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Agostini v. Piper Aircraft Corporation

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 5, 2013

JOSEPH L. AGOSTINI, Individually and as co-executor of the estate of Jordyn Agostini, Deceased; SUELLEN AGOSTINI, Individually and as co-executor of the estate of Jordyn Agostini, Deceased; DOUGLAS J. HENEGAR, Individually and as natural father of Kyle Henegar, Deceased; SHARON K. HENEGAR, Individually and as administratrix of the estate of Kyle Henegar, Deceased; DOUGLAS J. HENEGAR, Individually and as natural father of Kristopher Henegar, Deceased; SHARON K. HENEGAR, Individually and as administratrix of the estate of Kristopher Henegar, Deceased
v.
PIPER AIRCRAFT CORPORATION; AVSTAR FUEL SYSTEMS; LYCOMING, a/k/a Lycoming Engines, a/k/a Textron Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Division; AVCO CORPORATION; TEXTRON, INC.; DUKES AEROSPACE, INC.; FLORIDA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY; F.I.T. AVIATION, LLC Avco Corporation and Textron, Inc., Appellants

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania District Court No. 02-11-cv-07172 District Judge: The Honorable Mary A. McLaughlin

James E. Robinson, Esq. Catherine B. Slavin, Esq. Sara A. Frey, Esq. Gordon & Rees, Counsel for Appellants

Bradley J. Stoll, Esq. The Wolk Law Firm, J. Denny Shupe, Esq. Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Robert J. Williams Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis Counsel for Appellees

Before: SMITH, CHAGARES, and SCIRICA, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

CHAGARES, Circuit Judge.

This motion to dismiss requires us to consider whether we have jurisdiction to review a district court's denial of a motion for reconsideration when the order to be reconsidered is a remand to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. For the reasons that follow, we hold that although the District Court had jurisdiction to rule on the motion to reconsider the remand order in this particular instance, this Court has no jurisdiction to review the District Court's ruling on the motion for reconsideration. Accordingly, we will grant the motion to dismiss the instant appeal.

I.

On November 11, 2010, an airplane crashed in West Palm Beach, Florida, resulting in the death of the pilot and three passengers. Personal representatives for the estates of the deceased pilot and two deceased passengers (collectively, the "plaintiffs") filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in November 2011, asserting state law claims against Textron, Inc., AVCO Corporation, and other corporate entities (collectively, the "defendants"). Textron removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, asserting diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiffs moved to remand the matter to state court, arguing that AVCO is a citizen of Pennsylvania, and therefore not diverse from all plaintiffs.

Based on the documents submitted by the plaintiffs, the District Court granted the plaintiffs' motion on February 29, 2012 and ordered that the case be remanded to Pennsylvania state court. AVCO moved for reconsideration of the remand order on March 13, 2012, arguing that the District Court improperly granted the motion to remand on the basis of unsubstantiated argument, unauthenticated documents, and facts outside the record that had not been established by affidavit or testimony. Citing the standard governing motions for reconsideration, the District Court determined that it had not clearly erred in granting the plaintiffs' motion to remand and therefore denied AVCO's motion for reconsideration on March 15, 2012. A certified copy of the District Court's February 29, 2012 remand order was mailed to the state court on March 20, 2012. The notice of appeal was filed on April 16, 2012.

II.

We begin by examining whether we have jurisdiction to consider this appeal. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) provides, in relevant part: "[a]n order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise . . . ." The plain text of § 1447(d) clearly bars our review of the District Court's February 29, 2012 remand order. Indeed, in Quackenbush v. Allstate Insurance Company, the United States Supreme Court underscored that "only remands based on grounds specified in § 1447(c)" — namely, remand orders based on the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, like the remand order here — "are immune from review under § 1447(d)." 517 U.S. 706, 712 (1996) (quotation marks omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Textron and AVCO (together, the "Lycoming defendants") acknowledge — as they must — that we do not have jurisdiction to review the District Court's remand order. Nevertheless, the Lycoming defendants maintain that we have appellate jurisdiction over the District Court's denial of the motion for reconsideration. They argue that a remand order is distinct from a motion to reconsider a remand order, and that our review of the latter is not barred by § 1447(d).

The plaintiffs respond that our review of the denial of the motion to reconsider the remand order would serve to circumvent the jurisdiction-stripping function of § 1447(d). That is, if we do not have jurisdiction to review a remand order itself, we cannot have jurisdiction to review a motion to reconsider a remand order. The Lycoming defendants' valiant effort to escape this rather self-evident principle relies upon their observation that "in certain circumstances, " "an appellate court . . . may reach the merits of an unreviewable remand order." Brief of Lycoming Defendants in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Appeal ("Defs. Br.") 8. Culling several cases wherein a remand order was held subject to appellate review, the Lycoming defendants maintain that "the existence of a severable or separable order on the merits of a collateral issue, as opposed to an order on subject matter jurisdiction, is appealable notwithstanding 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), and federal appellate courts have jurisdiction to review the order despite the fact that a case has been remanded to state court." Id. at 9. According to the Lycoming defendants, the motion to reconsider a remand order is just such a "collateral issue" over which we retain jurisdiction.

We have indeed held in other contexts that federal courts may exercise jurisdiction over certain collateral issues even after a case has been remanded to state court. For example, in Mints v. Education Testing Services, 99 F.3d 1253 (3d Cir. 1996), we held that a district court had jurisdiction to grant attorneys' fees associated with a motion to remand a matter to state court even after the district court had remanded the case to state court. In Mints, we cited to Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corporation, 496 U.S. 384 (1990), wherein the Supreme Court determined that even after a plaintiff voluntarily dismissed an action, a district court could impose sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Mints, 99 F.3d at 1258. Although "recogniz[ing] that Cooter & Gell is distinguishable because it did not implicate the special jurisdictional problems presented when a case is remanded to a state court, " we nevertheless held that the award of attorneys' fees — like the imposition of sanctions, or the award of costs — "is collateral to the decision to remand and cannot affect the proceedings in the state court." Id.

Thus, our precedent establishes that federal courts may decide "collateral" issues after remand because such issues by definition "cannot affect" the progress of a case once it has been returned to state court. This accords with the Cooter & Gell Court's characterization of collateral issues as those for which "determination[s] may be made after the principal suit has been terminated." See Cooter & Gell, 496 U.S. at 396 (identifying motions for costs or ...


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