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Blockinger v. Reach Medical Holdings

October 28, 2009

ROBERT BLOCKINGER AND BROOKE BLOCKINGER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
REACH MEDICAL HOLDINGS, INC., AIR ANGELS, INC., PHILIP D. HUTH, CRAIG RUNDLE, MICHAEL S. DERMONT, AND RICHARD D. HOFFMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand [16] this case to the Circuit Court of Cook County. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' motion [16] is granted.

I. Background

On October 15, 2008, a helicopter flown by Delbert Lee Waugh, and operated by Air Angels, Inc., struck a tower in Aurora, Illinois and crashed. Everyone in the helicopter died in the crash, including Kristin Blockinger, a minor child who was a passenger. Kristin was survived by her parents, Robert and Brooke Blockinger (collectively "Plaintiffs").

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County. On February 26, 2009, they filed an amended complaint, naming as defendants Reach Medical Holdings, Inc.; Air Angels, Inc.; Philip D. Huth; Craig Rundle; Michael S. Dermont; and Richard D. Hoffman (collectively "Defendants"). The amended complaint sounds in tort and alleges that Defendants acted negligently in the outfitting, operation, and supervision of the helicopter and its pilots. On March 23, 2009, Defendants removed the lawsuit to this Court [1, 5].

Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs'motion to remand [16] the case to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Plaintiffs maintain that the individual defendants are Illinois citizens, as is Air Angels, Inc., and that the Court therefore lacks jurisdiction for want of complete diversity of citizenship among the parties. Defendants'response [37] seems to acknowledge that the individual defendants would defeat diversity jurisdiction, but argues that Air Angels, Inc. is the "real" party in interest and that the individual defendants were fraudulently joined

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standards Governing Remand and Removal

In deciding whether to remand a case, the Court assumes the truth of the factual allegations of the complaint. Sheridan v. Flynn, 2003 WL 22282378, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 30, 2003). A plaintiff's choice of forum is presumed valid and the Court must resolve any doubts about jurisdiction in favor of remand. See, e.g., Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Centers, Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 2009); Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993) ("Courts should interpret the removal statute narrowly and presume that the plaintiff may choose his or her forum"); Schmude v. Sheahan, 198 F. Supp. 2d 964, 966 (N.D. Ill. 2002) ("Generally, the removal statute is strictly construed, with an eye towards limiting federal jurisdiction"). Defendants bear the burden of establishing that all of the prerequisites for removal have been satisfied. Boyd v. Phoenix Funding Corp., 366 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2004); Schimmer v. Jaguar Cars, Inc., 384 F.3d 402, 404 (7th Cir. 2004) (defendant must demonstrate "reasonable probability that subject-matter jurisdiction exists"). In determining whether removal is proper, the Court must consider the jurisdictional circumstances at the time that the removal was made. See, e.g., In re Shell Oil Co., 966 F.2d 1130, 1133 (7th Cir. 1992); Sheridan, 2003 WL 22282378, at *3.

In this case, Defendants assert that the Court has jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In order for jurisdiction to be founded on diversity of citizenship, there generally must be complete diversity of citizenship-i.e., no plaintiff can be a citizen of the same state as any defendant. See LM Ins. Corp. v. Spaulding Enters. Inc., 533 F.3d 542, 546 n.1 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267 (1806)). In general, the inquiry focuses on diversity of citizenship at the time that the lawsuit was filed (see Aurora Loan Servs., Inc. v. Craddieth, 442 F.3d 1018, 1025 (7th Cir. 2006)), although in the removal setting the time of removal furnishes the pertinent time frame (Harmon v. OKI Sys., 115 F.3d 477, 480 (7th Cir. 1997)). The Court considers the entire record in evaluating the existence of diversity jurisdiction. Id. at 479-80 ("The test should simply be whether the evidence sheds light on the situation which existed when the case was removed.").

For the purpose of determining citizenship, a corporation is a citizen of "any State by which it has been incorporated and of the State where it has its principal place of business." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c). The location of a corporation' s headquarters is not always the same as its principal place of business. Wis. Knife Works v. Nat'l Metal Crafters, 781 F.2d 1280, 1282 (7th Cir. 1986). This Circuit' s test to determine the location of a corporation' s principal place of business is the nerve center test. Ill. Bell Tel. Co., Inc. v. Global NAPs Ill., Inc., 551 F.3d 587, 590 (7th Cir. 2008) (elaborating that the "nerve center" generally is "where its executive headquarters are located" and that "[t]here are no nerves (in all but the simplest animals) without a brain"); Chamberlain Mfg. Corp. v. Maremont Corp., 828 F. Supp. 589, 593 (N.D. Ill. 1993). A corporation' s nerve center is where its "brain" is-that is, the principal place of corporate management. Chamberlain Mfg., 828 F. Supp. at 590-91.

B. Application of Legal ...


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