United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
KRISTIN D. CHAVIS, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO., INC.; HONDA R&D AMERICAS, INC.; HONDA NORTH AMERICA, INC.; HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD; HONDA OF CANADA MANUFACTURING d/b/a Honda Canada, Inc.; HONDA R&D CO., LTD; DAICEL SAFETY SYSTEMS, INC.; DAICEL PYROTECHNICS, LTD; DAICEL SAFETY SYSTEMS AMERICA, LLC; SPECIAL DEVICES, INCORPORATED; DAICEL SAFETY SYSTEMS AMERICA ARIZONA, INC.; DAICEL SAFETY SYSTEMS AMERICA HOLDINGS, INC.; DAICEL CORPORATION; DAICEL SAFETY TECHNOLOGIES AMERICA, INC.; DAICEL SAFETY TUBE PROCESSING, INC.; DAICEL AMERICA HOLDINGS, INC.; TEAM CHEVROLET OF SWANSBORO, INC.; LEJEUNE MOTOR COMPANY; COX FAMILY AUTOMOTIVE, INC.; SAMMY'S AUTO SALES, INC., Defendants.
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on plaintiff's motion to
remand to the General Court of Justice, Superior Court
Division, Robeson County, North Carolina (“Robeson
County Superior Court”), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1447(c) (DE 12). The issues raised have been fully briefed,
and in this posture are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that
follow, plaintiff's motion is granted, and the case is
remanded to Robeson County Superior Court.
case concerns alleged liability of defendant manufacturers
and sellers for failure to identify defects of an airbag
deployed by plaintiff's automobile. Plaintiff purchased a
2008 Honda Accord (the “Accord”) from defendant
Cox Family Automotive on May 15, 2017. (See Compl.
¶¶ 29, 30; Bill of Sale (DE 13-8) at 2). At
approximately 8:45 A.M. on May 17, 2017, plaintiff was
traveling east in the Accord on NC-130 when she was involved
in a traffic accident. (Compl. ¶ 32). Due to a defect in
the driver side airbag, metal shards and shrapnel from the
airbag cartridge exited through the airbag when it was
deployed. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 34). The projectiles
struck plaintiff in the arm, hand, and face, resulting in
serious injury. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 35, 38).
initiated the instant action in Robeson County Superior Court
on February 5, 2019, against numerous defendants. Defendants
American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (“AHM”); Honda
R&D Americas, Inc.; Honda North America, Inc.; Honda
Motor Co. Ltd.; Honda of Canada Manufacturing d/b/a Honda
Canada, Inc.; and Honda R&D Co., Ltd., (collectively
“Honda Defendants”) allegedly are responsible for
manufacturing the Accord, including the airbag (also known as
a component of the “supplemental restraint
system”). Defendants Daicel Safety Systems Inc.; Daicel
Pyrotechnics Ltd.; Daicel Safety Systems America, LLC;
Special Devices, Incorporated; Daicel Safety Systems America
Arizona, Inc.; Daicel Safety Systems America Holdings, Inc.;
Daicel Corporation; Daicel Safety Technologies America, Inc.;
Daicel Safety Tube Processing, Inc.; and Daicel America
Holdings, Inc., (collectively “Daicel
Defendants”) allegedly manufactured and supplied parts
of the airbag in the Accord. Finally, defendants Lejeune
Motor Company; Cox Family Automotive, Inc.; and Sammy's
Auto Sales (collectively “Seller Defendants”)
allegedly advertised, marketed, promoted, leased, sold,
maintained, inspected, serviced, and/or supplied the
asserts claims for negligent and wanton conduct, as well as
breach of express and implied warranties, against each
defendant. Plaintiff asserts unfair and deceptive trade
practices claims against the Honda Defendants and the Daicel
Defendants. Defendant AHM was served summons and complaint,
along with plaintiff's first interrogatories and first
requests for production, by certified mail on February 25,
2019. After several months, defendant AHM served Seller
Defendants with requests for admissions. Defendants Cox
Family Automotive and Sammy's Auto Sales each admitted
that they did not provide any express warranties to plaintiff
regarding the airbag and did not have a reasonable
opportunity to inspect the airbag. Similarly, defendant
Lejeune Motor Company denied that it provided express
warranties to plaintiff for the Accord and did not admit that
it had a reasonable opportunity to inspect the airbag.
August 15, 2019, defendant AHM removed the case to this
court. Defendant AHM asserted in its notice of removal that
plaintiff fraudulently joined Seller Defendants, thereby
allowing the court to assume diversity jurisdiction. The
notice of removal asserts that filing of the notice is timely
under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3), and the supplemental cover
sheet attached to the notice of removal indicates all
defendants join in the removal. Two weeks later, plaintiff
filed the instant motion to remand. Plaintiff argues that the
court lacks diversity jurisdiction over this case, that
removal of the action was not unanimous among all defendants,
and that notice of removal was untimely.
Standard of Review
case removed from state court, “[i]f at any time before
final judgment it appears that the district court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be
remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). “The burden
of establishing federal jurisdiction is placed upon the party
seeking removal.” Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic
Chemicals Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994).
“Because removal jurisdiction raises significant
federalism concerns, [the court] must strictly construe
removal jurisdiction.” Id. “If federal
jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand is necessary.”
Id.; see Palisades Collections LLC v.
Shorts, 552 F.3d 327, 336 (4th Cir. 2008) (recognizing
the court's “duty to construe removal jurisdiction
strictly and resolve doubts in favor of remand”).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
courts, unlike most state courts, are courts of limited
jurisdiction, created by Congress with specified
jurisdictional requirements and limitations.”
Strawn v. AT & T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296
(4th Cir. 2008). Generally, a defendant may remove a case
from state court only if the federal district court has
original jurisdiction over the removed action. See
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Lontz v. Tharp, 413 F.3d
435, 439 (4th Cir. 2005). Thus, an action is generally
removable only if diversity jurisdiction or federal question
jurisdiction exists on the face of the complaint.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). Where plaintiff's
complaint raises no federal questions, (see compl.
¶ 25), the court must determine if it has original
jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship.
invoke diversity jurisdiction, the matter in controversy must
exceed the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest
and costs, and be between citizens of different States.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. A corporation is a
citizen of the state in which it is incorporated and of the
state in which it maintains its principal place of business.
See id. § 1332(c)(1); Hertz Corp. v.
Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 80-81 (2010). It is long settled
that diversity of citizenship between the parties must be
complete. See, e.g., Wis. Dep't of Corr. v.
Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 388 (1998); Strawbridge v.
Curtiss, 7 U.S. 267, 267-68 (1806); Slavchev v.
Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 559 F.3d 251, 254-55 (4th
Cir. 2009). Both plaintiff and the Seller Defendants are
citizens of North Carolina, destroying complete diversity.
(See Compl. ¶¶ 1, 22, 23, 24).
fraudulent joinder doctrine provides that diversity
jurisdiction is not automatically defeated by naming
non-diverse defendants.” Weidman v. Exxon Mobil
Corp., 776 F.3d 214, 218 (4th Cir. 2015). The doctrine
“effectively permits a district court to disregard, for
jurisdictional purposes, the citizenship of certain
nondiverse defendants, assume jurisdiction over a case,
dismiss the nondiverse defendants, and thereby retain