United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.
Before the Court is a motion to remand (ECF No. 6) filed by Plaintiff Rockwood Casualty Insurance Company. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, and for the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the motion and remand this action to the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Plaintiff Rockwood Casualty Insurance Company ("Rockwood") brings this suit against Defendants Ranger Coal Holdings, LLC ("Ranger") and National Coal, LLC ("National") for their alleged failure to make payments due under an insurance policy. On July 21, 2005, Rockwood and National executed an Insurance Agreement in which Rockwood agreed to provide workers' compensation and employer's liability insurance to National in exchange for payments made by National. (ECF No. 6-1 at 1, "Insurance Agreement"). At that time, Rockwood and National also executed an Escrow Agreement in which National agreed to contribute funds to an escrow account to discharge its payment obligations under the insurance policy. (ECF No. 6-1 at 8, "Escrow Agreement"). The policy was effective from April 16, 2005 through April 16, 2006. (ECF No. 6-1 ¶ I.1).
Over the course of several years, Rockwood and National extended the policy through annual renewal agreements. These agreements extended the insurance coverage for one-year terms, and each renewal contained certain amendments to the Insurance Agreement. (ECF No. 1-2 at 35-48). At all times relevant to this dispute, the parties agreed to the forum selection clauses as provided in the original Insurance Agreement and the Escrow Agreement. The Insurance Agreement states:
This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and any actions or claims brought or filed pursuant [sic] this Agreement shall be commenced in the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
(Insurance Agreement ¶ VIII.2). Similarly, the Escrow Agreement states:
Any disputes under this Escrow Account shall be determined before the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The parties hereto consent to the jurisdiction of such court.
(Escrow Agreement at 7 ¶ 2).
On or about December 15, 2010, Ranger acquired National, and National became a subsidiary of Ranger. (ECF No. 1-2 ¶ 23). At that time, Ranger assumed responsibility for the debts, liabilities, and obligations of National, including those related to National's insurance agreement with Rockwood. ( Id. ¶ 25). In other words, Ranger is the successor in interest with regard to the insurance policy presently at issue.
On August 6, 2012, Rockwood filed suit against Ranger in the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, alleging that Ranger has not made the required payments due under the insurance policy. ( Id. ¶ 41). Rockwood amended its complaint on November 1, 2013, adding National as a defendant. National filed a notice of removal on November 19, 2013. Rockwood now moves to remand this action to state court, arguing that the relevant forum selection language precludes removal.
III. Legal Standard
Remand is the appropriate remedy when a defendant files a notice of removal in violation of a valid forum selection clause. PGT Trucking, Inc. v. Lyman, 500 F.Appx. 202, 204 (3d Cir. 2012). Forum selection clauses are presumptively valid, and a district court sitting in diversity must apply federal law in determining the enforceability of a forum selection clause. Wall St. Aubrey Golf, LLC v. Aubrey, 189 F.Appx. 82, 84 (3d Cir. 2006). "Of course, before a contractual forum selection provision can be enforced, it must actually effectuate a selection." Id. at 85. In this regard, "a court's paramount consideration is the intent of the parties." Mellon Bank, N.A. v. Aetna Bus. Credit, Inc., 619 F.2d 1001, 1009 (3d Cir. 1980) (quoting O'Farrell v. Steel City Piping Co., 403 A.2d 1319, 1324 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1978)). The plain language of the contract must guide the court, unless the language is reasonably susceptible of different interpretations. Id. at 1010. Nevertheless, a court should not "torture the language" of a contract to create ambiguities, particularly ...