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IVS Group, Inc. v. Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration, LLC

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

January 18, 2019

IVS GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
NATURAL BLEND VEGETABLE DEHYDRATION, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the court is the plaintiff's Motion to Remand [ECF No. 6]. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED, and the court REMANDS this case to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia.

         II. Background

         In May 2015, Industrial SiloSource, Inc. (“ISS”)-a subsidiary of Plaintiff IVS Group, Inc. (“IVS”)-entered into an agreement with the defendant, Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration, LLC (“Natural Blend”), to perform work at the defendant's facility in North Carolina. ISS performed some work for the defendant but did not finish the project due to the alleged presence of toxic gases at the defendant's facility. IVS avers that ISS received only partial payment for the submitted invoices and was owed $52, 277.89 for work performed pursuant to its contract with the defendant.

         In August 2017, ISS assigned the aforesaid contract to IVS, its parent company, for collection. IVS then sued the defendant in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia on October 31, 2017. The parties subsequently engaged in settlement negotiations. The plaintiff claims that the parties agreed to a lump-sum payment of $35, 000 to settle the action and that the defendant sent the plaintiff a check for that amount on December 14, 2017.

         Following receipt of the $35, 000, the plaintiff executed and sent to the defendant a Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release. On January 16, 2018, Stephen L. Beaman, counsel for the defendant, returned the executed release with edits. IVS group purportedly revised the release so that it was consistent with Mr. Beaman's edits and executed it on January 17, 2018. Keith May, President and CEO of IVS, sent the revised release to Mr. Beaman on that same date. The First Amended Complaint states that Mr. Beaman returned the revised release on March 12, 2018 with additional edits that allegedly had never been approved by IVS.

         On April 4, 2018, the plaintiff filed its First Amended Complaint, which contains one count: The plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment “declaring the respective rights of IVS Group, ISS and Natural Blend pursuant to the January 17, 2018 release . . . .” Am. Compl. ¶ 28. The plaintiff specifically requests that the court declare as follows:

a. That Stephen L. Beaman, Esquire was authorized to negotiate a settlement on behalf of Natural Blend;
b. That the parties had a meeting of the minds on the terms of a settlement of all claims existing between them, as set forth in the January 17, 2018 release; and
c. That pursuant to the January 17, 2018 [sic], IVS Group and ISS on the one part and Natural Blend on the other part agreed to mutually release and forever discharge the other from any and all liability, on account of any of the claims alleged in this Civil Action or otherwise related to the work performed by ISS at the Natural Blend facility in the State of North Carolina.

Id.

         Notably, one of the defendant's silo facilities, which ISS was servicing, caught fire on November 27, 2015, shortly after ISS ceased its work at the facility. The consequential property damage, which has purportedly been valued at more than $3.2 million, is now the subject of litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (the “North Carolina action”). Natural Blend, the defendant in this action, filed a third-party complaint against ISS in the North Carolina action in March 2018.

         On November 2, 2018, the Circuit Court of Kanawha County ordered the parties in this case to mediation. In furtherance of the court's mandate, on November 8, 2018, counsel for both parties exchanged emails. The defendant removed the matter to this court on November 19, 2018, more than one year after the commencement of the action, based on the content of the November 8, 2018 emails. The defendant claims that the November 8, 2018 emails were a settlement negotiation and contained information that established that the scope of the release at issue in this matter ...


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