United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
K. DUBOSE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action was removed from the Circuit Court of Choctaw County,
Alabama and is now before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion
to Remand (Doc. 7), Defendants' Response in Opposition to
Remand (Doc. 9), Plaintiffs' Reply (Doc. 10),
Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney's Fees (Doc. 11), and
Defendants' Response (Doc. 13). Upon consideration, and
for the reasons set forth herein, the Motion for
Attorney's Fees is DENIED,
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is GRANTED
and this action is REMANDED to the Circuit
Court of Choctaw County, Alabama from whence it came.
Accordingly, the Clerk is DIRECTED to remand
this case to the Circuit Court of Choctaw County, Alabama.
commenced this litigation in the Circuit Court of Choctaw
County, Alabama on October 5, 2017 (15-CV-2017-900073).
Choctaw County Circuit Court granted Defendant ALFA's and
Defendant State Farm's election to opt out of the case.
(Doc. 1 at 4). After the Circuit Court granted ALFA's
Motion to Opt Out on April 26, 2018, the parties became
diverse. (Id.). On May 17, 2017, Defendants filed a
notice of removal on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
(Doc. 1 at 5). Ruffin v. Clark, Civil Action No.
18-00231-KD-B (S.D. Ala. 2018). On June 15, 2017, Plaintiffs
filed a Motion to Remand. (Doc. 1 at 5). On November 16,
2018, this Court remanded this case to Circuit Court because
Defendants failed to establish the amount in controversy
exceeded $75, 000. (Id.).
filed a second Notice of Removal (Doc. 1) to which Plaintiffs
filed a second Motion to Remand (Doc. 7). Defendants allege
Plaintiffs deliberately and intentionally failed to disclose
information about the amount in controversy in order to
prevent removal to federal court under Section 1446(c). 28
filed a motion for Attorney's Fees asserting Defendants
lacked an objectively reasonable basis for removal. (Doc.
11). Defendants filed a Response in Opposition to
Plaintiffs' motion for Attorney's Fees. (Doc. 13).
Standard of Review
federal district court may exercise subject matter
jurisdiction over a civil action in which only state law
claims are alleged, if the civil action arises under the
federal court's diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a)(1). Diversity jurisdiction gives federal
district courts original jurisdiction of civil actions
between citizens of different states where the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. Id. Defendants may
remove an action on the basis of diversity of citizenship if
there is complete diversity between all named plaintiffs and
all named defendants; no defendant may be a citizen of the
forum State. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441.
“[b]ecause removal jurisdiction raises significant
federalism concerns, 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).
Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th
Cir. 1994) (“removal statutes are construed narrowly;
where plaintiff and defendant clash about jurisdiction,
uncertainties are resolved in favor of remand”);
Campos v. Sociedad Aeronautica de Medellin Consolidada,
S.A., 882 F.Supp. 1056, 1057 (S.D. Fla. 1994) (The court
“must remand to state court any case that was removed
improvidently or without necessary jurisdiction”);
see also Jerido v. American General Life and Accident
Insurance Company, 127 F.Supp.2d 1322, 1324 (M.D. Ala.
2001) (“Because federal court jurisdiction is limited,
the Eleventh Circuit favors remand of removed cases where
federal jurisdiction is not absolutely clear.”).
evaluating a motion to remand, the removing party bears the
burden of demonstrating federal jurisdiction.”
Triggs v. John Crump Toyota, Inc., 154 F.3d
1284, 1288 n. 4 (11th Cir. 1998) citing Pacheco de Perez
v. AT & T Co., 139 F.3d 1368, 1373 (11th Cir. 1998);
Diaz v. Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502, 1505 (11th Cir.
1996); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1094
(11th Cir. 1994). To do so defendants must produce
“facts supporting the existence of federal subject
matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.
Hobbs v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Ala., 276 F.3d
1236, 1242 (11th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).
Jurisdictional facts supporting removal are judged at the
time of the removal. Sierminski v. Transouth
Fin. Corp., 216 F.3d 945, 949 (11th Cir. 2000)
(citing Allen v. R & H Oil Co., 63 F.3d 1326,
1335 (5th Cir. 1995)).
based on diversity of citizenship may not occur more than one
year after commencement of the action unless the court finds
the plaintiff acted in bad faith in order to prevent removal.
28 U.S.C. § 1446(c). When an action has
“commenced” is a question of state law. Green
v. Hyundai Power Transformers USA, Inc., 2014 WL
2862894, n. 2 (M.D. Ala. 2014) (citing Barnett v.
Sylacauga Autoplex, 973 F.Supp. 1358, 1362 (N.D. Ala.
1997)). Rule 3 of Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure states,
“an action is commenced by the filing of complaint with
the court.” If a new party is added or a complaint is
amended, the date the action is commenced could change.
Id. at 1363 (citing Corbitt v. Mangum, 523
So.2d 348, 350-51 (Ala. 1988)). Here, Defendants do not
assert Plaintiffs joined a new party nor do Defendants assert
Plaintiffs amended their complaint. As such, the date this
action was commenced was October 5, 2017. (Doc. 1 at 3). One
year from this “commencement date” was October 5,
2018. Therefore, the remaining question is whether Section
1446(b)'s one-year bar applies. This bar does not apply
if the plaintiffs acted in bad faith to prevent removal. 28
U.S.C. § 1446(c)(1).
plaintiff's claims are in bad faith if, by [his] actions,
[he] attempted to disguise the existence of the removability
of the case until the one-year limitation had run.”
McAdam Properties, LLC v. Dunkin' Donuts Franchising,
LLC, 290 F.Supp. 1279, 1285, 1291 (N.D. Ala. 2018)
(citing Barnett v. Sylacauga Autoplex, 973 F.Supp.
at 1367); Hopins v. Nationwide Agribusiness
Insurance Company, 2018 WL 3428610, *4 (M.D. Ala. 2018)
(same); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(3)(B) (deliberately
failing to disclose the true amount in controversy in order
to prevent removal is bad faith). A plaintiff was found to
have acted in bad faith when the plaintiff made an
affirmative representation that less than $75, 000 in damages
would be sought but then amended the complaint after the
one-year limit expired, seeking damages in excess of $75,
000. Hill v. Allianz Life Ins. Co. of North America,
51 F.Supp.3d 1277, 1281 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 7, 2014). The court
noted there was no plausible reason for a sudden increase in
the amount sought aside from bad faith. Id.; see
also Morrison v. National Ben. Life Ins. Co.,
889 F.Supp. 945, 950 (S.D.Miss. June 30, 1995) (finding
plaintiffs acted in bad faith when each concealed the
material fact that each sought damages exceeding $75, 000 in
both initial pleadings and discovery responses).
Public Service Towers, Inc. v. Best Buy Stores, L.P,28 F.Supp.3d 1313, 1314-15 (M.D. Ga. June 24, 2014), the
court declined to find bad faith where defendants failed to
submit evidence that plaintiffs “knowingly
misrepresented the value of its claim” when it first
represented damages less than $75, 000; there was no evidence
the amount in controversy “clearly exceeded $75, 000
within a year after the ...