United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Wheeling
JOSEPH E. LEWIS, DPM, PAUL A. DIABIASE JR., MD, SAMUEL D. LICATA, MD, PATRICK H. MACEDONIA, MD, NICHOLAS P. MASTROS, MD, CHARN NANDRA, MD, MOHAMMAD P. RAHMAN, MD, PATRICK G. ROSARIO, MD, RAFAEL SCHMULEVICH, MD, SATBIR SINGH, MD, SHALU SINGH, MD, VINCENT STONEBRAKER, MD, JEFFREY B. WILPS, DPM, ABDULLAH KALLA, MD, and RANJAN BHANDARI, MD, Plaintiffs,
FIRST CHOICE AMERICA COMMUNITY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION, a federally chartered Credit Union existing under the laws of the United States of America, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS'
MOTION TO REMAND
PRESTON BAILEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
pending before this Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand
[Doc, 5], filed September 30, 2019. The motion has been fully
briefed and is now ripe for decision. Having reviewed the
record and considered the arguments of the parties, this
Court concludes that the motion to remand should be granted.
case arises out of a term loan agreement entered into between
plaintiffs and defendant in August of 2012. In the Complaint,
filed in th Circuit Court of Hancock County, West Virginia,
on August 20, 2019, plaintiffs allege that as a result of
monies collected by defendant, defendant's retention of a
mortgage, and its right to foreclose said mortgage,
plaintiffs are no longer indebted to defendant; they seek a
declaratory judgment pursuant to W.Va. Code § 55-13-1
declaring the same. [Doc. 1-2 at 10]. On October 10, 2019,
defendant filed a notice of removal in this Court. There,
defendant argues that federal question jurisdiction exists
because federal law preempts plaintiffs' claims.
Specifically, defendant argues that plaintiffs are alleging
that the loan document is unenforceable, and that because the
loan document was "made in compliance with the Federal
Credit Union Act and the National Credit Union regulations,
and the terms of repayment are dictated by the
regulations" that adjudication of plaintiffs' claims
will require interpretation of those regulations. [Doc. 1 at
September 30, 2019, plaintiffs filed a motion to remand. In
it, plaintiffs raise four arguments against finding federal
question jurisdiction. First, plaintiffs argue that no
federal question is present on the face of the Complaint.
[Doc. 5 at 7]. Instead, they argue that the only federal
question raised is in the form of a federal defense asserted
by defendant. Id. Second, plaintiffs point to a
choice-of-law provision in the August 29, 2012 Term Loan
Agreement which states that the applicable law for the
agreement is the laws of the State of West Virginia.
Id. at 10. Third, although plaintiffs acknowledge
that removal was based on federal question jurisdiction, they
argue that no diversity of citizenship exists between the
parties. [Doc. 5 at 11]. Finally, plaintiffs argue that
defendant should be barred from raising an argument of
federal preemption because defendant has filed state court
debt collection actions under the same or similar loan
agreements. Id. at 11-12.
response, defendant argues that plaintiffs are challenging
the enforceability of the loan agreement, that the loan
agreement itself is governed by federal law, and that the
federal laws and regulations governing the loan agreement
preempt state law. [Doc. 7 at 8-9]. In reply, plaintiffs
assert that defendant does not address plaintiffs'
"well-pleaded complaint" and
"choice-of-law" arguments in its response because
it cannot rebut them. [Doc. 9 at 5].
pending before this Court is defendant First Choice America
Community Federal Credit Union's ("First
Choice") Motion to Consolidate [Doc. 8]. There,
defendant First Choice seeks to consolidate this case with
First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union v.
LTAH Real Estate Holdings, LLC, et at., 5:19-cv-209
(N.D. W.Va. filed July 2, 2019), a case in this Court before
the Honorable Judge Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. In that case,
originally filed in federal court, First Choice seeks
declaratory and other relief against defendants who include
the plaintiffs in this case in relation to the same term loan
agreement that is the subject of this case.
instant case and 5:19-cv-209 may involve common questions of
law or fact which would otherwise make consolidation
appropriate. However, this Court must determine whether it
has jurisdiction over each case independently. See
Johnson v. Manhattan Ry. Co., 289 U.S. 479, 496-97
(1933) ("consolidation is permitted as a matter of
convenience and economy in administration, but does not merge
the suits into a single cause."); Payne v. Merrill
Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith, Inc., 75 Fed.Appx. 903
(4th Cir. 2003) (unpublished) (finding that the district
court should have determined jurisdiction for purposes of
remand separately for two cases which had been consolidated).
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.'"
Maryland Stadium Auth. v. Ellerbe Becket Inc., 407
F.3d 255, 260 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Mulcahey v.
Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir.
1994)); 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
seeking removal bear the burden of demonstrating that
jurisdiction is proper. See Strawn, 530 F.3d at
296-97. "While a defendant filing a notice of removal
under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a) need only allege
federal jurisdiction in 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." Id. 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, 574 U.S. 81, 88-89 (2014) (when challenged,
defendant must show that removal is proper by preponderance
of the evidence).
case was removed to federal court on the basis of federal
question jurisdiction. Under the well-pleaded complaint rule,
"federal question exists only when a federal question is
presented on the face of the plaintiffs properly pleaded
complaint." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 393 (1987) (citation omitted). Generally, this can
occur in one of two ways. First, the case can raise a cause
of action created by federal law. Gunn v. Minton,568 U.S. 251, 257 (2013). Second, and more narrowly, a
state-law cause of action can implicate a
"significant" federal issue. Grable & Sons
Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Mfg.,545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005). "Among other prerequisites for
'significance,' the federal issue must have been
'necessarily raised' ...