United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins
ARLIE C. ADDINGTON and RENA SUE ADDINGTON, Plaintiffs,
LOANDEPOT.COM, LLC, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND TO
PRESTON BAILEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before this Court is the plaintiffs' Motion to Remand to
State Court [Doc. 8], filed September 6, 2017. For the
reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
case was originally filed in the Circuit Court of Webster
County, West Virginia, on June 30, 2017 [Doc. 1 -1 ]. In the
Complaint [Doc. 1 -1 ], the plaintiffs allege that their loan
provider, defendant LoanDepot.com, LLC, breached the
deed of trust agreement between the parties by violating
certain Federal Housing Administration ("FHA")
regulations incorporated into the terms of the agreement and
engaged in illegal and abusive practices in servicing the
loan, causing the plaintiffs to suffer stress, anxiety, and
fear of losing their home [Doc. 1-1, pp. 5-7]. The Complaint
alleges that the defendant intended to foreclose on the
plaintiffs' home on July 12, 2017 [Doc. 1-1, U 20].
Complaint sets forth four counts: (1) breach of contract; (2)
misrepresentations/unconscionable conduct, in violation of
W.Va. Code §§ 46A-2-127, 128; (3) illegal late
fees, in violation of W.Va. Code § 46A-3-112; and (4)
illegal fees, in violation of W.Va. Code §§
46A-2-127(g), 128(c). Specifically, the Complaint alleges
that the defendant breached the parties' deed of trust by
proceeding with foreclosure without providing the plaintiffs
with foreclosure alternatives, assessing unpermitted late
fees, failing to conduct a face-to-face interview with the
plaintiffs as required by 24 C.F.R. § 203.604, failing
to consider the plaintiffs for a modification pursuant to the
FHA Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP"),
failing to consider specific loss mitigation options before
foreclosure, and otherwise failing to offer the plaintiffs
any foreclosure alternatives before initiating foreclosure.
As relief forthe alleged breaches, the plaintiffs request a
declaration that the defendant breached the contract as
alleged, actual and punitive damages, attorneys fees and
costs, and "[s]uch other relief as the Court deems
equitable and just." [Doc. 1-1, 111121-27].
the second count, the plaintiffs allege that the defendant
engaged in debt or information collection practices that
violated W.Va. Code § 46A-2-127, and that the defendant
used unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt in
violation of W.Va. Code § 46A-2-128 [Doc. 1-1, fflf
28-30]. As to the third count, the plaintiffs allege that the
defendant improperly assessed late fees, charged late fees
that were not due on at least fifteen occasions, and
routinely engaged in "pyramiding" late fees in
violation of W.Va. Code § 46A-3-112 [Doc. 1 -1, Ufl
31-33]. As to the fourth count, the plaintiffs allege that
the defendant routinely assessed illegal fees while
attempting to collect on the loan [Doc, 1 -1, 1I113');">134-35]. As
relief for each count, the plaintiffs request actual damages,
attorneys fees and costs, and civil penalties for each
violation under W.Va. Code §§ 46A-5-101(1) and 106.
It is not clear from the face of the complaint precisely how
many violations the plaintiff alleges in each count.
August 8, 2017, the defendant removed this case to this Court
asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
13');">1332 [Doc. 1]. Shortly thereafter, the defendant filed a
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim [Doc. 2]. On
September 6, 2017, the plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to
Remand to State Court [Doc. 8]. Both motions have been fully
briefed and are ripe for disposition, however this Court may
not address the motion to dismiss unless it determines that
it has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action. For the
reasons explained below, it does not, and this Court need not
address the defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
begin with the undergirding principle that federal courts,
unlike most state courts, are courts of limited jurisdiction,
created by Congress with specified jurisdictional
requirements and limitations. Accordingly, a party seeking to
adjudicate a matter in federal court must allege and, when
challenged, must demonstrate the federal court's
jurisdiction over the matter. If a plaintiff files suit in
state court and the defendant seeks to adjudicate the matter
in federal court through removal, it is the defendant who
carries the burden of alleging in his notice of removal and,
if challenged, demonstrating the court's jurisdiction
over the matter." Strawn v. AT&T Mobility,
530 F.3d 293, 296 (4th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).
courts "are obliged to construe removal jurisdiction
strictly because of the 'significant federalism concerns
implicated'... [therefore, 'if federal jurisdiction
is doubtful, a remand to state court is necessary.'"
Md. Stadium Auth. v. Ellerbe Becket Inc., 407 F.3d
255, 260 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks,
citations, and alterations omitted); see also Healy v.
Ratta, 292 U.S. 263, 270 (1934) ("Due regard for
the rightful independence of state governments, which should
actuate federal courts, requires that they scrupulously
confine their own jurisdiction to the precise limits which
the statute has defined."). .
seeking removal bear the burden of demonstrating that
jurisdiction is proper. See Strawn, 530 F.3d at
296-97; Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29
F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). "While a defendant filing
a notice of removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a) need only
allege federal jurisdiction with a short plain
statement-just as federal jurisdiction is pleaded in a
complaint-when removal is challenged, the removing party
bears the burden of demonstrating that removal
jurisdiction is proper." Strawn, 530 F.3d at
297 (citing Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors Chassis,
Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 200 (4th Cir. 2008)); see also
Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 13');">135 S.Ct.
547, 554 (2014) (when challenged, defendant must show that
removal is proper by preponderance of the evidence).
question then becomes how that burden is to be satisfied.
Generally, the amount specified in the complaint will
determine whether the jurisdictional amount is satisfied for
the purposes of removal." Bartnikowski v. NVR,
Inc., 307 Fed.Appx. 730, 734 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations
omitted). "Determining the amount in controversy becomes
more difficult, however, where, as here, Plaintiffs have left
damages unspecified in their complaint." Id. In
West Virginia, it is not required that the Complaint's
ad damnum clause state a specific dollar amount. In
such circumstances, the Court may consider the entire record
before it and may conduct its own independent inquiry to
determine whether the amount in controversy satisfies the
jurisdictional minimum. Mullins v, Harry's Mobile
Homes, 861 F.Supp. 22, 23 (S.D. W.Va. 1994) (Faber, J.).
In so doing, the Court is not required "to leave its
common sense behind." Id. at 24.
the amount in controversy is measured by "the pecuniary
result to either party which [the] judgment would
produce" when declaratory judgment is sought,
Gov't Employees Ins. Co. v. tally, 327 F.2d 568,
569 (4th Cir. 1964), it is crucial to determine precisely
what relief the plaintiff seeks. In an action seeking
declaratory judgment, however, the amount in controversy only
includes the object actually at issue, not the
future impact or goal of the litigation. Lanham Ford,
Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 101 Fed.Appx. 381, 382 (4th Cir.
2004) (per curiam) (emphasis added).
to § 13');">1332, diversity must be complete "such that
the state of citizenship of each plaintiff must be different
from that of each defendant." Athena Auto., Inc. v.
DiGregorio,166 F.3d 288, 290 (4th Cir. 1999). Further,
for purposes of diversity, the citizenship of a limited
liability company is determined by the citizenship of its