United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JACK R. PRYOR, CHARMIN C PRYOR, Plaintiffs,
CHR. HANSEN INC., CITRUS & ALLIED ESSENCES, LTD., EVONIK INDUSTRIES, AG, GIVAUDAN f/k/a TASTEMAKER, FRIES & FRIES, MALLINCKRODT, GOLD MEDAL PRODUCTS COMPANY, H.B. TAYLOR COMPANY, INTERNATIONAL BAKER'S SERVICES, INC., INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS & FRAGRANCES, INC., KERRY FLAVOR SYSTEMS US, LLC, SENSIENT FLAVORS INTERNATIONAL, INC., SYMRISE, INC., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND
Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge
Jack and Charmin Pryor filed a lawsuit against Defendants in
the Marion County Superior Court seeking redress for injuries
and damages allegedly caused by Jack Pryor's occupational
exposure to chemicals. International Flavors &
Fragrances, Inc. removed the case to this Court based on
diversity jurisdiction, dkt. 1, and Plaintiffs filed
a Motion to Remand in October 2018 followed by a Second
Motion to Remand in December. For the reasons stated below,
Plaintiffs' Second Motion is GRANTED.
Factual and Procedural History
Pryor, an Indiana citizen, has worked at the Weaver Popcorn
Company production plant in Van Buren, Indiana for the last
twenty-four years. Dkt. 1-1 at 22. He suffers from
lung disease that he alleges was caused by his exposure to
various chemicals used in the Weaver Plant to flavor the
popcorn (“toxic flavorings”). Id. For
these injuries, he and his wife sued eleven different
companies for civil conspiracy, product liability, and
fraudulent concealment. Id. at 29-46. Each of these
companies allegedly manufactures or distributes the
flavorings that are alleged to have caused Plaintiff's
injuries. Id. at 23-26. Most of these companies
operate outside of Indiana, but two of them-International
Baker's Services, Inc. and Sensient Flavors
International, Inc. (the “Indiana
Defendants”)-are Indiana citizens.
Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. removed the case to this Court
based on the Court's diversity jurisdiction. Dkt.
62. Recognizing that Plaintiffs and the Indiana
Defendants are all Indiana citizens, International Flavors
argues that the Indiana Defendants' citizenship should
not be considered for diversity jurisdiction purposes because
“there is no possibility that Plaintiffs can establish
a cause of action” against them. Id. ¶ 5.
According to International Flavors, the Indiana Defendants
never sold or distributed any products to the Weaver Plant
where Plaintiff worked, so they could not possibly have
caused Plaintiff's injuries. The Indiana Defendants,
therefore, have been “fraudulently joined” as
defendants in this case to defeat diversity jurisdiction, so
their citizenship can be safely ignored. Id.
December 10, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Second Motion to Remand
arguing that the Indiana Defendants were not fraudulently
joined and that International Flavor's removal did not
properly allege the Court's jurisdiction. Dkt.
115. International Flavors filed an opposition to
Plaintiffs' motion, dkt. 122, to which
Plaintiffs replied, dkt. 123. The Motion to Remand
has been fully briefed and is now ripe for the Court's
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Exxon
Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546,
552 (2005). A district court cannot hear a case unless there
is a clear statutory basis for its jurisdiction. Id.
The removing party bears the burden of establishing this
basis. Tri-State Water Treatment, Inc. v. Bauer, 845
F.3d 350, 352 (7th Cir. 2017). Here, Plaintiffs argue that
International Flavor's Notice of Removal fails to
establish the Court's jurisdiction because some of the
jurisdictional allegations are based on “information
and belief” and there is not complete diversity as
required, despite International Flavor's argument that
the Indiana Defendants were fraudulently joined. The Court
will address each of these arguments in turn.
Removal Based on Information and Belief
Court may exercise diversity jurisdiction only if the parties
are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000
exclusive of cost and fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). When
removing a case, a “naked declaration that there is
diversity of citizenship is never sufficient.”
Thomas v. Guardsmark, LLC, 487 F.3d 531, 533 (7th
Cir. 2007). Rather, the removing party must allege
jurisdiction based on personal knowledge-not just on its
information and belief-to invoke the subject-matter
jurisdiction of a federal court. See America's Best
Inns, Inc. v. Best Inns of Abilene, L.P., 980 F.2d 1072,
1074 (7th Cir. 1992).
Plaintiffs claim that the Court should remand the case
because International Flavors alleged the parties'
citizenship based on its “information and belief”
rather than its personal knowledge. Dkt. 115 at 8-9.
The Court disagrees and finds that International Flavors has
sufficiently alleged jurisdiction based on personal
knowledge. International Flavors has alleged the citizenship
of each Defendant without using the phrase “information
and belief.” Dkt. 62 ¶¶ 7-18. These
jurisdictional allegations are supported by an affidavit
based on “personal knowledge”, dkt. 62-5, and
documents from the Defendants' Secretary of State Offices
confirming their citizenship. Dkts. 65-6-65-18. This is
enough to establish the Defendants' citizenship.
International Flavors has alleged that Plaintiffs are
citizens of Indiana based on its “information and
belief, ” dkt. 62 ¶ 6, the Court is
nevertheless satisfied that Plaintiffs' citizenship has
been sufficiently established. Plaintiffs themselves allege,
and thus admit that, for diversity jurisdiction purposes,
they are Indiana citizens. Dkt. 1-1 at 26. Indeed,
Plaintiffs' Second Motion to Remand is premised on a lack
of complete diversity because, like Plaintiffs, two
Defendants are Indiana citizens. Plaintiffs themselves are
“in the best position to furnish evidence of their
citizenship, ” and they have chosen not to challenge
International Flavors' assertion of their citizenship.
Med. Assur. Co. v. Hellman, 610 F.3d 371, 376 (7th
Cir. 2010) (holding that the district court had jurisdiction
when the case was removed based on the unchallenged
citizenship of another party based on “information and
International Flavors has properly provided the citizenship
of the parties, and the Court will not remand the case on