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Rehman v. Moving

May 15, 2009

CAROL REHMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BASIC MOVING D/B/A STATE TO STATE VAN LINES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lisa Pupo Lenihan United States Magistrate Judge

Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

Doc. No. 5

OPINION

LENIHAN, Magistrate Judge

Currently before the Court for disposition is Plaintiff's Motion for Remand (Doc. No. 5). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion.

Background

Plaintiff, Carol Rehman, proceeding pro se, filed her complaint in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas ("State Court") on May 27, 2008, asserting state common law claims against Defendant, Basic Moving d/b/a State to State Van Lines, Inc. ("Basic"), arising out of a contract for the interstate transport of certain household goods belonging to Plaintiff.*fn1 Specifically, in her complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims for failure to pick up and deliver three bookcases and for breach of contract, and sought damages on each claim in the amount of $2,000.00 and $5,000.00, respectively, plus costs. Given the amount of damages set forth in Plaintiff's complaint, this case was assigned to the State Court arbitration docket and scheduled for a hearing on October 1, 2008.

In the meantime, on September 11, 2008, counsel for Basic took Plaintiff's deposition, during which Rehman was questioned about the claim she attempted to file with Basic and the amount of her alleged unreimbursed losses. During that deposition, Rehman informed counsel that the amount she was not reimbursed by her insurance carriers was approximately $14,000.00, plus $3,000.00 in deductibles. (Rehman Dep. at 36-37 (Doc. 8-8).)

Subsequently, an arbitration panel awarded judgment in favor of Basic on October 1, 2008, after which Plaintiff appealed and the case was placed on the May 2009 trial list. In January of 2009, the parties engaged in some preliminary settlement discussions and counsel for Basic asked Plaintiff to put her demand in writing and to provide a summary of all damages, which she did on January 29, 2009. In that letter, Plaintiff set forth unreimbursed losses totaling $24,812.33,*fn2 but stated that her demand to settle was $10,000 plus agreement to certain terms and conditions. (Ex. H to Notice of Removal, Doc. No. 1-9.)

Thereafter, on February 26, 2009, Basic filed a Notice of Removal and the case was removed to this federal district court. Basic predicated federal removal jurisdiction on 28 U.S.C. § 1331, in that the claims asserted by Plaintiff originated from the transportation of goods in interstate commerce. (Notice of Removal, ¶ 11.)In particular, Basic asserted that the action was removable under Section 1331 because, in actuality, Plaintiff seeks to recover damages for delay, loss or injury of a shipment in interstate transport, and the amount in controversy arising from the bill of lading for the shipment exceeds $10,000.00 exclusive of interest and costs. Therefore, it is removable pursuant to Section 1441(b). (Id. at ¶ 12.)Basic further asserted in its notice of removal that the removal was timely under Section 1446(b) because Basic first became aware that the litigation value of this action exceeded $10,000.00 when it received Plaintiff's January 29, 2009 letter on February 2, 2009.*fn3 (Id. at ¶¶ 13-15.)On March 5, 2009, Plaintiff filed a timely Motion to Remand this action to State Court and Defendant filed a brief in opposition, to which Plaintiff filed a reply.

Legal Standards - Removal & Motion to Remand

Section 1441 of Title 28, United States Code, governs the removal of a case to federal court. Generally, "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 . . . , 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). "The removal statutes 'are to be strictly construed against removal and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand.'" Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Steel Valley Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal Div., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d Cir. 1987) (other citations omitted)); Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 219 (3d Cir. 2005). Where a motion for remand is filed, the defendant has the burden of proving that removal was proper. Sikirica, 416 F.3d at 219 (citing Samuel-Bassett v. KIA Motors Am., Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 396 (3d Cir. 2004)).

Of particular relevance here is 28 U.S.C. § 1445(b), which provides:

A civil action in any State court against a carrier . . . to recover damages for delay, loss, or injury of shipments, arising under section 11706 or 14706 of title 49, may not be removed to any district court of the United States unless the matter ...


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