Grant et al v. Sun Construction, LLC et al
ORDER granting 16 Motion to Remand to State Court; denying 16 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by Judge Jay C. Zainey. (Attachments: # 1 Letter) (jrc, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
PATRICIA GRANT, ET AL.
SUN CONSTRUCTION, LLC, ET AL.
SECTION: "A" (2)
The following motion is before the Court: Motion to Remand (Rec. Doc. 16) filed
by Plaintiffs, Patricia Grant, et al. Defendants, Sun Construction, LLC, Penn Mill Lakes, LLC,
Cooper Engineering, Inc., Leroy J. Cooper, and Clarendon America Insurance Co., oppose
the motion. The motion, noticed for submission on November 20, 2013, is before the Court
on the briefs without oral argument.1 For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
This litigation concerns the allegedly defective drainage system of the Penn Mill
Lakes Subdivision located in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. On March 20, 2008, plaintiffs
Patricia Grant, et al. filed suit in state court on behalf of eight sets of homeowners within the
subdivision. The state court consolidated the Grant petition with two other petitions (the
Markiewicz and Shea matters) that were already pending in the 22nd JDC. On September 5,
2013, the Grant plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Class Action Petition which joined St.
Tammany Parish Government (“STPG”) and Leroy J. Cooper as defendants. (Rec. Doc. 1-3,
Defendants Sun Construction, LLC, Penn Mill Lakes, LLC, Cooper Engineering, Inc.,
Plaintiffs have requested oral argument but the issues presented by their motion are
straightforward and do not require additional argument.
Leroy J. Cooper, and Clarendon America Insurance Co. filed their Notice of Removal on
October 3, 2013, contending that the Second Amended Petition raised federal questions for
the first time thereby rendering the case removable. According to Defendants, the Court has
subject matter jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the
allegations in the Second Amended Petition have transformed this case from one that arises
under state law to one that now arises “under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United
States” because the claims will now require the presiding judge to interpret and apply federal
law. (Rec. Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 1, 25).
Plaintiffs now move the Court to remand the case to state court arguing that 1) the
removal was defective because STPG did not consent to have the case removed to federal
court, and 2) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the case does not arise
under federal law.
Additionally, Plaintiffs request an award of costs and attorney’s fees because they
contend that they approached Defendants regarding the errors of law that Plaintiffs believed
would require remand. Defendants nevertheless would not consent to a voluntary remand
even under pain of the threat of sanctions.
It is well-established that the party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court has the
burden of proving that the exercise of such jurisdiction is proper. In re North American
Philips Corp., 1991 WL 40259, at *2 (5th Cir. 1991). In a removal case, the removing party
bears that burden, a burden unaffected by the status of discovery, the number of plaintiffs, or
any problems created by state law. Id. Any doubt regarding whether removal jurisdiction is
proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction and in favor of remand. Acuna v.
Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Willy v. Coastal Corp., 855
F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir.1988)).
Any civil action brought in a state court of which the district courts of the United
States have original jurisdiction, may be removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The district courts
have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties
of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Plaintiffs’ causes of action are all state law causes of action—breach of warranties,
fraud, conspiracy to defraud, etc. But Defendants contend that the state law causes of action
will require the court to interpret federal law, particularly in the remedy phase of the case
because Plaintiffs claim damage by having to pay increased flood premiums, and because
they want a FEMA approved flood structure built to protect them.
When state law claims turn on a substantial question of federal law or implicate a
significant federal issue then federal question jurisdiction may apply. See Grable & Sons
Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng’r & Manuf., 545 U.S. 308, 312-313 (2005). But federal
jurisdiction demands not only a contested federal issue but a substantial one. Id. Other
issues to consider are whether the assumption of jurisdiction would be disruptive to the state
judicial system and whether uniformity in the federal law is a concern. See id. The fact that a
substantial federal question is necessary to the resolution of a state law claim is not sufficient
to permit federal jurisdiction when the exercise of jurisdiction will disturb the balance of
federal and state judicial responsibilities. Singh v. Duane Morris, LLP, 538 F.3d 334, 338
(5th Cir. 2008).
Turning now to the instant case, resolution of Plaintiffs’ state law claims does not
implicate any substantial issues of federal law such that Plaintiffs claims now arise under
federal law for purposes of original jurisdiction and removal. The state court may or may not
be called upon to interpret or even apply federal law at some point during Plaintiffs’ case but
this would be merely ancillary to the application of state law, which is the law that provides
the causes of action. Federal law itself provides no recovery on its own and the standard for
removal under Grable & Sons, supra, is not simply that the court may have to refer to federal
standards at some juncture. At least one claim in the case would have to turn on a significant
and substantial issue of contested federal law and that is simply not the case. Defendants
have identified a plethora of federal regulations and statutes that may be implicated by the
relief that Plaintiffs have requested but even if Defendants are correct in their assertions,
none of the aspects of federal law are significant and substantial and none will determine in
the first instance whether Defendants are liable. The claims at issue remain issues of state
law, not matters of federal concern.
In sum, Defendants have not met their burden of establishing that the Court has
subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. The case must therefore be remanded to state
court. Plaintiffs’ argument regarding the consent of all defendants is moot. The request for
attorney’s fees and costs is denied.
Accordingly, and for the foregoing reasons;
IT IS ORDERED that the Motion to Remand (Rec. Doc. 16) filed by Plaintiffs,
Patricia Grant, et al. is GRANTED insofar as this case is REMANDED to the state court
from which it was removed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The request for attorney’s fees and costs is DENIED.
November 27, 2013
JAY C. ZAINEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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