United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
FLOYD COFFMAN and JEAN COFFMAN, citizens of the State of Indiana, Plaintiffs,
DUTCH FARMS, INC. and BRIAN GARNER, a citizen of the State of Indiana, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
LOZANO, Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court on: (1) Plaintiffs' Motion to
Remand, filed on May 10, 2016 (DE #7); (2) Defendants'
Motion for Leave to Amend the Notice of Removal, filed on
July 1, 2016 (DE #15); and (3) Defendants' Motion for
Leave to File a Surreply in Opposition to Plaintiffs'
Motion to Remand, filed on July 1, 2016 (DE #16). For the
reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion for Leave
to Amend the Notice of Removal is DENIED, and Defendants'
Motion for Leave to File a Surreply in Opposition to
Plaintiffs' Motion is DENIED. Furthermore, the
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is GRANTED and this case is
REMANDED back to the Lake Superior Court of Lake County,
Indiana. Additionally, Plaintiffs are AWARDED their just
costs and actual expenses, including attorneys' fees, as
a result of the removal.
March 24, 2016, Plaintiffs Floyd and Jean Coffman filed their
complaint for negligence against Defendants Dutch Farms, Inc.
(“Dutch Farms”) and Brian Garner
(“Garner”) in the Lake Superior Court. (DE #4).
The Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that Dutch Farms was
“negligent and/or reckless” when it breached its
“duty to use reasonable care in the operation,
entrustment, inspection, maintenance, and repair of the
tractor-trailer, and in the hiring, training, retention,
and/or supervision of the drivers chosen to operate it,
” in violation of Parts 390, 391, 392, 393, 395, and
396 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
(“FMCSRs”), the provisions of which were adopted
by reference as Indiana law. (Id. ¶¶
7-10.). See I.C. § 8-2.1-24-18. Plaintiffs have
alleged that Dutch Farms was negligent and reckless (Count
I), that Dutch Farms is vicariously liable for the negligent
and reckless conduct of its employee, Garner (Count II), and
that Garner is liable for his own negligent and reckless
conduct (Count III).
Defendants were served with the summons and complaint on
April 5, 2016. On May 4, 2016, Defendants filed a notice of
removal, alleging that this Court maintains jurisdiction over
this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(c). According to Defendants, the Plaintiffs'
complaint alleges violations of federal law. (DE #1, ¶
5). Specifically, the Plaintiffs allege numerous breaches of
duty under the FMCSRs, particularly Parts 390, 391, 392, 393,
395 and 396. (Id. ¶ 4).
Plaintiffs filed the instant motion to remand on May 10,
2016. (DE #7). Plaintiffs allege that no federal claim under
the FMCSRs was ever raised in their complaint, and that such
a claim could not be made because the FMCSRs do not create a
private right of action for personal injuries. Plaintiffs
further allege that the state law claims pled in their
complaint do not implicate any federal issues. Plaintiffs
also seek attorneys' fees and costs incurred as a result
of the removal, claiming that “this case was never
removable and defendants lacked an objectively reasonable
basis to remove this case.” (DE #7 at 2).
Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiffs'
Motion to Remand on June 10, 2016 (DE #13), to which the
Plaintiffs filed a reply in further support of their motion
on June 20, 2016. (DE #14). Defendants then filed a Motion
for Leave to Amend the Notice of Removal and a Motion for
Leave to File a Surreply in Opposition to Plaintiffs'
Motion to Remand on July 1, 2016. (DE ##15, 16). Plaintiffs
filed responses in opposition to both of these motions on
July 7, 2016 (DE ##17, 18). Defendants filed a reply in
support of the motion for leave to amend on July 13, 2016.
(DE #19). Accordingly, the Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand,
Defendants' Motion for Leave to Amend the Notice of
Removal, and Defendants' Motion for Leave to File a
Surreply in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand
are ripe for adjudication.
may be removed from state court to federal court if it is
based on statutorily permissible grounds and if it is timely.
Boyd v. Phoenix Funding Corp., 366 F.3d 524, 529
(7th Cir. 2004). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1441; 28
U.S.C. § 1446. The Seventh Circuit has directed that,
“[c]ourts should interpret the removal statute narrowly
and presume that the plaintiff may choose his or her forum.
Any doubt regarding jurisdiction should be resolved in favor
of the states, and the burden of establishing federal
jurisdiction falls on the party seeking removal.”
Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th
Cir. 1993)(citations omitted). The party seeking removal must
demonstrate that removal is proper. Boyd, 366 at
529. When challenged, the party seeking federal jurisdiction
bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the
evidence that a case belongs in federal court. Meridian
Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 540-43 (7th
defendant can remove “any civil action brought in a
State court of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
The district court has original jurisdiction over claims
arising under federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
“[T]he presence or absence of federal-question
jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint
rule, ' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists
only when a federal question is presented on the face of the
plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Citadel Sec., LLC v. Chi. Bd. Options Exch., Inc.,
808 F.3d 694, 701 (7th Cir. 2015)(citations omitted).
notice of removal must be filed “within 30 days after
the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise,
of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for
relief upon which such action or proceeding is
based….” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1). A
plaintiff can move to remand within 30 days thereafter. 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c). “In considering a motion for
remand, the court must examine the plaintiffs' complaint
at the time of the defendant's removal and assume the
truth of all factual allegations contained within the
original complaint.” Scouten v. MNL-FTS, LLC,
708 F.Supp.2d 729, 731 (N.D. Ill. 2010)(quotations and
Motion to Remand
Federal question jurisdiction arises where the well-pleaded
complaint contains a federal cause of action or,
alternatively, “requires resolution of a substantial
question of federal law in dispute between the
parties.” Baker v. Johnson & Johnson, 709
F.Supp.2d 677 (S.D. Ill. 2010)(quoting Franchise Ta Bde.
Of State of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for
S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983)).
only state law negligence claims are alleged; namely, claims
that Dutch Farms was negligence and reckless, that Dutch
Farms is vicariously liable for the negligence and
recklessness of Garner, and that Garner is liable for his own
negligence and recklessness. While the complaint does
reference the FMCSRs, each of the sections of the FMCSRs
referenced in the ...