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Toussaint v. Seterus, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 30, 2019

RUDOLPH M. TOUSSAINT, Plaintiff
v.
SETERUS, INC. and SERVICE LINK FIELD SERVICES, LLC, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court for disposition is the motion to remand to state court filed by Defendant Service Link Field Services, LLC (hereinafter “Service Link”). For the reasons which follow, we will deny the motion, but order Defendant Seterus to clarify the citizenship of Defendant Service Link.

         Background

         The amended complaint, which stands as the operative pleading in this matter, indicates that plaintiff had a home mortgage through Defendant Seterus, Inc. and that Defendant Service Link provided the loan servicing. Plaintiff evidently fell behind in his payments on the mortgage, although he claims to have been “making timely Trial Modification payments”. (Doc. 6, Am. Compl. ¶ 8).

         Plaintiff's amended complaint asserts that on February 7, 2017, he entered his home to find that it had been burglarized and vandalized. (Doc. 6, Am. Compl. ¶ 4). The Pennsylvania State Police investigated the incident. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the burglary caused $63, 305.00 in damages as to stolen items and $14, 000.00 as to damaged items. (Id. ¶ 5). The grand total of the damages is $77, 305.00. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that it was the defendants who took and/or damaged the property. The defendants evidently perceived the home as unoccupied and Defendant Service Link, who deemed plaintiff to be in default on the mortgage, changed the lock on the house and proceeded to otherwise secure and winterize the home. (Id. ¶¶ 6-8). Defendants took action without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiff who claims the building was in fact occupied. (Id. ¶ 89). Based upon these facts, plaintiff filed a complaint alleging causes of action for negligence against both defendants and conversion against Defendant Service Link.

         Plaintiff filed the original complaint in the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal ¶ 1). Defendant Seterus removed the action to this court on March 11, 2019 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Id.) Plaintiff then filed an Amended Complaint on March 30, 2019. (Doc. 6). The defendants answered the complaint and the court held a case management conference on May 30, 2019. (Doc. 17, Sched. Ord.).

         On November 14, 2019, Defendant Service Link filed a motion to remand the case to state court. Defendant Seterus and the plaintiff each filed replies to the motion to remand. (Docs. 23 & 24). Defendant Seterus has filed a brief in opposition to the motion for remand, and Defendant Service Link filed a reply to that brief, bringing the case to its present posture.

         Discussion

         Federal courts, being courts of limited jurisdiction, have a continuing duty to satisfy themselves of jurisdiction before addressing the merits of a case. Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1049 (3d Cir. 1993) cert. denied sub nom Upp v. Mellon Bank, N.A., 510 U.S. 964 (1993). Generally, a defendant can remove a civil action originally filed in state court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction to address the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Once a case is removed, the federal court may remand if the court determines that it lacks federal subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).[1] 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).

         The burden of establishing jurisdiction in the removal situation rests with the removing defendant. Kaufman v. Allstate N.J., Ins. Co., 561 F.3d 144, 151 (3d Cir. 2009) (“We require the party seeking to remove to federal court to demonstrate federal jurisdiction.”). In the notice of removal, the defendant indicates that this court has diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal). Pursuant to this statutory section, jurisdiction is proper in federal district court where the action involves citizens of different states and an amount in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, in excess of $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         Defendant Service Link seeks remand of this case for several reasons which we can break down into the following three categories: 1) Defendant Seterus failed to file a timely brief in opposition to remand; 2) Defendant Seterus did not properly establish that it obtained Defendant Service Link's consent to remove this case; and 3) Seterus failed to establish that this court has jurisdiction. We will address these issues separately.

         Discussion

         As noted above, the moving Defendant Service Link raises three arguments.[2] ...


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