United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Evansville Division
BARBARA C. WILLIAMS, BRIAN P. WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
TODD J. BROWN, CINCINNATI INSURANCE COMPANY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND, DENYING MOTION TO
DISMISS, AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
PATRICK HANLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Williams and her husband, Brian Williams, brought this suit
in state court after Ms. Williams was hit by a motor vehicle
driven by Todd Brown. The United States removed the case to
this Court and substituted itself as a defendant, certifying
that Mr. Brown was a federal employee acting within the scope
of his employment at the time of the accident. Plaintiffs
have filed a motion to remand, the government has filed a
motion for summary judgment, and the other defendant,
Cincinnati Insurance Company, has filed a motion to dismiss.
For the reasons that follow, all of those motions are
Facts and Background
October 6, 2016, Barbara Williams was hit by a motor vehicle
as she crossed a street near the Federal Building in New
Albany, Indiana. Dkt. 1-1 at 2 ¶ 5. The collision caused
her physical injures and mental and emotional distress.
Id. ¶ 7.
October 2, 2018, Plaintiffs sued Todd Brown-the driver of the
vehicle-alleging that his negligence caused their injuries.
Id. ¶¶ 6, 8-12. They also sued their
insurance company, Cincinnati Insurance Company, alleging
that Mr. Brown either did not have insurance or was
underinsured so Cincinnati Insurance’s uninsured or
underinsured motorist policies should cover their claim.
Id. ¶¶ 18-22.
October 29, 2018, the United States removed the case to
federal court. Dkt. 1. That same day, the government filed a
Notice of Substitution of the United States as Defendant
stating that Mr. Brown was an FBI agent, and at the time of
the accident, he was “acting within the scope of his
employment with the FBI” (the
“Certification”). Dkt. 3 at 2. The government
then substituted itself as a defendant in place of Mr. Brown
under the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort
Compensation Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2679 (the
“Act”). Id. at 1.
next month, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Remand and to Stay
Proceedings, dkt. 16, the government filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment on Failure to Exhaust Defense, dkt. 18, and
Cincinnati Insurance filed a Motion to Dismiss, dkt. 21.
Because these motions address the same set of facts, the
Court addresses all three motions.
Plaintiffs’ Motion to Remand or Stay
civil action brought in a State court of which the district
courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may
be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the
district court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). “The party seeking removal has the burden of
establishing federal jurisdiction, and federal courts should
interpret the removal statute narrowly, resolving any doubt
in favor of the plaintiff’s choice of forum in state
court.” Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc.,
577 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 2009).
government removed this case under section 2679(d)(2) of the
Act. Dkt. 1 ¶ 5. Plaintiffs have filed a motion to
remand the case, arguing that if the Court decides that Mr.
Brown acted outside the scope of his employment, the Court
must remand the case back to state court. Dkt. 26 at 2. The
government responds that whatever the Court’s ruling
regarding the scope-of-employment issue, the case cannot be
remanded because it filed the Certification. Dkt. 20 at 2-3.
section 2679(d)(2), when the government certifies that a
defendant was a federal employee acting within the scope of
employment at the time of an accident, a “claim in a
State court shall be removed . . . to the district court of
the United States.” The government’s
certification “shall conclusively establish scope of
office or employment for purposes of removal.”
the Court concludes that the government’s Certification
was wrong, the case would remain in federal court. Osborn
v. Haley, 549 U.S. 225, 241 (2007). Once removed, the
Court cannot remand this case because “Congress gave
district courts no authority to return cases to state courts