Stone Technology, Inc. et al v. Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of America et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge W. Harold Albritton, III on 11/1/2011. (br, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
STONE TECHNOLOGY, INC., d/b/a STONE)
ELECTRONIC and JAMES STONE,
TRAVELERS CASUALTY INSURANCE )
COMANY, etc., et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:11CV698-WHA
This cause is before the court on a Motion to Remand, filed by the Plaintiffs (Doc. #8).
The Plaintiffs originally filed a Complaint in this case in the Circuit Court of Russell
County, Alabama. The Plaintiffs name as Defendants Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of
America, USAA Insurance Agency, Inc. (“USAA”), and Misty Dawn Harrison (“Harrison”).
There is no dispute that Harrison and the Plaintiffs are citizens of Alabama, while the other
Defendants are citizens of other states. There are not separate counts in the Complaint. The
factual allegations state that Harrison caused a fire to destroy property owned by the Plaintiffs,
that USAA negligently failed to procure insurance for the destroyed property, and that USAA
and Travelers refused to pay the claim. The Complaint demands judgment against all
Defendants in an amount to be set by the jury. See Doc. 1-1.
USAA removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, stating that
Harrison has been fraudulently joined so that her citizenship should be discounted, and that the
requisite amount in controversy is present.
For reasons to be discussed, the Motion to Remand is due to be GRANTED.
II. REMAND STANDARD
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375 (1994); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (1994); Wymbs v.
Republican State Executive Comm., 719 F.2d 1072, 1076 (11th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S.
1103 (1984). As such, federal courts only have the power to hear cases that they have been
authorized to hear by the Constitution or the Congress of the United States. See Kokkonen, 511
U.S. at 377. Because federal court jurisdiction is limited, the Eleventh Circuit favors remand of
removed cases where federal jurisdiction is not absolutely clear. See Burns, 31 F.3d at 1095.
The Eleventh Circuit applies a threefold test for determining whether a defendant has
been fraudulently joined in assessing the existence of complete diversity: either (1) that there is
no possibility the plaintiff could establish a cause of action against the resident defendant in state
court, (2) that the plaintiff fraudulently pleaded jurisdictional facts, or (3) where a diverse
defendant is joined with a nondiverse defendant as to whom there is no joint, several or
alternative liability and the claim has no real connection to the claim against the nondiverse
defendant. See Triggs v. John Crump Toyota, 154 F.3d 1284, 1287 (11th Cir. 1998).
The burden of proving fraudulent joinder rests with the Defendants as the removing
parties. See Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d 1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997). “If there is any
possibility that the state law might impose liability on a resident defendant under the
circumstances alleged in the complaint, the federal court cannot find that joinder of the resident
defendant was fraudulent, and remand is necessary.” Florence v. Crescent Resources, LLC, 484
F.3d 1293, 1299 (11th Cir. 2007).
The Plaintiffs contend that the language of the Complaint requests damages from all
Defendants and identifies Defendant Harrison’s wrongdoing, so that the Defendants have not
shown that Defendant Harrison is fraudulently joined. The court agrees. See Pakzad v. Mark
Hopkins Intercont’l San Francisco, No. C-03-2863 MHP, 2003 WL 22144400, at *1,3 (N.D.
Cal. Sept. 2, 2003) (stating in a complaint in which the plaintiff lumped the defendants together
that “this is not fraudulent joinder but sloppy pleading.”); Brooks v. Paulk & Cope, Inc., 176 F.
Supp. 2d 1270, 1277 (M.D. Ala. 2001) (stating “misjoinder must be egregious in order for there
to be fraudulent joinder.”).
Accordingly, the Motion to Remand is due to be GRANTED. A separate Order will be
entered in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion.
DONE this 1st day of November, 2011.
/s/ W. Harold Albritton
W. HAROLD ALBRITTON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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