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Heckemeyer v. Healea

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

October 31, 2016



          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Marie Heckemeyer moves to remand this action to the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. [Doc. 12.] For the following reasons, the motion to remand is granted.

         I. Background

         On October 2, 2015, Plaintiff Marie Heckemeyer filed a Petition in the Circuit Court of Boone County, asserting a tort claim of negligence against one defendant, Shayne Healea. Heckemeyer's Petition alleges that on October 25, 2014, Healea negligently drove his vehicle into a restaurant's window and wall. At the time of the collision, Heckemeyer was seated at a table below the window struck by Healea's vehicle, and she suffered injuries as a result.

         After filing her suit, Heckemeyer learned that Healea's liability insurance coverage was not enough to cover her alleged damages. Heckemeyer then filed a claim for underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits with her own insurance company, Allied Property and Casualty Insurance Company. On May 27, 2016, Allied denied coverage of her UIM claim.

         On June 9, 2016, Allied filed a Declaratory Judgment action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The action seeks a declaration that Heckemeyer does not qualify for underinsured motorist coverage through her Allied Insurance Policy. Heckemeyer was served with the Declaratory Judgment action on June 22, 2016.

         On June 29, 2016, Heckemeyer amended her Boone County Petition to join Allied as a defendant and to add her claims against Allied for breach of contract and vexatious refusal to pay. Allied was served with the Amended Petition on June 12, 2016.

         On August 11, 2016, Defendants Healea and Allied removed this state court action on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Allied is an Iowa corporation with its principal place of business in Iowa, making it a citizen of Iowa. Healea is a citizen of Missouri. At the time Heckemeyer filed her original suit in state court, she was also a citizen of Missouri. Some time after Heckemeyer filed her suit against Healea, she moved to Colorado. As a result, when she amended her Petition on June 29, 2016 to add Allied as a defendant, she was a citizen of Colorado.

         Shortly after removing to this Court, Allied moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. [Doc. 5.] On September 6, 2016, Heckemeyer moved to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and moved to stay Allied's motion to dismiss. [Docs. 12, 14.] On September 8, 2016, the Court heard argument on Heckemeyer's pending motion to stay. The Court granted the motion and stayed Allied's motion to dismiss until after it had ruled on the motion to remand. [Docs. 14, 18.] Heckemeyer's motion to remand is now fully briefed.

         In support of remand, Heckemeyer argues Healea's Missouri citizenship bars removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Allied responds with three independent arguments for why Heckemeyer's claims against Healea should not preclude removal:[1] (1) Healea must be dismissed as a fraudulently joined party; (2) Allied, itself, must be dismissed as a fraudulently joined party; and (3) the claims against Healea and Allied were fraudulently misjoined. Therefore, if the Court determines that Healea and Allied were not fraudulently joined or fraudulently misjoined, removal is barred by 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2), and the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

         II. Discussion

         Upon removing an action to federal court, the defendant bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case. In re Prempro Prods. Liab. Litig., 591 F.3d 613, 620 (8th Cir. 2010); Hatridge v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 415 F.2d 809, 814 (8th Cir. 1969). “Removal statutes are strictly construed, and any doubts about the propriety of removal are resolved in favor of state court jurisdiction and remand.” Baumgartner v. Ford Motor Credit Co., 2007 WL 2026135, at *1 (W.D. Mo. July 9, 2007) (citing In re Business Men's Assurance Co. of America, 992 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir. 1993)).

         In opposition to Heckemeyer's motion to remand, Allied argues fraudulent joinder, fraudulent misjoinder, and complete diversity at the time of filing.[2]

         A. ...

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