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Jeremiah Lee May, An Individual; Scott v. Ronald Lee Haas

October 15, 2012

JEREMIAH LEE MAY, AN INDIVIDUAL; SCOTT LAWRENCE MAY, AN INDIVIDUAL; GAVIN ROYD MAY, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND RUSSELL LANE, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RONALD LEE HAAS, AN INDIVIDUAL; SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., AN UNKNOWN CORPORATION; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 40, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, Jeremiah Lee May, Scott Lawrence May, Gavin Royd May and Russell Lane (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), originally brought this action in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento, against Defendants Ronald Lee Haas ("Haas"), an individual, and Schneider National Carriers, Inc. ("Schneider National"), a Nevada corporation with its principal place of business in Wisconsin.

Defendant Schneider National timely removed the action to this Court pursuant to the Court's diversity jurisdiction, and Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Motion to Remand, which is presently before the Court. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is DENIED.*fn1

BACKGROUND*fn2

On May 29, 2012, Plaintiffs filed this action against Defendants Haas and Schneider National in state court alleging causes of action for wrongful death and negligence. Plaintiffs allege that, on July 30, 2011, a truck owned by Defendant Schneider National and operated by Defendant Haas collided with a car driven by decedent George May ("Decedent"). According to Plaintiffs, Defendant Haas's negligence was the cause of the accident which led to Decedent's death.

As alleged, Plaintiffs are citizens of Colorado and Kansas; Defendant Haas is a citizen of California; and Defendant Schneider National is a Nevada Corporation with its principal place of business in Wisconsin. Schneider National was served with the summons and Complaint on June 18, 2012. On July 6, 2012, Schneider National removed the action to this Court, asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

It is undisputed that, at the time of the removal, Defendant Haas had not been served.*fn3

STANDARD

A defendant may remove any civil action from state court to federal district court if the district court has "original jurisdiction" over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Generally, district courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions in two instances: (1) where there is complete diversity between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000; or

(2) where a federal question is presented in an action arising under the Constitution, federal law, or treaty. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332. However, under the "forum defendant rule," a diversity action "may not be removed if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2) (emphasis added).

ANALYSIS

In seeking remand, Plaintiffs argue that the removal was improper under the forum defendant rule because Defendant Haas is a California citizen. (Pl's Mot. at 5.)

In response, Schneider National contends that the removal is proper because no California citizen had been "properly joined and served" at the time of removal. (Def.'s Opp. [ECF No. 12], filed Aug. 9, 2012, at 3.) Schneider National argues that § 1441(b) should be read in accordance with the plain language of the statute such that remand is only appropriate by the presence of an in-state defendant who had already been served at the time of removal. (Id.) Plaintiffs counter that a plain language reading of § 1441(b) would result in forum shopping and gamesmanship based on the speed of service, and thus would be contrary to the purpose underlying the statute which was to discourage such behavior and to protect out-of-state defendants from possible prejudices in state court.*fn4 (Pls' Reply [ECF No. 14], filed Aug. 16, 2012, at 2.)

A plain meaning interpretation is consistent with one of the fundamental principles of statutory interpretation "that the meaning of a statute must, in the first instance, be sought in the language in which the act is framed." Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 485 (1917). If the statutory language "is plain, and if the law is within the constitutional authority of the ...


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