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Russell v. Transamerica Occidental Life Ins. Co.

August 31, 2006

WAYNE RUSSELL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TRANSAMERICA OCCIDENTAL LIFE INS. CO., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ira DeMent Senior United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand in which Plaintiffs assert that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. (Doc. No. 6.) Plaintiffs' motion is accompanied by a brief. (Doc. No. 7.) Defendant Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Co. ("Transamerica"), as the removing Defendant, filed an opposition to Plaintiffs' motion to remand. (Doc. No. 9.) Additional pleadings, primarily consisting of supplemental authority and discussion thereon, also have been filed by the parties and considered by the court. (Doc. Nos. 10-16.)Construing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs and having carefully considered the arguments of counsel, the submissions of the parties, and the relevant law, the court finds that Plaintiffs' motion to remand is due to be granted and that this cause is due to be remanded to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama.

Transamerica, as the party removing this action to federal court, has the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. See Diaz v. Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502, 1505 (11th Cir. 1996). Because the removal statutes are strictly construed against removal, generally speaking, all doubts about removal must be resolved in favor of remand. See Shamrock Oil and Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941); Butler v. Polk, 592 F.2d 1293, 1296 (5th Cir. 1979). In determining the propriety of removal, the court evaluates the factual allegations and controlling law in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Cabalceta v. Standard Fruit Co., 883 F.2d 1553, 1561 (11th Cir. 1989).

Transamerica timely removed this case from state court to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). Transamerica asserts that the court exercises subject matter jurisdiction over this case through diversity of citizenship and the requisite amount in controversy, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Transamerica contends that complete diversity exists because the only non-diverse Defendant, August Kirby Clements III ("Clements"), was fraudulently joined to defeat federal jurisdiction.*fn1 Urging the court to remand this case to state court, Plaintiffs do not quarrel with the amount-in-controversy requirement, but rather contend that complete diversity does not exist because the Complaint states a claim against Clements sufficient to withstand the fraudulent joinder standard. (Doc. No. 7 at 5.)

A defendant has the statutory right to remove an action from state to federal court where complete diversity exists between the parties and the amount in controversy is sufficient. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a), 1441. When, however, a plaintiff joins a non-diverse defendant who has "no real connection with the controversy," Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921), solely for the purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction, "[t]he plaintiff is said to have effectuated a 'fraudulent joinder.'" Henderson v. Washington Nat'l Ins. Co., 454 F.3d 1278, 1281 (11th Cir. 2006). Here, Transamerica seeks to prove that the joinder of Clements is fraudulent on the ground ...


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