United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.
(Doc. # 14). The Motion to Remand (Doc. # 13) has been fully
briefed. (Docs. # 14; 23; 25). Also before the court are
Defendant Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. LLC's Motion to
Transfer Venue or, Alternatively, to Sever Claims and
Transfer Venue (Doc. # 3) and Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
# 4). For the reasons outlined below, the court concludes the
Motion to Remand (Doc. # 14) is due to be granted, making the
other pending motions (Docs. # 3, 4) moot.
Background and Relevant Facts
Frankie Overton (“Overton”) and Plaintiff Scott
Graham (collectively “Plaintiffs”) initiated this
lawsuit against Defendants Chrysler Group LLC
(“Chrysler”),  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. LLC
(“FCA”), Rodericus Obyran Carrington
(“Carrington”), TRW Automotive Holdings Corp.,
TRW Automotive Inc., TRW Automotive U.S. LLC, TRW Vehicle
Safety Systems Inc., ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and ZF TRW
Automotive Holdings Corp. (collectively
“Defendants”) on October 17, 2017 in the Circuit
Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. (Doc. # 1-1). On November
27, 2017, FCA filed a Notice of Removal (Doc. # 1) along with
a Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. # 3) and a Partial Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. # 4). FCA did not seek the approval of the
other defendants in this case before removing it (Doc. # 1 at
¶¶ 10-12); however, Defendant TRW Vehicle Safety
Systems Inc. has since consented to the removal. (Doc.
# 23-4). Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand on December 27,
2017. (Doc. # 14). The underlying lawsuit and the Chrysler
bankruptcy proceeding (which is FCA's basis for removal)
center on two separate sets of facts, which are discussed
The Underlying Lawsuit
10, 2016, Sue Ann Graham (“Decedent”) and her
minor son, J.G., were passengers of a 2002 Jeep Liberty
traveling on Interstate 59 in Jefferson County, Alabama.
(Doc. # 1-1 at ¶ 24). Carrington was operating another
vehicle and struck the 2002 Jeep Liberty, causing it to
overturn. (Id.). Sue Ann Graham sustained injuries
that ultimately lead to her death, and J.G. was also injured.
(Id. at ¶¶ 26-27). Plaintiff Overton is
suing Defendants as the administrator of the estate of
Decedent. (Id. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff Scott Graham,
the legal guardian and father of J.G., is suing Defendants on
behalf of J.G. (Id. at ¶ 3).
their pleadings, Plaintiffs have alleged negligence,
wantonness, and Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability
Doctrine (“AEMLD”) claims. (Id. at p.
6-15). Overton seeks damages on behalf of Decedent under
Alabama's Wrongful Death Act. (Id.). On behalf
of J.G., Scott Graham seeks compensatory damages from
Chrysler and FCA, punitive damages from FCA for its
post-bankruptcy sale conduct, and compensatory and punitive
damages from the other defendants. (Id.).
The Bankruptcy Proceeding
2009, FCA purchased substantially all of Chrysler's
assets from the bankruptcy estate of Old Carco Liquidation
Trust (“Old Carco”) under a Master Transaction
Agreement (“MTA”). (Docs. # 1 at ¶ 13; 15 at
p. 2; 23 at p. 2). The MTA set forth FCA's assumed
liabilities and excluded liabilities resulting from the
purchase. (Docs. # 1 at ¶ 15-20; 1-3; 15 at p. 2-3; 23
at p. 2). On June 1, 2009, the United States Bankruptcy Court
for the Southern District of New York issued an order
(“Sale Order”) approving the transaction under
the terms set forth in the MTA. (Docs. # 1 at ¶ 17-18;
1-4; 15 at p. 2-3). The Sale Order permanently enjoined any
person from asserting a claim arising from or related to the
assets transferred in the transaction against FCA unless FCA
expressly assumed liability for the claim in the MTA. (Docs.
# 1 at ¶ 18; 1-5 at p. 29-30). It also stated that,
“[w]hile the Debtors' bankruptcy cases are pending,
this [Bankruptcy] Court shall retain jurisdiction to, among
other things, interpret, enforce and implement the terms and
provisions of this Sale Order and the [MTA], [and] all
amendments therto . . . .” (Doc. # 1-4 at p. 45). The
transaction closed on June 10, 2009. (Docs. # 1 at ¶ 21;
15 at p. 3).
later amendment (“Amendment No. 4”) to the MTA
(which the Bankruptcy Court approved on November 19, 2009),
FCA agreed to assume liability for “all Product
Liability Claims arising from the sale on or prior to the
Closing of motor vehicles or component parts . . . solely to
the extent such Product Liability Claims . . . do not include
any claim for exemplary or punitive damages.” (Doc. # 1
at ¶ 22-23; 1-5 at p. 8). In the November 19, 2009 Order
approving Amendment No. 4, the Bankruptcy Court stated that
it was “retain[ing] jurisdiction over all matters or
disputes arising out of or in connection with this
Stipulation and Agreed Order.” (Doc. # 1-5 at p. 5).
The Old Carco bankruptcy estate closed on March 1, 2016.
(Docs. # 1 at ¶ 25; 15 at p. 7).
Standard of Review
long been recognized that federal courts are courts of
limited jurisdiction. Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31
F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994). Indeed, federal courts may
only exercise jurisdiction conferred upon them by Congress.
Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 716
(1996). Anytime a “federal court acts outside its
statutory subject matter jurisdiction, it violates the
fundamental constitutional precept of limited federal
power.” Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co.,
168 F.3d 405, 409 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Victory
Carriers, Inc. v. Law, 404 U.S. 202, 212 (1971)).
any action filed in state court, over which a district court
would have original jurisdiction, “may be removed by
the defendant or defendants, to the district court of the
United States for the district and division embracing the
place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). The burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction for the purpose of a valid removal to this court
is squarely on the removing party. Friedman v. N.Y. Life
Ins. Co., 410 F.3d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 2005). Federal
courts strictly construe removal statutes and resolve all
doubts in favor of remand. Miedema v. Maytag Corp.,
450 F.3d 1322, 1328-30 (11th Cir. 2006).
removal of this action was based upon 28 U.S.C. §§
1334(b), 1441, 1446, and 1452(a). (Doc. # 1 at p. 1). Section
1452(a) allows “a party” to “remove any
claim or cause of action in a civil action . . . to the
district court for the district where such civil action is
pending, if such district court has jurisdiction of such
claim or cause of action under section 1334 of this
title.” However, under § 1452(b), “[t]he
court to which such claim or cause of action is removed may
remand such claim or cause of action on any equitable
ground.” (emphasis added).
courts shall have original and exclusive
jurisdiction of all cases under title 11” and
“original but not exclusive jurisdiction of
all civil proceedings arising under title 11, or
arising in or related to cases under title 11.” 28
U.S.C. § 1334(a)-(b) (emphasis added). As the statute
indicates, there are four types of matters over which the
district court has bankruptcy jurisdiction: (1) “cases
under title 11;” (2) “proceeding[s] arising under
title 11;” (3) “proceedings arising in a case
under title 11;” and (4) “proceedings related to
a case under title 11.” In re Royal, 197 B.R.
341, 346-47 (Bankr. N.D. Ala. 1996) (quoting In re