United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Remand filed by
Plaintiff, the City of Webster Groves, Missouri ("the
City"). (ECF No. 20) The motion has been fully briefed.
After careful consideration, the Court denies the motion.
August 1997, the City entered into a lease agreement with
Eastern Missouri Cellular Limited Partnership, a predecessor
in interest to Defendant New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC
("New Cingular"). The lease agreement provided for
the City to lease to New Cingular certain real property
located in and owned by the City for the construction and
operation of a communications tower. In 2013, New Cingular
notified the City that it would grant sublease rights to
manage and operate the communications tower on the leased
premises to Crown Castle International Corp. ("Crown
Castle") while New Cingular would remain the tenant.
2018, the City discovered a provision of the lease agreement,
which related to escalation of the base rent, had not been
implemented. The City then requested a rent reconciliation
report from Crown Castle for the underpayment of rent
beginning in 1997. Crown Castle sent a document admitting
there was an underpayment between 2007 and 2017. The City
disputed the total amount due and sent a notice of default to
Crown Castle and New Cingular (collectively referred to as
"Defendants"). After Defendants failed to cure the
alleged defaults, the City sent a notice terminating the
lease agreement and demanding possession of the leased
premises. According to the City, Defendants have refused to
cure their defaults, pay owed amounts, remove improvements
and other personal property from the leased premises
(including the communications tower itself), or vacate the
City sued in state court and asserted claims for breach of
contract (Count I), declaratory judgment (Count II), and
unlawful detainer (Count III). Crown Castle then removed the
case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446.
Defendants filed their Answers (ECF Nos. 15 & 17), and
Defendant CCATT LLC ("CCATT") filed a counterclaim
of breach of contract/breach of the implied covenant of good
faith and fair dealing (ECF No. 18). The City has moved for
the case to be remanded to state court, arguing Defendants
have failed to sufficiently plead facts to invoke diversity
jurisdiction. The City also contends principles of federalism
and comity support this case proceeding in state court. On
December 20, 2018, the Court granted the parties' Joint
Motion to Stay (ECF No. 24) pending the resolution of the
City's Motion to Remand and vacating the Order Setting
Rule 16 Conference. (ECF No. 26)
may remove an action to federal court only if it could have
been brought in federal court originally. Junk v.
Terminix Int'l Co, 628 F.3d 439, 444 (8th Cir. 2010)
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)-(b)). In removal cases, the
Court reviews the state court petition and the notice of
removal in order to determine whether it has jurisdiction.
Branch v. Wheaton Van Lines, Inc., No. 4:44CV01735
AGF, 2014 WL 6461372, at *l (E.D. Mo. Nov. 17, 2014).
"Where the defendant seeks to invoke federal
jurisdiction through removal, ... it bears the burden of
proving that the jurisdictional threshold is satisfied."
Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir.
2009). "[A] case is ordinarily not removable on federal
question grounds unless the federal question is presented on
the face of the plaintiffs complaint." Kaufman v.
Boone Ctr., Inc., No. 4:11CV286 CDP, 2011 WL 1564052, at
*l (E.D. Mo. Apr. 25, 2011). A plaintiff may move to remand
the case if the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction. Junk, 628 F.3d at 444 (citing 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c)). District courts are to resolve all
doubts regarding federal jurisdiction in favor of remand.
Hubbard v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 799 F.3d 1224,
1227 (8th Cir. 2015).
City first argues remand is proper because Crown Castle
failed to properly invoke federal diversity jurisdiction.
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), a district court has original
jurisdiction over a civil action where the amount in
controversy exceeds the sum of $75, 000 and there is complete
diversity of citizenship between the litigants.
"Complete diversity of citizenship exists where no
defendant holds citizenship in the same state where any
plaintiff holds citizenship." OnePoint Solutions,
LLC v. Borchert, 486 F.3d 342, 346 (8th Cir. 2007).
"For a party to remove a case to federal court based on
diversity jurisdiction, the parties must be diverse both when
the plaintiff initiates the action in state court and when
the defendant files the notice of removal in federal
court." Chavez-Lavagnino v. Motivation Educ.
Training, Inc., 714 F.3d 1055, 1056 (8th Cir. 2013);
Reece v. Bank of New York Mellon, 760 F.3d 771, 777
(8th Cir. 2014). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1), a
corporation is considered a citizen of the state in which it
is incorporated and the state where it has its principal
place of business. "For purposes of establishing
diversity, a limited liability company's citizenship is
the citizenship of each of its members." Little
Otters of Love, LLC v. Rosenberg, 724 Fed.Appx.
498, 501 (8th Cir. 2018).
Notice of Removal, Crown Castle asserted it is a Delaware
corporation with its principal place of business in Texas.
(ECF No. 1, at ¶ 9) It further explained that CCATT is a
limited liability company ("LLC") whose sole member
is another LLC, CCATT Holdings LLC, whose sole member is
Crown Castle USA Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation with its
principal place of business in Pennsylvania. (Id. at
¶ 8) For New Cingular's citizenship, however, Crown
Castle asserted the following:
Upon information and belief New Cingular Wireless
PCS, LLC f/k/a/ AT&T Wireless PCS, LLC ("New
Cingular") is not a citizen of Missouri because it is a
limited liability company without any owner or member that
[is] a citizen of Missouri. Upon information and
belief neither New Cingular nor its members are citizens
(Id. at ¶ 10) (emphasis added) Because the
party seeking removal bears the burden of proving the
jurisdictional requirements, Bell, 557 F.3d at 956,
the City argues Crown Castle was required to identify the
members of each defendant LLC and sufficiently plead that
none of their members are citizens of Missouri of which the
City is considered a citizen. The City contends Crown
Castle's allegation based "[u]pon information and
belief, rather than specifically pleading the ...