Adamson v. Smith Kline Beecham Corporation
ORDER denying 10 Motion to Vacate or Amend Court's Remand Order for lack of jurisdiction. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 2/16/2012. (wcl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
GLAXOSMITH KLINE (GSK),
CASE NO. 3:11-CV-898-WKW
Before the court is Defendant’s Motion to Vacate or Amend Court’s Remand
Order and Response to Court’s Show Cause Order. (Doc. # 10.) Defendant requests
that the court vacate or amend its December 27, 2011 Order remanding this case to
the Circuit Court of Randolph County, Alabama, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff should not be
awarded costs and attorney’s fees. For the following reasons, the court concludes that
it lacks jurisdiction to vacate or amend its remand order and further finds that
attorney’s fees and costs are not warranted in this case.
By statute, “[a]n order remanding a case to the State court from which it was
removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d). “This
nonreviewability extends to the power of a district court to reconsider its own remand
order.” First Union Nat’l Bank of Fla. v. Hall, 123 F.3d 1374, 1377 (11th Cir. 1997)
(citing Harris v. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Ala., Inc., 951 F.2d 325, 329–30 (11th Cir.
1992)). In Harris, the Eleventh Circuit held that a district court “has no jurisdiction
to review [its] remand order,” where it has remanded a case under § 1447(c) for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction. 951 F.2d at 330. The Eleventh Circuit adopted the
reasoning of In re La Providencia Development Corporation, 406 F.2d 251 (1st Cir.
Removal in diversity cases, to the prejudice of state court
jurisdiction, is a privilege to be strictly construed, and the state court
proceedings are to be interfered with once, at most. This is not only in
the interest of judicial economy, but out of respect for the state court and
in recognition of principles of comity. The action must not ricochet
back and forth depending upon the most recent determination of a
[T]here is no more reason for a district court being able to review
its own decision, and revoke the remand, than for an appellate court
requiring it to do so. Both are foreclosed; nothing can be more inclusive
than the phrase “on appeal or otherwise” [in § 1447(d)]. The district
court has one shot, right or wrong.
Id. (alterations in original) (quoting In re La Providencia Dev. Corp., 406 F.2d at
252–53). Recently, the Eleventh Circuit, citing Harris, reiterated the absence of
jurisdiction of a district court or appellate court to reconsider a § 1447(c) remand
order. See Bender v. Mazda Motor Corp., 657 F.3d 1200, 1202–04 (11th Cir. 2011).
The Bender court held that “even if the district court erroneously remanded the case
to state court, § 1447(d) prohibits the district court from reconsidering its remand
order because the district court no longer ha[s] jurisdiction over the case.” Id. at
Here, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion to remand in two separate cases. In
each instance, the court relied on Plaintiff’s assertions that he was only seeking
$65,000 in damages to find that Defendant had failed to establish the jurisdictional
amount in controversy under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) to a legal certainty. Because
Defendant could not establish federal jurisdiction, the court remanded the case to
state court under § 1447(c) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Thus, pursuant to
§ 1447(d) and Harris, this court has no jurisdiction to reconsider its order to remand.
Furthermore, assuming arguendo that Defendant is correct that the court
erroneously remanded the case, reconsideration is forbidden. Bender makes clear that
even if a § 1447(c) remand is erroneous, the district court has no jurisdiction to
reconsider its order to remand.
Defendant fears that Plaintiff will amend “his complaint to demand more than
the jurisdictional amount” once the one-year removal deadline under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(c) passes. (Doc. # 10, at 1–2.) This fear was addressed in Burns v. Windsor
Insurance Co., 31 F.3d 1092 (11th Cir. 1994), in which the Eleventh Circuit
concluded that while a plaintiff may artfully plead a claim to avoid federal
jurisdiction, this “result (if it is not good policy) should be remedied by congressional
and not judicial action.” 31 F.3d at 1095 n.4 (emphasis in original). However, it is
noted that the court specifically relied on Plaintiff’s representations that he was
seeking less than the jurisdictional amount. “Every lawyer is an officer of the court,”
and as such, lawyers owe “a duty of candor to the tribunal.” Id. at 1095. Because of
this duty of candor:
[a] plaintiff’s claim [of damages], when it is specific and in a pleading
signed by a lawyer, deserves deference and a presumption of truth. [The
court] will not assume – unless given reason to do so – that plaintiff’s
counsel has falsely represented, or simply does not appreciate, the value
of his client’s case. Instead, [the court] will assume that plaintiff’s
counsel best knows the value of his client’s case and that counsel is
engaging in no deception. [The court] will further presume that
plaintiff’s counsel understands that, because federal removal jurisdiction
is in part determined by the amount of damages a plaintiff seeks, the
counsel’s choices and representations about damages have important
legal consequences and, therefore, raise significant ethical implications
for a court officer.
Id; see also Federated Mut. Ins. Co. v. McKinnon Motors, LLC, 329 F.3d 805, 808
& n.6 (11th Cir. 2003) (observing that plaintiff’s counsel are officers of the court and
subject to Rule 11 sanctions for making representations for improper purposes, and
that motions for sanctions may be initiated and decided even after underlying case has
been resolved and is no longer pending – because “Rule 11 sanctions involve a
collateral proceeding that can be initiated and decided after the case on which it is
based is finally resolved and no longer pending”).
It is further determined that attorney’s fees and costs should not be assessed
against Defendant pursuant to § 1447(c). “Absent unusual circumstances, courts may
award attorney’s fees under § 1447(c) only where the removing party lacked an
objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal. Conversely, when an objectively
reasonable basis exists, fees should be denied.” Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp.,
546 U.S. 132, 141 (2005).
Based upon Defendant’s arguments, the court agrees that Defendant had an
objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal. Thus, attorney’s fees and costs are
not warranted in this case.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion to Vacate or Amend
Court’s Remand Order (Doc. # 10) is DENIED for lack of jurisdiction.
DONE this 16th day of February, 2012.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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