United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
March 27, 2019, Defendant Auto-Owners Insurance Co.
(“Auto-Owners”) removed this action from the
Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama. Doc. 2. On May
1, 2019, the parties consented to the full jurisdiction of a
United States Magistrate Judge. Docs. 12 & 13. Now
pending before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.
Doc. 1. After careful consideration of the parties'
filings and the relevant law, and for the reasons stated
below, the court concludes that the Motion to Remand (Doc. 1)
is due to be DENIED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
facts are as alleged in the complaint. Plaintiffs Sharon
Richey and Tommy Richey (“the Richeys”) and their
minor children are residents of Alabama. Doc. 2-1. The
Richeys' adult child, Plaintiff Devin Brian Frazier, also
is a resident of Alabama. Doc. 2-1. In early January 2017,
the Richeys purchased an insurance policy for their home on
2nd Street in Montgomery, Alabama. Doc. 2-8. On January 26,
2017, their home and personal property were destroyed by
fire. Doc. 2-1. The Montgomery Fire Department determined
that the fire was accidental and caused by smoking materials
placed in a garbage can. Doc. 2-1. Suspicious of this
explanation, Reneeka Hawkins, an investigator working for
Auto-Owners, decided to look into the fire and contacted the
Montgomery Fire Department for assistance. Doc. 2-1. Hawkins
and Kenneth R. Peoples of the Montgomery Fire Department
ultimately determined that the Richeys should be prosecuted
for insurance fraud. Doc. 2-1. On or about April 28, 2017,
the Montgomery Police Department arrested Sharon Richey and
Tommy Richey on a charge of first-degree insurance fraud.
Doc. 2-1. The warrants for their arrest were primarily
supported by a sworn statement prepared by Peoples. Doc. 2-1.
Sharon and Tommy Richey were then indicted by a Montgomery
County Grand Jury in July 2017. Doc. 2-1. In April 2018, the
criminal case against the Richeys was dismissed. Doc. 2-1.
date, Auto-Owners has refused to pay the insurance coverage
claim. Doc. 2-1. Plaintiffs assert that Sharon and Tommy
Richey were wrongfully prosecuted and arrested at a
relative's home in front of their children. Doc. 2-1.
Plaintiffs filed this action in the Circuit Court of
Montgomery County, asserting a bad faith refusal to
pay/breach of insurance contract claim, and a malicious
prosecution/false imprisonment claim. Doc. 2-1. Plaintiffs
sued Auto-Owners and Peoples. Doc. 2-1. Peoples, an Alabama
citizen, was dismissed from the case on February 26, 2019.
Doc. 2-7. Auto-Owners removed the action to this court 29
days after Peoples' dismissal. Doc. 2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
is appropriate “in two types of cases: (1) those
removable on the basis of an initial pleading; and (2) those
that later become removable on the basis of a copy of an
amended pleading, motion, order or other paper.”
Williams v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 534 F.Supp.2d
1239, 1243 (M.D. Ala. 2008) (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b)). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994). Thus, the courts “have an independent
obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction
exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any
party.” Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 126 S.Ct.
1235, 1244 (2006). And because removal implicates federalism
concerns, the court must construe the removal statutes
narrowly and resolve all doubts in favor of remand. See,
e.g., Scimone v. Carnival Corp., 720 F.3d 876,
882 (11th Cir. 2013). “It is in everyone's best
interest, both the litigants' and the courts,' to
verify that diversity jurisdiction exists before proceeding
with the case.” Purchasing Power, LLC v. Bluestem
Brands, Inc., 851 F.3d 1218, 1220 (11th Cir. 2017).
Diversity jurisdiction exists where the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000 and the action is between citizens of
different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “A party
removing a case to federal court based on diversity of
citizenship bears the burden of establishing the citizenship
of the parties.” Rolling Greens MHP, L.P. v.
Comcast SCH Holding L.L.C., 374 F.3d 1020, 1022 (11th
argue that removal to federal court is improper because (1)
removal is untimely, (2) complete diversity of citizenship
does not exist, and (3) the amount in controversy does not
exceed $75, 000. These arguments are unavailing.
citation to any law, Plaintiffs assert that removal is
untimely and unripe because depositions have not occurred.
Doc. 1 at 2. A defendant must remove within 30 days of
receiving a document that provides the basis for removal.
Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184,
1213 (11th Cir. 2007). In such a removal, “a case
becomes removable when three conditions are present: there
must be (1) an amended pleading, motion, order or other
paper, which (2) the defendant must have received from the .
. . court . . . and from which (3) the defendant can first
ascertain that federal jurisdiction exists.”
Williams, 534 F.Supp.2d at 1244 (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(b)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“The 30-day removal clock ‘starts ticking'
once all three conditions are present.” Pitts v.
Ram Partners, L.L.C., 2018 WL 5786219, at *3 (M.D. Ala.
Nov. 5, 2018) (quoting Allen v. Thomas, 2011 WL
197964, at *3 (M.D. Ala. 2011)).
all three conditions are present. When the state court
dismissed Peoples, an Alabama citizen, from the action,
Auto-Owners received an order from the court from which it
could first ascertain that federal jurisdiction existed.
Peoples, the only non-diverse party, was dismissed from the
lawsuit on February 26, 2019. Doc. 2-7 at 5 & 7. With
this order, diversity of the parties was established, and the
30-day removal clock began ticking. On March 27, 2019-29 days
later-Auto-Owners removed this action to federal court. Doc.
2. Because Auto-Owners removed the case within 30 days after
first learning that federal jurisdiction existed, the removal
contend that diversity jurisdiction does not exist because
Auto-Owners is a citizen of Alabama. Doc. 1 at 3. Federal
diversity jurisdiction requires that no plaintiff be a
citizen of the same state as any defendant. Travaglio v.
Am. Exp. Co., 735 F.3d 1266, 1268 (11th Cir. 2013).
Additionally, in a case based on diversity jurisdiction, a
party is not permitted to remove a civil action to federal
court if that party is a citizen of the state in which the
action is brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2). In other