Bignar, et al v. Sentry Select Insurance Company, et al
ORDER granting 7 Motion to Remand to State Court. This matter is hereby remanded to the state court from which it was removed. Signed by Judge Jay C. Zainey on 7/7/2017. (ajn) (Additional attachment(s) added on 7/7/2017: # 1 Remand Letter) (ajn).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
JENAY BIGNAR, et al.
SENTRY SELECT INSURANCE CO., et al.
SECTION: A (1)
Before the Court is a Motion to Remand to State Court (Rec. Doc. 7) filed by Plaintiffs.
Defendant CTB Transportation, Inc. opposes the Motion. (Rec Docs. 8). Defendants Sentry Select
Insurance Company and Progressive Paloverde Insurance Company join CTB’s opposition. (Rec.
Docs. 9, 10). The Motion, set for submission on May 3, 2017, is before the Court on the briefs
without oral argument.
On January 11, 2017, Plaintiffs, Jenay Bignar, Alexandra Faciane and Taylor Erdely, filed
suit in the 21st Judicial District Court for the Parish of Tangipahoa, Louisiana, against Sentry
Select Insurance Company, CTB Transportation, Inc., Isidro Montalvo, Contender Truck Lines
and Progressive Paloverde Insurance Company seeking damages for injuries sustained as a result
of an automobile collision that occurred on February 7, 2016. On February 24, 2017, Defendants
Sentry Select Insurance Company and CTB Transportation, Inc. filed a Notice of Removal,
removing the matter from the 21st JDC to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. (Rec. Doc. 1).
Plaintiffs now seek remand of this matter, arguing that the removal was procedurally defective.
(Rec. Doc. 7).
Plaintiffs seek remand of this matter to state court arguing that Defendants’ removal to this
Court was improper because Isidro Montalvo and Contender Truck Lines had been properly served
but did not join in the removal or timely file a written consent to the removal. (Rec. Doc. 7).
Defendants argue that removal was proper because at the time of the removal, Defendants Isidro
Montalvo and Contender Truck Lines had not been properly joined and served under Louisiana’s
Long-Arm statute. (Rec. Doc. 8).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), a notice of removal must be filed within 30 days of the
defendant being served or otherwise receiving the copy of the first pleading which is removable.
When there are multiple defendants and pursuant to a 2011 statutory amendment adopting the lastserved rule, § 1446(b) states that each defendant has “30 days after receipt by or service on that
defendant of the initial pleading or summons ... to file the notice of removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b).
Additionally, the rule of unanimity states that “all defendants who are properly joined and served
must join in the removal petition, and that failure to do so renders the petition defective.” Getty
Oil Corp. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 841 F.2d 1254, 1262 (5th Cir. 1988). All served defendants must
join in the petition for removal by providing “some timely filed written indication” of consent on
which the court could “bind the allegedly consenting defendant.” Id. at 1262-63. If consent of all
served defendants is not timely obtained, the removal is procedurally defective and remand of the
matter is warranted. Doe v. Kerwood, 969 F.2d 165, 167-69 (5th Cir. 1992).
Plaintiffs assert that removal was improper because at the time of removal, Defendants
Isidro Montalvo and Contender Truck Line were served properly under Louisiana’s Long-Arm
statute because Plaintiffs mailed both Defendants through certified mail. 1 Thus, Plaintiffs assert
that Montalvo and Contender Truck Line were required either to join in the removal or consent to
the removal. Defendants argue that the concurrence of Montalvo and Contender Truck Line was
In a suit under R.S. 13:3201, a certified copy of the citation … and of the petition … shall be sent by counsel for
the plaintiff … to the defendant by registered or certified mail, or actually delivered to the defendant by commercial
courier, when the person to be served is located outside of this state…” LSA-R.S. 13:3204.
not required because the rule of unanimity is only triggered when an affidavit of service is filed,
arguing that the filing of an affidavit of service is a procedural requirement under Louisiana’s
Long-Arm statute. Defendants base their argument on LSA-R.S. 13:3205, which states that:
No default judgment can be rendered against the defendant and no hearing may be
held on a contradictory motion, rule to show cause, or other summary proceeding,
except for actions pursuant to R.S. 46:2131 et seq., until thirty days after the filing
in the record of the affidavit of the individual who either:
(1) Mailed the process to the defendant, showing that it was enclosed in an envelope
properly addressed to the defendant, with sufficient postage affixed, and the date it
was deposited in the United States mail, to which shall be attached the return receipt
of the defendant; or
(2) Utilized the services of a commercial courier to make delivery of the process to
the defendant, showing the name of the commercial courier, the date, and address
at which the process was delivered to the defendant, to which shall be attached the
commercial courier's confirmation of delivery; or
(3) Actually delivered the process to the defendant, showing the date, place, and
manner of delivery. LSA-R.S. § 13:3205.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has found “that
13:3205 is not applicable to the validity of service of process.” Kroger Co. v. Door Control
Services, Inc., 2012 WL 4891560, at *5 (W.D. La. 2012). In contrast, the Western District of
Louisiana has also found that “for purposes of satisfying the rule of unanimity … the non-removing
defendants are not required to consent to or join the removal petition until proof of service is filed
in the record.” Cooper v. Sentry Select Ins. Co., 2008 WL 4610235, at *2 (W.D. La. 2008). The
United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana has noted that there are
“ambiguities in the controlling law,” which should be resolved in favor of plaintiff such that “that
service of process under LSA–R.S. § 13:3205 can be completed before the affidavit is filed.” Babin
v. Isaman, 2009 WL 3672901, at *5 (M.D. La. 2009).
Although this issue remains unresolved, Courts in the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Louisiana have consistently found that, for purposes of unanimity in removal,
service is complete when a plaintiff complies with § 13:3204, which only requires that counsel for
plaintiff send a certified copy of the citation and petition to the defendant by registered or certified
mail. Alford v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc., 2014 WL 37600, at *4 (E.D. La. 2014) (J. Vance) (See also
Richoux v. CSR Ltd., 2008 WL 576242, at *5 (E.D. La. 2008) (J. Berrigan); and Matt v. Culpepper,
2014 WL 581 6930, at *3 (E.D. La. 2014) (J. Fallon)). Courts have found that “[t]his is the better
interpretation of the Louisiana Long-Arm statute,” because § 13:3205, which requires the filing of
an affidavit, specifically refers to default judgments, and hearings on a contradictory motion, rule
to show cause, or other summary proceeding. Id. at *5.
Given the wording of § 13:3205 and this Circuit’s position that “any ambiguities of state
law must be resolved in favor of remand,” this Court is persuaded by the majority of Courts in this
District and finds that, for purposes of unanimity in removal, service is complete when a plaintiff
complies with § 13:3204. African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Lucien, 756 F.3d 788, 793 (5th
Cir. 2014). Because Plaintiffs’ counsel mailed a certified copy of the citation and petition to
Defendants Isidro Montalvo and Contender Truck Lines via certified mail on February 2, 2017,
before Defendants filed their notice of removal, Defendants Isidro Montalvo and Contender Truck
Lines were required to join in the removal or timely consent to the removal. Thus, removal was
procedurally defective and remand is warranted.
IT IS ORDERED that the Motion to Remand to State Court (Rec. Doc. 7) filed by
Plaintiffs is GRANTED. This matter is hereby remanded to the state court from which it was
New Orleans, Louisiana this 7th day of July 2017.
JAY C. ZAINEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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