United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Samuel Gomer's Motion to
Remand. (Doc. 14.) Defendants have filed
suggestions in opposition arguing removal is proper based on
fraudulent joinder. (Doc. 23.) Plaintiff did not file a
reply. For the reasons below, Plaintiff's motion is
GRANTED in part as to Plaintiff's
request for remand and DENIED in part as to
Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees and costs.
10, 2017, Plaintiff originally filed this action in the
Circuit Court of Platte County, Missouri, and then on August
16, 2017, Defendant PrimeFlight Aviation Services, Inc.
(“PrimeFlight”) removed the action to this Court
on the grounds of diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff
brings this employment practices case, alleging his employer
Defendant PrimeFlight and Defendant Vince Eason, “an
agent and employer with” PrimeFlight, violated the
Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), Mo. Rev.
Stat. §§ 213.010 et seq. (Doc. 1-2 at ¶¶
to filing this action, on or about March 7, 2016, Plaintiff
filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission
on Human Rights (“MCHR”) and the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), claiming
discrimination based on race, religion, retaliation, and
hostile work environment. (Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 8.) “On
or about April 12, 2017, the MCHR mailed to Plaintiff his
Notice of Right to Sue[.]” (Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 9.)
petition consists of two counts: a claim of discrimination on
the basis of religion, reverse race, and hostile work
environment (Count I), and a claim of retaliation (Count II).
Specific to Eason, Plaintiff claims “Eason constituted
an ‘employer' within the meaning of the MHRA”
and Eason “participated in the discrimination and
retaliation . . . and/or ratified and condoned the
misbehavior by failing to take remedial actions.” (Doc.
1-2 at ¶¶ 3, 6.) Plaintiff's remaining
allegations in support of his claims refer to Defendants'
mistreatment of Plaintiff in the conjunctive. Plaintiff seeks
actual and punitive damages.
face of the pleadings, this Court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction over this case because Eason is a citizen of the
forum state, Missouri. Otherwise, there would be complete
diversity as between Plaintiff, who is a citizen of Kansas,
and PrimeFlight, who is a citizen of Ohio and Tennessee.
Plaintiff requests this Court enter an order remanding the
case to state court in Platte County. However, PrimeFlight
argues there is diversity jurisdiction because Eason was
fraudulently joined and his citizenship must be ignored for
purposes of diversity jurisdiction. The issue before the
Court is whether Eason was fraudulently joined so that his
citizenship is ignored for purposes of diversity
speaking, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) governs removal and
provides that “[a]ny civil action brought in a State
court . . . may be removed by the defendant” if the
federal court has original jurisdiction over the case.
“The basic statutory grants of federal-court
subject-matter jurisdiction are contained in 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 [federal question jurisdiction] and 1332
[diversity jurisdiction].” Arbaugh v. Y&H
Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 513 (2006). To invoke the district
court's diversity jurisdiction, the parties must be
citizens of different states and the amount in controversy
must exceed $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Removability
based on diversity jurisdiction is subject to an exception
known as the “forum-defendant rule” which is
codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2). The forum-defendant
rule limits federal jurisdiction based on diversity “by
requiring that no joined and served defendants be a citizen
of the state in which the action was initially
brought.” Pecherski v. Gen. Motors Corp., 636
F.2d 1156, 1160 (8th Cir. 1981). If, however, a court
determines a forum defendant has been fraudulently joined,
that party's citizenship is disregarded and the action
may be removed. See Wilson v. Republic Iron &
Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921) (fraudulent
joinder of a resident defendant cannot defeat diversity
is fraudulent when there exists no reasonable basis in fact
and law supporting a claim against the resident
defendants.” Filla v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 336
F.3d 806, 810 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting Wiles v. Capitol
Indem. Corp., 280 F.3d 868, 871 (8th Cir. 2002)). The
Eighth Circuit in Filla distinguished this standard
Unlike most diversity cases (where a federal court is
required to ascertain and apply state law no matter how
onerous the task), here, the district court's task is
limited to determining whether there is arguably a reasonable
basis for predicting that the state law might impose
liability based upon the facts involved. In making such a
prediction, the district court should resolve all facts and
ambiguities in the current controlling substantive law in the
Id. at 811 (citation omitted). However, when
deciding a fraudulent-joinder claim, the district court need
not “definitively settle the ambiguous
question of state law.” Id. “[T]o
establish fraudulent joinder, the defendant must ‘do
more than merely prove that the plaintiff's claim should
be dismissed pursuant to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion' since
‘[the court] do[es] not focus on the artfulness of the
plaintiff's pleadings.'” Block v. Toyota
Motor Corp., 665 F.3d 944, 948 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing
Knudson v. Systems Painters, Inc., 634 F.3d 968, 980
(8th Cir. 2011)). The Court must “determine whether
there is a reasonable basis for predicting that the
state's law might impose liability against the
defendant.” Id. Therefore, in absence of
federal question jurisdiction, if the district court
concludes a resident defendant was not fraudulently joined,
then subject-matter jurisdiction is nonexistent pursuant to
the forum-defendant rule and the court must remand the case
to the state court from which it was removed. 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1447(b), 1447(c); see Horton v.
Conklin, 431 F.3d 602, 605 (8th Cir. 2005) (holding that
a violation of the forum-defendant rule is a jurisdictional
based on fraudulent joinder grants the district court only
temporary jurisdiction to determine whether the non-diverse
defendant was fraudulently joined. Wivell v. Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A., 756 F.3d 609, 616 (8th Cir. 2014).
“[T]he party seeking removal has the burden to
establish federal subject matter jurisdiction, [and] all
doubts about federal jurisdiction must be resolved in favor
of remand.” Cent. Iowa ...