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Woods v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

July 13, 2018

DEBORAH A. WOODS, et al., Plaintiffs,



         Before the Court is Plaintiffs Deborah Woods and Thomas Woods' Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 6.) For the reasons provided herein, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion and REMANDS this case to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from a refinanced residential mortgage loan serviced by Defendant Nationstar Mortgage LLC, previously d/b/a Centex Home Equity Co. LLC. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant engaged in unlawful debt collection practices and otherwise serviced the loan in ways that conflict with West Virginia law. Plaintiffs are residents of West Virginia, (ECF No. 6-2 at ¶¶ 2, 9), and Defendant is a corporation existing under the laws of Delaware with its principal place of business in Texas, (ECF No. 1 at 4).

         Plaintiffs originally filed their Complaint in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia, on October 7, 2016. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3.) Almost a year-and-a-half later, Plaintiffs successfully moved for permission to file a First Amended Complaint, (id. at 19-20), which was docketed in the state court on March 28, 2018. (ECF No. 6-2 at 1.) Defendant removed the case to this Court on April 13, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) In the Notice of Removal, Defendant asserts that the sole basis for this Court's subject-matter jurisdiction over this case is diversity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Id. at 3.) Further, Defendant states that the bad faith exception to the one-year removal requirement under § 1446 should apply to satisfy the procedural conditions for proper removal. (Id. at 7-9.)

         Plaintiffs filed the current Motion to Remand on May 9, 2018, in which they assert that the one-year bar on removal after an action is commenced in state court should prohibit this Court from retaining jurisdiction. (ECF No. 7 at 4-7.) Plaintiffs contend that the Court should reject Defendant's bad faith argument as it is “asserted without actual evidence of any deliberate or misleading act by [P]laintiffs.” (Id. at 6.) They also move for an award of attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at 7-8.) Defendant filed its response to the motion on May 23, 2018, (ECF No. 10), and Plaintiffs did not file a reply. As such, the motion is briefed and ripe for adjudication.


         Article 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. § 1332(a)(1).

         Congress provided a right to remove a case from state to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. This statute states, in relevant part:

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.” (citation omitted)).

         Under the removal statute, a defendant must file a notice of removal within thirty days of receiving service of the initial pleading or summons, or within thirty days after receipt “of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). Nevertheless, when removal is based on diversity jurisdiction, a defendant only has one year after the action's commencement to initiate removal “unless the district court finds that the plaintiff has acted in bad faith in order to prevent a defendant from removing the action” or “deliberately failed to disclose the actual amount in controversy to prevent removal . . . .” § 1446(c)(1), (3)(B); see also Watts v. RMD Holdings, Ltd., No. 2:12-cv-02181, 2012 WL 3860738, at *1-2 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 5, 2012). “[T]he one-year limitation does not reset based on amendments made to the original complaint.” Johnson v. HCR Manorcare LLC, No. 1:15CV189, 2015 WL 6511301, at *4 (N.D. W.Va. Oct. 28, 2015) (citing Belcher v. Flagstaff Bank, F.S.B., No. 2:12-cv-01211, 2012 WL 6195541, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. Dec. 12, 2012)). Importantly, the party asserting federal jurisdiction bears the burden of proof. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 73 (1996); Landmark Corp. v. Apogee Coal Co., 945 F.Supp. 932, 935 (S.D. W.Va. 1996); see also Monk v. Werhane Enters., Ltd., No. 06-4230, 2006 WL 3918395, at *5 (E.D. La. Nov. 27, 2006) (noting that “[t]he equitable exception [to the one-year limitation on removal] does not alter this burden”).


         Plaintiffs do not dispute that there is complete diversity between the parties or that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, triggering this Court's basis of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (See ECF No. 7.) Further, Defendant does not argue that its Notice of Removal was filed within a year from receiving the initial pleading in this matter. (See ECF No. 1.) See also 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3) (limiting the time within which to remove pursuant to § 1332 to one year). Rather, the sole dispute between the parties as to this motion is whether ...

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