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Glynnis Jackson v. Prime Motors

May 17, 2010

GLYNNIS JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRIME MOTORS, INC., ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Glynnis Jackson sued Defendants in state court after she bought a used car. Credit Acceptance Corporation ("CAC") removed the case based on Jackson's references to federal statutes in her state-court pleading and in her Amended Complaint. Jackson's motion to remand is presently before the Court. For the following reasons, the Court will grant this motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Jackson purchased a 2001 Hyundai Sonata on February 20, 2010. (Notice of Removal Ex. A [Compl.] ¶¶ 7-10.) A Retail Installment Sales Contract ("RISC") memorialized the transaction. (Id. ¶ 10.) The RISC named CAC as an assignee. (See id. ¶ 41.) Both Jackson and CAC are Pennsylvania citizens. (Id. ¶¶ 1-2.)

The Hyundai suffered from structural and mechanical problems which forced Jackson to leave it with a mechanic for extensive repairs. (Id. ¶¶ 11-26.) At the mechanic's prompting, Jackson arranged for an expert to inspect the car. (Id. ¶ 27.) The expert discovered that CAC had repossessed the vehicle. (Id.)

CAC denied that it had repossessed the Hyundai and refused to investigate Jackson's complaints or cancel her financing contract. (Id. ¶ 31.) Instead, CAC charged Jackson interest on the loan she obtained despite the Hyundai's condition and CAC's alleged failure to abide by other terms of the RISC. (Id. ¶¶ 51-53.) The company called Jackson numerous times and threatened her with legal action if she did not pay CAC additional sums of money. (Id. ¶¶ 38-39.)

On March 4, 2011, Jackson brought a state-court action against CAC, the dealership that sold her the Hyundai, and various other Defendants. Her Complaint included ten counts describing state-law causes of action including claims under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"). Count X, although styled as a UTPCPL claim, also referenced alleged violations of the Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"). Specifically, this portion of the Complaint cites 15 U.S.C. § 1601, related federal statutes, and TILA's implementing regulation. (Id. ¶¶ 213-17.)

CAC filed a notice of removal on April 4, 2011, arguing that Jackson had triggered federal jurisdiction by alleging TILA violations. (Notice of Removal ¶¶ 21-25.) Jackson filed an Amended Complaint on April 8, 2011. The Amended Complaint restates Jackson's claims, including Count X, but omits the original pleading's references to TILA. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 199-213.) However, the Amended Complaint adds two references to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") not present in the Complaint: (1) a request for a declaratory judgment that Defendants' conduct violated the FDCPA; and (2) statutory damages under 15 U.S.C. § 1692k. (Id. at 30.) Jackson then filed a motion to remand on April 21, 2011. Meanwhile, CAC has moved to compel arbitration.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

District courts have jurisdiction over civil actions arising under the laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A state-court defendant may remove a case if the plaintiff could have originally brought the action in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). When the basis of removal is federal question jurisdiction under § 1331, the propriety of removal rests on whether the plaintiff's complaint presents a federal question. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).

The removing defendant bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990). District courts construe the removal statutes strictly, resolving all doubts in favor of remand. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

CAC argues this case presents a federal question because Jackson alleged TILA violations in her Complaint and requested relief under the FDCPA in her Amended Complaint. (See Notice of Removal 2.) Neither argument is successful.

Courts generally determine whether they may exercise removal jurisdiction by examining the pleadings on the state court docket at the time of removal. Pullman Co. v. Jenkins, 305 U.S. 534, 537 (1939); O'Keefe v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 214 F.R.D. 266, 278-79 (E.D. Pa. 2003). If a plaintiff's state-court complaint includes a claim arising under federal law, a federal court will have jurisdiction over the case after removal even if the plaintiff amends its pleading in federal court to assert only state-law claims. Rockwell Int'l Corp. v. United States, 549 U.S. 457, 474 n.6 (2007) (citing Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 349-50 (1988)). Additionally, a district court can acquire subject matter jurisdiction over an improperly-removed case if the plaintiff amends its complaint to state a federal claim after removal. In re Cmty. Bank of N. Va., 418 F.3d 277, 297-98 (3d Cir. 2005) ...


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