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Willow Tree Farms LP v. Byroad

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Lafayette Division, Hammond

September 17, 2018

WILLOW TREE FARMS LP, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG BYROAD, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES T. MOODY JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on plaintiff Willow Tree Farms, LP's motion to remand this case to state court. (DE # 29.) For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This matter is before the court on diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff, Willow Tree Farms, LP, originally filed its in rem complaint in the White County Superior Court. (DE # 3.) Plaintiff's complaint alleges that defendants, Craig Byroad, Ronald Byroad, Marlene Byroad, and CRB AG, LLC, leased property from plaintiff, but failed to pay rent and failed to vacate the property when the lease expired. (Id. at 1.) In the complaint, plaintiff requests relief in the form of immediate repossession of the property. (Id.) Plaintiff specifically notes that it seeks in rem relief only, as some of the defendants are currently debtors engaged in bankruptcy proceedings. (Id.)

         Defendants removed this case to federal court. In their notice of removal, defendants assert that this court may exercise both federal question and diversity jurisdiction. (DE # 1 at 2.) Defendants also claim that removal is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1452 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) and (c). (Id.)

         Plaintiff now moves to remand the case to state court on the basis that this court lacks jurisdiction. (DE # 29.) Defendants did not file a response to plaintiff's motion and the time to do so has passed. This matter is now ripe for resolution.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court may exercise either federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. With regard to the former, “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. With regard to the latter, “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs, ” and where complete diversity of citizenship exists. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Complete diversity of citizenship exists where no plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant. LM Ins. Corp. v. Spaulding Enters. Inc., 533 F.3d 542, 546 n. 1 (7th Cir. 2008). Further, for removal based on Section 1332(a) to be proper, diversity of citizenship must have existed at the time of removal. Harmon v. OKI Sys., 115 F.3d 477, 480 (7th Cir. 1997).

         A defendant who seeks to remove an action to federal court has the burden of establishing that the complete diversity requirement was met. Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 540 (7th Cir. 2006); Meyerson v. Showboat Marina Casino P'ship, 312 F.3d 318, 321 (7th Cir. 2002). Thus, when a party opposing federal jurisdiction challenges the allegations of jurisdictional facts, the party seeking the federal forum must prove those facts by a preponderance of the evidence. Meridian, 441 F.3d at 543. District courts are to “interpret the removal statute narrowly, ” and any doubts regarding jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand to state court. Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Federal Question Jurisdiction

         In their notice of removal, defendants make the conclusory allegation that this court may exercise federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (DE # 1 at 2.) Yet, plaintiff's claim for repossession of property does not arise under the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, and defendants do not identify any federal question they believe is at issue.

         B. Diversity Jurisdiction

         Defendants assert that “[r]emoval is also proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), as the plaintiff is a limited partnership comprised of foreign nationals who are not domiciled in the State of Indiana, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00.” (DE # 1 at 2.) Plaintiff argues that the requirements of Section 1332 are not satisfied in this case. Although they bear ...


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