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First American Marketing Corp. v. United Integrity Group

July 22, 2009

FIRST AMERICAN MARKETING CORP., PLAINTIFF
v.
UNITED INTEGRITY GROUP, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

The plaintiff, First American Marketing Corporation, filed a Motion to Remand this case, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1447, back to the Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, from which it was removed by the defendants, United Integrity Group. FAMC also seeks attorneys' fees based on its belief that the defendants' lacked "an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal." I grant the Motion to Remand; I will not award attorneys' fees.

I. BACKGROUND

FAMC claims that UIG breached an agreement to settle an earlier lawsuit, filed by FAMC on February 2, 2005 in this court. In the 2005 case, FAMC sued UIG and its owners (all former employees or directors of FAMC).*fn1 The suit culminated in a settlement agreement and a proposed Consent Order, both dated March 2007. This Agreement included a provision in which the parties acknowledged that this court would maintain "exclusive jurisdiction" over the Agreement. The Consent Order incorporated a jurisdiction retention provision; however, the Consent Order expired on September 23, 2008.*fn2

In late March 2009, FAMC filed this suit against UIG and Serfass, an owner, alleging four state law claims concerning the Agreement: 1) breach of contract, 2) breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, 3) tortious interference with prospective economic advantage and 4) fraud. The defendants removed the case to this court, even before they had been formally served by FAMC.

FAMC is incorporated in Maryland, with its principal place of business in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The defendants are, by admission in their Notice of Removal, citizens of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. See Defs.' Notice of Removal ¶¶ 5-6. The total amount claimed by the plaintiff is less than $75,000, excluding interests and costs.*fn3 See Pl. Memo. of Law in Support of Mot. to Remand at 2.

Although it would appear there is no basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), the defendants contend that removal was proper because this case enjoys supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367*fn4, the defendants' counterclaim contributes to an aggregate amount in controversy exceeding $75,000, and the Agreement binding the parties, as well as the expired Consent Order, stipulated federal jurisdiction.

II. STANDARD FOR REMAND

Federal courts possess limited jurisdiction and thus "only state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by the defendant." Caterpillar Inc. et al. v. Williams et al., 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The procedure for remanding to state court, after removal has been effected according to 28 U.S.C. § 1446, is set forth in 28 U.S.C. §1447, which provides:

If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded. An order remanding the case may require payment of just costs and any actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the removal.

Accordingly, "if the court determines that it lacks federal subject matter jurisdiction, then remand is mandatory." Apoian v. Am. Home Prods., Corp., 198 F. Supp.2d 454, 455 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (citing 28 U.S.C. §1447(c)) (emphasis added). Additionally, "removal statutes 'are to be strictly construed against removal and all doubts resolved in favor of remand.'" Id. at 456 (quoting 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. 1989))).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Diversity Jurisdiction

Absent a federal question, diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy exceeding $75,000 must exist for a federal court to ...


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