United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
PAUL SNIDER, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
SURNAIK HOLDINGS OF WV, LLC, a West Virginia limited liability company, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and For
Costs, Fees, and Expenses. (ECF No. 5.) For the reasons
discussed below, the Court GRANTS the motion
to remand, DENIES the motion for costs,
fees, and expenses, and REMANDS this case to
the Circuit Court of Wood County, West Virginia.
case arises out of a warehouse fire in Parkersburg, West
Virginia. (ECF No. 1-2 at 4.) Plaintiff is an individual who
seeks certification of a single putative class of all
residents and businesses within an 8.5 mile radius of the
warehouse. (Id. ¶ 37.) Defendant is a West
Virginia Limited Liability Company. (ECF No. 1-2 at 5 ¶
3). The Complaint filed in state court and attached to
Defendant's Notice of Removal alleges that on Saturday,
October 21, 2017, a warehouse, owned by Defendant, caught
fire. (ECF No. 1-2 at 4-5.) The Complaint alleges that the
proposed class incurred personal injury and property damages
arising from the toxic “smoke from the fire and
smoldering ruins of the warehouse which continued to be a
nuisance and health hazard to residents and workers in the
vicinity of the fire for days.” (Id. at 4.)
Plaintiff asserts (1) negligence; (2) “reckless,
willful, and wanton indifference motivated by financial
gain”; (3) nuisance; and (4) trespass, (Id.
¶¶ 15-35), and request relief in the forms of
punitive damages, “damages . . . for the particular
harms and injuries . . . suffered as a result of
defendants' [sic] conduct and their unreasonable
interference with the plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of
their property, ” court costs, and any other legal
relief that may be just and equitable, (Id. at 13).
filed his Complaint in the Circuit Court of Wood County, West
Virginia, on October 30, 2017. (See ECF No. 1-2.)
Defendant removed the case to this Court on November 20,
2017. (ECF No. 1.) In the Notice of Removal, Defendant
asserts this Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, as amended by the Class Action
Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”). (See Id.
at 2.) Plaintiff filed the current Motion on December 14,
2017. (ECF No. 5.) Defendant filed its response to the
motion, as allowed by the Court, on January 8, 2018, (ECF No.
13), and Plaintiff replied on January 15, 2018, (ECF No. 14).
The motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.
III of the United States Constitution provides, in pertinent
part, that “[t]he judicial Power shall extend . . . to
Controversies . . . between Citizens of different
States.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. “The
district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is
between . . . citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C.
provided a right to remove a case from state to federal court
under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. This statute states, in relevant
Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress,
any civil action brought in a state court of which the
district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the
defendants, to the district court of the United States for
the district and division embracing the place where such
action is pending.
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Because removal of civil cases from
state to federal court infringes state sovereignty, federal
courts strictly construe the removal statute and resolve all
doubts in favor of remanding cases to state court. See
Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100,
109 (1941); see also Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems.
Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994) (“Because
removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns,
we must strictly construe removal jurisdiction.”
main dispute between the parties as to this motion is whether
the home-state exception under the Class Action Fairness Act
applies. (See ECF No. 6 at 1; ECF No. 13
at 1-2.) Both parties agree that federal jurisdiction over
this matter exists under the CAFA. (See id.)
However, the parties dispute whether the home-state exception
applies and who bears the burden of persuasion. (See
ECF No. 6 at 2-3; ECF No. 13 at 2-4.) Plaintiff maintains
that the burden is irrelevant to the Court's decision but
does not concede that they have the burden, while Defendant
argues that Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the
home-state exception applies. (See id.)
home-state exception provides that a district court shall
decline to exercise jurisdiction over a class action in which
“two-thirds or more of the members of all proposed
plaintiff classes in the aggregate, and the primary
defendants, are citizens of the State in which the action was
originally filed.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4)(B). It
is uncontested that Defendant is a citizen of West Virginia,
(See ECF No. 6 at 5-6; ECF No. 13), and being the
only defendant, Defendant is the primary defendant. As a
result, the sole remaining issue with respect to the
application of the home-state exception is whether greater
than two-thirds of the members of the proposed class are
citizens of West Virginia.
To be a
citizen of a State, a person must be both a citizen of the
United States and a domiciliary of that State.
Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826,
828 (1989). Domicile requires physical presence, coupled with
an intent to make the State a home. Mississippi Band of
Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 48 (1989).
For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, residency is not
sufficient to establish citizenship. Axel Johnson, Inc.
v. Carroll Carolina Oil Co., 145 F.3d 660, 663 (4th Cir.
1998). However, [p]hysical presence coupled with residency is