREYHOUND LINES, INCORPORATED DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Daniel P. Jordan III Chief United States District Judge.

         These consolidated personal-injury cases arise from a bus wreck. Defendants Erika Nixon and Greyhound Lines, Incorporated, removed the cases from state court, and Plaintiffs Chad Morehead, Joshua Reagan, Arnold Okechukwu, Stephen Deliefde, Jovany Avila-Bravo, and Rocio Sandoval-Canales now seek remand. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motions to remand [31, 33, 35, 37, and 39] are denied.

         I. Background

         In early January 2019, a bus driven by Defendant Nixon and owned by Defendant Greyhound overturned while attempting to enter Interstate Highway 55 in Jackson, Mississippi. Numerous passengers were injured, some severely. See Deliefde Compl. (3:19-CV-226) [1-1] ¶ 6; Elias Compl. (3:19-CV-228) [1-1] ¶ 9; Reagan Compl. (3:19-CV-346) [1-1] ¶ 6; Avila-Bravo Compl. (3:19-CV-347) [1-1] ¶ 7.

         The crash sparked at least seven actions against Defendants Nixon and Greyhound. Six of those cases reached this Court in April and May 2019, when Defendants filed notices of removal. See Morehead Notice of Removal (3:19-CV-225) [1]; Deliefde Notice of Removal (3:19-CV-226) [1]; Elias Notice of Removal (3:19-CV-228) [1]; Okechukwu Notice of Removal (3:19-CV-229) [1]; Reagan Notice of Removal (3:19-CV-346) [1]; Avila-Bravo Notice of Removal (3:19-CV-347) [1]. The seventh arrived in June 2019, also through removal. See Cannon Removal (3:19-CV-391) [1].

         The Court consolidated all cases on June 20, 2019; the Elias case later settled; and the Court remanded Cannon's case. That left five Plaintiffs, all of whom filed motions to remand on August 16, 2019. The issues have been fully briefed, including supplemental briefs filed in response to the Court's questions regarding abstention.

         II. Standard

         “A defendant may remove a case from state court to federal district court if the federal court could exercise original jurisdiction over the matter.” Crosby v. CitiMortgage, Inc., No. 3:13CV670TSL-JMR, 2014 WL 12638846, at *1 (S.D.Miss. Jan. 16, 2014) (quoting Beck v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, No. 3:12-CV-4784-M-BF, 2013 WL 5305873, at *2-3 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 19, 2013)). The statutory basis for removal is found in 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), which provides:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any 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, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

         “The removing party bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction.” Beichler v. Citigroup, Inc., 241 F.Supp.2d 696, 699 (S.D.Miss. 2003) (quoting Laughlin v. Prudential Ins., Co., 882 F.2d 187, 190 (5th Cir. 1989)).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants removed these cases based on diversity jurisdiction, the requirements for which have been met. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Nevertheless, Plaintiffs say the Court should issue remand orders for three reasons: (1) removal violated the forum-defendant rule because Defendant Nixon is a citizen of Mississippi; (2) Defendants evaded removal requirements by filing snap removals before all defendants were served; and (3) the Court has the equitable authority to order remand based on abstention. Defendants disagree, arguing that Plaintiffs waived the procedural objections to removal and that abstention does not apply.

         A. Procedural Defects

         The initial question is whether Plaintiffs' forum-defendant-rule and snap-removal arguments address procedural defects. If so, they had “30 days after the filing of the notice of removal” to assert those issues. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); see also Steilberg v. Bradley, No. 1:15-CV-269-LG-RHW, 2016 WL 1455454, at *1 (S.D.Miss. Apr. 12, 2016) (noting that ...


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