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Rehburg v. Bob Hubbard Horse Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 28, 2019

LISA M. REHBURG, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Remand and in the Alternative, to Allow for Limited Discovery [Doc. 1');">11');">1] filed on August 1');">15, 201');">18 by Plaintiff Lisa M. Rehburg (“Rehburg”). Defendant Bob Hubbard Horse Transportation, Inc. (“Hubbard”) filed Defendant's Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and in the Alternative to Allow for Limited Discovery [Doc. 1');">19] on September 1');">19, 201');">18. Rehburg filed her Reply to Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand [Doc. 20] on October 3, 201');">18, completing the briefing. [Doc. 21');">1]. U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez referred the motion to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry H. Ritter for analysis [1');">12] on August 21');">1, 201');">18.[1');">1" name="FN1');">1" id= "FN1');">1">1');">1] Having reviewed the briefing and controlling law, the undersigned presents these proposed findings and recommends, after consideration of the parties' objections if any, that the Court hold that remand is not required and that additional discovery on this jurisdictional issue is unnecessary.


         Rehburg owns a racehorse that she shipped from California to New Mexico by contracting with Hubbard. See Complaint [Doc 1');">1, pp. 1');">16-1');">19]. The horse was injured while being unloaded in New Mexico. Id. Rehburg filed a complaint for negligence against Hubbard in New Mexico's Third Judicial District Court on May 2, 201');">18. [Id.] Hubbard removed the case to federal court [Doc. 1');">1] on June 8, 201');">18, asserting federal jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1');">1337 and 1');">1441');">1. [Doc. 1');">1, p. 2]. Specifically, Hubbard alleged that Rehburg's state law negligence claim is preempted by 49 U.S.C. § 1');">14706 et seq. (formerly 49 U.S.C. § 1');">11');">1707 et seq.). [Doc. 1');">1, p. 3]. On August 1');">15, 201');">18, Rehburg filed her motion to remand [Doc. 1');">11');">1].


         Rehburg raises two substantive issues of federal jurisdiction: (1');">1) whether federal jurisdiction exists at all in this case and; (2) whether, if concurrent state and federal jurisdiction exists in this case, Rehburg's choice as plaintiff of a state forum prevents Hubbard from removing the case to federal court, [Doc 1');">11');">1, p. 8, ¶ 27].

         Rehburg requests as additional relief, if deemed necessary, the opportunity for additional discovery of jurisdictional facts. [Doc. 1');">11');">1, p. 9, ¶ 32].


         A case is eligible for removal from state court if a federal court would have had jurisdiction had the case been filed there instead. 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1441');">1; Topeka Hous. Auth. v. Johnson, 1');">1245');">404 F.3d 1');">1245, 1');">1247 (1');">10th Cir. 2005). Federal jurisdiction exists for cases involving a federal question, i.e., cases “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. 1');">1331');">1. See Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481');">1 U.S. 58, 63 (1');">1987). Federal question jurisdiction is shown when “a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 1');">1');">463 U.S. 1');">1, 27-28 (1');">1983); Firstenberg v. City of Santa Fe, 1');">101');">18');">696 F.3d 1');">101');">18, 1');">1023 (1');">10th Cir. 201');">12).

         For removal to federal court, the party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction.

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; thus, there is some measure of a presumption against removal jurisdiction which must be overcome by the defendant seeking removal. See Fajen v. Found. Reserve Ins. Co., 683 F.2d at 333; Bonadeo v. Lujan, 2009 WL 1');">13241');">11');">19, *4 (D.N.M. 2009) (Browning, J.) (“Removal statutes are strictly construed, and ambiguities should be resolved in favor of remand.”). The defendant seeking removal must establish that federal court jurisdiction is proper “by a preponderance of the evidence.” McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529 F.3d at 953. See also Bonadeo v. Lujan, 2009 WL 1');">13241');">11');">19, at *4 (“As the removing party, the defendant bears the burden of proving all jurisdictional facts and of establishing a right to removal.”).

Hernandez v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 201');">18 WL 41');">188458, at *1');">12 (D.N.M. Aug. 30, 201');">18). Where jurisdictional grounds for removal exist, plaintiff cannot prevent it. 28 U.S.C. § 1');">1441');">1.


         Congress enacted an interstate commerce act in 1');">1887 which it amended in 1');">1906 (“the Carmack amendment”) to provide for a uniform system of liability for interstate carriers of goods. See Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491');">1, 503-04 (1');">191');">13). Through the current form of that legislation, Congress authorizes civil lawsuits against interstate motor carriers who lose or damage goods, or who deliver damaged goods, and ...

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