UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
April 28, 1989
FRANCIS A. McMANUS, Administrator of the Estate of JOHN R. McMANUS
GLASSMAN'S WYNNEFIELD, INC., et al.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLAK
LOUIS H. POLLAK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
On December, 19, 1988, plaintiff commenced this wrongful death and survival action in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. The complaint alleges that the defendants, Glassman's Wynnefield, Inc., d/b/a/ City Line Stop 'N' Go, Jae Lee (an officer and shareholder of Glassman's Wynnefield), Philadelphia Realty Associates, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (operating under the name "Amtrak"), Consolidated Rail Corporation, Penn Central Corporation, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, are jointly and severally liable to plaintiff for the death of his son, John R. McManus. Decedent allegedly "fell and/or jumped off from a certain railroad signal tower" in 1987 after consuming alcoholic beverages that he had purchased at the City Line Stop 'N' Go. Plaintiff's Complaint, at paras. 5, 14.
On January 20, 1989, defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation (hereinafter "Amtrak") filed a petition for removal to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a) and 1441(c). The petition represents that Amtrak is a corporation created by an Act of Congress that is more than one-half owned by the federal government. Removal Petition, at paras. 4-5. Plaintiff subsequently moved to remand the case on the ground that Amtrak's codefendants did not join in the removal petition.
In its response to plaintiff's motion, Amtrak contends that § 1441(a) does not require unanimity of defendants to remove an action where the defendant seeking removal is a federally-chartered and federally-owned corporation.
Amtrak argues in the alternative that its codefendants have since joined in its removal petition, as reflected by the stipulation attached to its response.
Courts have long held that federal district courts have original jurisdiction over suits in which one of the parties is a federally chartered corporation. Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 738, 6 L. Ed. 204 (1824); Pacific Railroad Removal Cases, 115 U.S. 1, 29 L. Ed. 319, 5 S. Ct. 1113 (1885). Such suits are viewed as arising under federal law even if the federally-chartered corporation is joined with state corporate or individual defendants in an action that is otherwise non-federal in character. See, e.g., Matter of Dunn, 212 U.S. 374, 384, 53 L. Ed. 558, 29 S. Ct. 299 (1908) (in a negligence action against a federal corporation and private individuals, "the Federal character permeates the whole case, including the individual defendants as well as the corporation"). Jurisdiction based on the presence of a federally-chartered corporation is subject to the requirement that the United States own more than one-half of the corporation's capital stock. 28 U.S.C. § 1349.
Since Amtrak is a federally-chartered and federally-owned corporation, this suit arises under federal law within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and thus is one over which federal district courts have original jurisdiction. Removal of this action is governed by 1441(a), which states that, except as otherwise expressly provided by 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.
The question presented in this remand motion is whether the language in § 1441(a) permitting "defendant or the defendants" to remove certain actions to federal district court permits Amtrak to remove this suit without obtaining, within the thirty-day period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b),
the consent of its codefendants.
As a general matter, courts have construed § 1441(a) as requiring, in cases involving multiple defendants, that all defendants join in the petition for removal. Hess v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, 520 F. Supp. 373, 375 (N.D. Ill. 1981); 1A Moore's Federal Practice para. 0.168 at pp. 548-49 (2d ed. 1987). Although the issue seems to arise more frequently in the context of diversity cases, the requirement that defendants unanimously join in a removal petition extends as well to federal question cases. Hess, 520 F. Supp., at 375.
The unanimity requirement advances, among other things, the congressional purpose of giving deference to a plaintiff's choice of a state forum and of resolving doubts against removal and in favor of remand. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corporation v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108, 85 L. Ed. 1214, 61 S. Ct. 868 (1941) ("Not only does the language of the Act of 1887 evidence the Congressional purpose to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts on removal, but the policy of the successive acts of Congress regulating the jurisdiction of federal courts is one calling for the strict construction of such legislation.").
Thus, in federal question suits involving multiple defendants, courts ordinarily require all defendants to join in a petition to remove.
This strict construction of § 1441(a)'s language serves the congressional purpose underlying the statute and strikes an appropriate balance between defendants' collective right to a federal forum and the right of objecting defendants and plaintiff to remain in plaintiff's chosen forum.
If Amtrak is to prevail on this motion, it must argue that the presence of a federally-chartered corporation in this action somehow alters this balance. Such a position, however, is foreclosed. As early as 1900, the Supreme Court refused to permit a federal corporation to remove an action to federal court where its codefendant, a state corporation, did not join in the removal petition. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company v. Martin, 178 U.S. 245, 248, 44 L. Ed. 1055, 20 S. Ct. 854 (1900) (construing "defendant or defendants" in the Judiciary Act of 1887-1888, a predecessor statute to § 1441, as prohibiting removal "unless all the parties on the same side of the controversy unite in the petition"); see also Matter of Dunn, 212 U.S. 374, 387, 53 L. Ed. 558, 29 S. Ct. 299 (denying remand petition because, unlike Martin, "all of the defendants  joined" in the application of their codefendant, a federally-chartered corporation). Thus, removal of this action requires that all defendants properly join in Amtrak's petition.
The remaining question is whether Amtrak's submission of a stipulation reflecting its codefendants' acquiescence in the removal petition satisfies the timeliness requirement of § 1446(b). Amtrak does not dispute that the stipulation was filed more than thirty days following defendants' receipt of plaintiff's initial pleading. Although § 1446(b)'s thirty-day requirement is not jurisdictional, "the time limitation is mandatory and must be strictly construed." Fellhauer v. City of Geneva, 673 F. Supp. 1445, 1447 (N.D.Ill. 1987). If all defendants do not join the removal petition within the thirty-day period, remand is the proper course. Id.; Stokes v. Victory Carriers, 577 F. Supp. 9, 10 (E.D.Pa. 1983) (" 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) has consistently been interpreted to require all served defendants to join in the removal petition within thirty days of their receipt of the initial pleading."). Amtrak offers no basis for departing from the presumption that § 1446(b)'s thirty-day filing period shall be enforced.
Accordingly, plaintiff's Motion to Remand will be granted in an accompanying Order.
For the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum, plaintiff's Motion to Remand is GRANTED, and this action is hereby REMANDED to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.