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Harrell v. Adams

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 17, 2018

ZACHARY HARRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
JED ADAMS, TOPOGRAPHIC LAND SURVEYORS COMPANY, and STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Remand to State Court, filed July 11, 2018 (Doc. 7). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion is not well-taken and, therefore, is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a personal injury case arising out of an automobile collision. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Jed Adams ran a stop sign, causing a collision at an intersection. Plaintiff alleges he suffered over $100, 000 in medical expenses as a result of the crash. Defendant Adams is a land surveyor working in the Permian Basin, and was an employee of Defendant Topographic Land Surveyors Company.

         On May 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint for negligence, negligence per se, respondeat superior, and punitive damages in the First Judicial District Court, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Doc. 1. Therein, he alleges that Defendant Adams is a New Mexico resident living and working in Hobbs, New Mexico. He also alleges that Topographic Land Surveyors was a foreign corporation admitted to, and doing business in, New Mexico. He alleges the same for Defendant State Farm. Doc. 1, p. 5-6. It appears to be uncontested that Plaintiff is a citizen of New Mexico.

         This case was removed to federal court on June 11, 2018, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The Notice of Removal asserts that Defendant Adams is a resident of Texas, that Defendant State Farm is incorporated in Illinois, and that Topographic is incorporated in Oklahoma. The Notice of Removal also notes that the complaint admits that Topographic and State Farm are foreign corporations.

         Plaintiff contends that this case should be remanded back to state court, but the basis for remand is unclear. Plaintiff appears to argue that personal jurisdiction is proper in New Mexico, therefore this matter should be remanded back to state court. As noted below, that is not a proper basis for remand.

         Plaintiff did not file a reply brief, and Defendants filed a notice of completion of briefing on August 20, 2018. Plaintiff did not object that briefing was complete and he did not seek an extension. Therefore, the Court assumes that Plaintiff does not intend to file a reply brief, and finds that the motion is ready for ruling.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendantss removed this case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). To invoke diversity jurisdiction, “a party must show that complete diversity of citizenship exists between the adverse parties and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Dutcher v. Matheson, 733 F.3d 980, 987 (10th Cir. 2013). “Complete diversity is lacking when any of the plaintiffs has the same residency as even a single defendant.” Id.; see also Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 84, 126 S.Ct. 606, 609, 163 L.Ed.2d 415 (2005) (“Defendants may remove an action on the basis of diversity of citizenship if there is complete diversity between all named plaintiffs and all named defendants, and no defendant is a citizen of the forum State.”). “[T]he relevant time period for determining the existence of complete diversity is the time of the filing of the complaint.” Siloam Springs Hotel, L.L.C. v. Century Sur. Co., 781 F.3d 1233, 1239 (10th Cir. 2015).

         A matter may be remanded back to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction (such as diversity jurisdiction). 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The removing defendant bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529 F.3d 947, 953 (10th Cir. 2008) (“[A]ccording to this and most other courts, the defendant is required to prove jurisdictional facts by a preponderance of the evidence.”); Karnes v. Boeing Co., 335 F.3d 1189, 1194 (10th Cir. 2003) (“[W]e emphasize that the burden is on [the defendant] to show jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.”).

         I. Plaintiff fails to provide a proper basis for remand.

         Plaintiff requests this matter be remanded back to state court, but does not assert any proper basis for doing so. Instead, he requests that the Court remand this case to New Mexico state court pursuant to 28 USC § 1447(c), because “personal jurisdiction is proper there.” Doc. 7, p. 6. Plaintiff then proceeds to analyze why New Mexico's exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendants is proper. Plaintiff appears to be mixing personal jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction. Nowhere does Defendant specifically argue that the Court lacks diversity jurisdiction or subject matter jurisdiction. The fact that New Mexico has personal jurisdiction over the Defendants is not a basis to remand back to state courts. See § 1447(c) (“i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”). The Court concludes that Plaintiff's motion provides no basis to remand this matter to state court, and is therefore DENIED.

         II. Defendants established diversity jurisdiction.

         Defendants Adams and State Farm nevertheless filed a response with exhibits detailing why the Court has diversity jurisdiction over this matter. To the extent diversity jurisdiction is at issue, the Court concludes that diversity jurisdiction exists in this case, because there is complete diversity between Plaintiff and Defendants, and the amount in controversy is ...


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