United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MARKS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
April 30, 2019, the Plaintiff filed suit against the
Defendants in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County,
Alabama. The Plaintiff asserts various claims against the
Defendants arising out of a May 2017 agreement between the
Plaintiff and Defendants to set up mobile homes. (Doc. 1-1,
at 3). In connection with his work setting up mobile homes
for the Defendants, the Plaintiff alleges that he submitted
over $150, 000.00 worth of invoices, yet the Defendants only
issued $34, 000.00 in payment. Id. Moreover, the
Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants made statements that
induced him to continue working on the mobile homes despite
the outstanding invoice balance. Id. Specifically,
the Plaintiff contends that Michelle Belcher, an employee of
the Defendants and a named defendant in the instant case,
made copies of the outstanding invoices and assured the
Plaintiff that he would be paid for his work. Id. at
4. The Plaintiff alleges that he relied on Belcher's
statement and performed additional work on the mobile homes.
Id. at 3. According to the Plaintiff, the Defendants
stopped all payments under the agreement in September of
2017. Id. at 4. Based on these allegations, the
Plaintiff asserts claims against the Defendants for breach of
contract, fraud, fraudulent suppression, negligence, and
wantonness. Id. at 5-7.
3, 2019, the Defendants filed a notice of removal in the
United States District Court for the Middle District of
Alabama. (Doc. 1). The Defendants founded their notice of
removal on diversity jurisdiction, alleging that the
Plaintiff fraudulently joined non-diverse defendant Belcher
because “there is no possibility that the Plaintiff can
establish a cause of action against her.” Id.
3, 2019, the Plaintiff filed a motion to remand. (Doc. 9). In
his motion, the Plaintiff contends that Belcher has not been
fraudulently joined, thus showing a lack of diversity of
citizenship in this case. Id. at 2. For the reasons
that follow, the Court concludes that the motion to remand is
due to be granted.
FSI Evergreen Estates Property LLC, Meritus Communities, LLC,
Meritus Property Management LLC, and Michelle Belcher (the
“Defendants”) assert that removal jurisdiction is
proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, 1441,
and 1446 because the parties are completely diverse and the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. The Plaintiff, Rodney
Rudolph, disagrees and moves to remand, asserting that the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the parties
are not completely diverse.
Standard of Review
Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only
that power authorized by Constitution and statute.”
Dudley v. Eli Lilley & Co., 778 F.3d 909, 911
(11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). In light of their
limited jurisdiction, federal courts are “obligated to
inquire into subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte
whenever it may be lacking.” Charon-Bolero v.
Att'y Gen., 427 F.3d 954, 956 (11th Cir. 2005). When
jurisdiction turns on removal, “federal courts are
directed to construe removal statutes strictly” and
“all doubts about jurisdiction should be resolved in
favor of remand to state court.” University of
South Alabama v. American Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 411
(11th Cir. 1999). Moreover, “in evaluating a motion to
remand, the removing party bears the burden of demonstrating
federal jurisdiction.” Triggs v. John Crump
Toyota, 154 F.3d 1284, 1287 (11th Cir. 1998) (citing
Pacheco de Perez v. AT & T Co., 139 F.3d 1368,
1373 (11th Cir. 1998)).
Fraudulent Joinder Standard
court defendant may remove an action based on either federal
question or diversity jurisdiction. Stillwell v. Allstate
Ins. Co., 663 F.3d 1329, 1332 (11th Cir. 2011). Removal
founded on diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity
between the parties. Id. If complete diversity
between the parties does not exist, then the district court
must remand the case to state court. Id.
an exception to the complete diversity requirement exists
“[w]hen a plaintiff names a non-diverse defendant
solely in order to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction . .
..” Henderson v. Washington Nat. Ins. Co., 454
F.3d 1278, 1281 (11th Cir. 2006). This exception, known as
“fraudulent joinder, ” requires the district
court to “ignore the presence of the non-diverse
defendant and deny any motion to remand the matter back to
state court.” Id.
removing party may establish fraudulent joinder in any one of
three ways: first, “when there is no possibility that
the plaintiff can prove a cause of action against the
resident (non-diverse) defendant”; second, “when
there is outright fraud in the plaintiff's pleading of
jurisdictional facts”; and third, “where a
diverse defendant is joined with a nondiverse defendant as to
whom there is no joint, several or alternative liability and
where the ...