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Holmes v. Construction Turnaround Services

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 29, 2017

EDWARD HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
CONSTRUCTION TURNAROUND SERVICES, DON SCHEXNIDER, GRANT DALTON and AARON MAY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion to remand filed by plaintiff Edward Holmes (Doc. 24). Defendants Aaron May, Construction & Turnaround Services, LLC (“CTS”; misnamed in the complaint as Construction Turnaround Services) and Don Schexnider have responded to the motion (Docs. 31 & 32). This motion involves important issues regarding the Court's subject matter jurisdiction to hear this case and arises from a multifaceted jurisdictional history.

         I. Background

         Holmes filed this case in October 2016 in the Circuit Court for the Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Illinois (Doc. 1-1). He complains that CTS, his employer, terminated him in October 2015 in retaliation for seeking workers' compensation benefits following a workplace injury (Count I). He also claims that defendants Schexnider and Grant Dalton, two of his supervisors, were responsible for his wrongful termination because, motivated by personal animus, they inadequately investigated the situation and gave incomplete and inaccurate information to CTS about Holmes' injury. He has sued each of them for intentional interference with economic advantage (Counts II and III, respectively). In addition, Holmes alleges that defendant Aaron May, the union steward for Boilermakers Local 363, failed to give CTS information regarding Holmes' injury, which led to CTS's decision to fire Holmes. Holmes claims this also amounts to intentional interference with economic advantage (Count IV).

         In December 2016, May timely removed this case to federal court, claiming that Count IV against him was completely preempted because it presented a claim for breach of the federal duty of fair labor representation, a federal question. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1441. He believes Count IV was actually a duty of fair representation claim because the tasks Holmes claimed May performed improperly were tasks governed by May's duty to fairly represent Holmes as his union representative in labor negotiations and enforcement. .

         Ten days later, CTS filed its own notice of removal. In its notice, CTS claims removal was proper based on original diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a) & 1441. CTS alleges that Holmes and Schexnider are citizens of Louisiana, Dalton is a citizen of Arkansas, and May is a citizen of Oklahoma. CTS, a limited liability company, also states that it has five individual members, all of whom reside in Arkansas and are “[t]herefore . . . citizens of Oklahoma.” Notice of Removal at 2 (Doc. 8). CTS does not mention the citizenship of Integrated Services, LLC, which it states in its corporate disclosure statement (Doc. 12) wholly owns CTS. Realizing that Holmes' and Schexnider's shared Louisiana citizenship destroys complete diversity, CTS alleges that Holmes has fraudulently joined Schexnider, against whom he cannot make out a case for intentional interference with economic advantage, so the Court should ignore Schexnider's citizenship for the purposes of determining whether it has diversity subject matter jurisdiction.

         A week later, CTS asked for leave to amend its notice of removal to make two substantive changes (Doc. 19). First, it realized it had inadvertently alleged that May is a citizen of Oklahoma when in reality he is a citizen of Illinois. However, the acknowledgement that May is a citizen of Illinois runs CTS smack into the forum defendant rule, which prohibits removal based exclusively on the Court's original diversity jurisdiction if one of the defendants is a citizen of the forum state. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2). For this reason, CTS sought its second change: to add the argument that May also was fraudulently joined since, for the same reason Holmes has no claim against Schexnider, he cannot make out a case against May for intentional interference with economic advantage. Therefore, CTS urges the Court to disregard May's citizenship for the purposes of applying the forum defendant rule.

         In January 2017, Holmes filed the pending motion to remand (Doc. 24). He argues that this Court does not have original federal diversity jurisdiction over this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) because he and Schexnider are not completely diverse and because CTS has not properly alleged its own citizenship. He also argues that the forum defendant rule prevents removal in light of May's Illinois citizenship. Holmes further argues that the Court does not have original federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because he has alleged a bona fide state tort claim against May, not a claim for breach of the federal duty of fair representation. May, CTS and Schexnider have responded to the motion (Docs. 31 & 32).

         In April 2017, Holmes filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss Count IV, the only count against defendant May, without prejudice, which the Court construed as a notice of dismissal of Count IV pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i). The Court found the claim against May to be dismissed.[1]

         In addition, at various times throughout this case, each defendant has moved to dismiss for failure to plead sufficient facts to state a claim (Docs. 14, 18 & 37).

         The Court now turns to the question of its jurisdiction to hear this case.

         II. Analysis

         A. Federal Question Jurisdiction

         On December 12, 2016, May removed this case based on the Court's original federal question jurisdiction. A defendant may remove to federal court a case filed in state court if the federal court would have had jurisdiction to hear the case when the plaintiff originally filed it. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 2009). “The party seeking removal has the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction, and federal courts should interpret the removal statute narrowly, resolving any doubt in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum in state court.” Schur, 577 F.3d at 758 (citing Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993)). Here, May asserted that the Court had original federal question jurisdiction over Count IV pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331. He ...


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