G. Fedale General Contractors v. Prelle et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding MOTION to Remand to the Court of Common Pleas (D.I. 11 ). Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 4/13/2017. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
G. FEDALE GENERAL CONTRACTORS,
LLC d/b/a G. FEDALE ROOFING AND
ARTHUR SCOTT PRELLE, et al.,
Civ. Action No. 17-178-RGA
Court of Common Pleas of the
State of Delaware in and for New
New Castle County
C.A. No. CPU4-16-001553
Victoria Kathryn Petrone, Esquire and George Thomas Lees, Ill, Esquire, Logan &
Petrone, LLC, New Castle, Delaware. Counsel for Plaintiff.
Arthur Scott Prelle, Malvern, Pennsylvania. Pro se Defendant.
April 13, 2017
On February 21, 2017, Defendant Arthur Scott Prelle filed a Notice of Removal
of G. Fedale General Contractors, LLC v. Pre/le, C.A. No. CPU4-16-001553, from the
Court of Common Pleas of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County ("Court
of Common Pleas"). (D.I. 2). Plaintiff has filed a motion to remand. (D.I. 11 ). For the
reasons discussed below, the Court determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction
and will grant the motion to remand the case to the Court of Common Pleas.
Plaintiff's Complaint filed in the Court of Common Pleas raises four counts
pursuant to Delaware law: breach of contract, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, and
fraud. The Complaint states that all parties are either residents of Delaware, have
offices located in Delaware, or regularly conduct business in the State of Delaware.
(D.I. 2 at Ex. 2). It appears from the documents attached to the notice of removal that
Defendant resides in Pennsylvania as an alias summons was issued to a Pennsylvania
address where he was served. The Complaint seeks damages in the amount of
$15,483.00 plus pre and post judgment interest, attorneys' fees, the costs of the action,
punitive damages, and such further relief as the Court deems just. (Id.).
Defendant asserts that removal is proper because he has a defense arising
under the constitution and laws of the United States. (D.I. 1). Plaintiff moves for
remand on the grounds that there is no federal question to be adjudicated and diversity
jurisdiction does not exist. (D.I. 12). Defendant did not file a response to motion to
remand, although he has filed two motions to dismiss (D.I. 5, 14), several answers and
amended answers (D.I. 9, 13, 16, 17), and a motion for leave to amend his answer (D.I.
19). Defendant, who is not an attorney, also filed an answer on behalf of American
Holly, LLC, as its owner. (D.I. 10). However, a corporation cannot appear by a
representative of the corporation and may only participate in litigation through licensed
counsel. Rowland v. California Men's Colony, Unit II Men's Advisory Council, 506 U.S.
194, 217 (1993); Simbraw, Inc. v. United States, 367 F.2d 373 (3d Cir. 1966).
In order for a case to be removable to this Court, it must have original jurisdiction
by either a federal question or diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, 1441.
"Only state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be
removed to federal court by the defendant." Kline v. Security Guards, Inc., 386 F.3d
246, 252 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)).
"Under the well-pleaded complaint rule, a cause of action 'arises under' federal law, and
removal is proper, only if a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's
properly pleaded complaint." Dukes v. U.S. Healthcare, Inc., 57 F.3d 350, 353 (3d Cir.
1995). A federal defense does not confer subject matter jurisdiction. In re U.S.
Healthcare, Inc., 193 F.3d 151, 160 (3d Cir. 1999).
If the case could not have been filed originally in federal court, then removal
under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 is improper and remand is appropriate. Kline, 386 F.3d at 252
(citations omitted). "The removal statutes 'are to be strictly construed against removal
and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand."' Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp.,
913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Steel Valley Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal
Div., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d Cir. 1987)). Where a motion for remand is filed, the
defendant has the burden of proving that removal was proper. Boyer, 913 F.2d at 111.
The Complaint does not raise any claims under federal law and Defendant's
alleged constitutional defense does not confer this Court with subject matter jurisdiction.
In addition, because there is not complete diversity of citizenship among the parties,
there is no diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Complaint names four
Defendants, three of whom are citizens of the State of Delaware as is Plaintiff.
"Diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) requires the existence of complete
diversity between the parties- that is, no plaintiff can be a citizen of the same state as
any of the defendants." Siravo v. Crown, Cork & Seal Co., 256 F. App'x 577, 579 (3d
Cir. 2007) (quoting Grand Union Supermarkets of the V.I., Inc. v. H.E. Lockhart Mgmt.,
Inc., 316 F.3d 408, 410 (3d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Further, the matter in controversy does not appear to exceed the sum of
$75,000, even when considering Plaintiff's prayer for punitive damages. See Packard
v. Provident Nat'/ Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1046 (3d Cir.1993) ("punitive damages are
properly considered in determining whether the jurisdictional amount has been
satisfied."); Laugelle v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., 88 A.3d 110, 125 (Del. Super.
2014 ). Delaware's high bar for a plaintiff to recover punitive damages requires
demonstration of a defendant' "outrageous conduct," "an evil motive," or "reckless
indifference." (citations omitted). Finally, Defendant did not oppose remand and, as
discussed above, it is his burden to prove that removal is proper. He has failed to meet
Because there is no federal question, and the requisites for diversity jurisdiction
have not been met, this Court does not have subject matter over the State action. The
Court will grant Plaintiff's motion (D.I. 11) and will summarily remand the case to the
Court of Common Pleas of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). All other pending motions will be dismissed without
prejudice as moot. (D.I. 5, 14, 19).
An appropriate Order will issue.
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