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Pierre-Louis v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 11, 2014

JOHN PIERRE-LOUIS, Plaintiff,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., et al., Defendants.

John Pierre-Louis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pro Se Plaintiff.

Brian M. Rostocki, Audrey DuPont, and Carole G. Miller, Esquires, Reed Smith LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On September 30, 2013, Defendants filed a notice of removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, of Civil Case No. N13C-08-00303(MMJ) from the Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County ("Superior Court").[1] (D.I. 1) Pending before the Court are numerous motions including a motion to dismiss, a motion to amend, and a motion to remand. (D.I. 3, 9, 13, 15, 16, 20) For the reasons discussed below, the Court will remand the matter to the Superior Court for want of jurisdiction.

II. BACKGROUND

On September 4, 2013, Plaintiff, who appears pro se, filed an eleven-count complaint in the Superior Court, Pierre-Louis v. Bank of America Corp., Civil Case No. N13C-08-0303(MMJ), alleging as follows: Count 1, wrongful termination in violation of public policy and relevant statutes; Count 2, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; Count 3, intentional infliction of emotional distress; Count 4, negligence; Count 5, tort assault; Count 6, tort battery; Count 7, false imprisonment; Count 8, libel; Count 9, slander per se; Count 10, negligent supervision; and Count 11, negligent retention.

Defendants removed the action to this Court on the grounds that it could have been originally filed in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as Plaintiff alleges Title VII claims against Defendant Bank of America ("BOA"). Plaintiff moves for remand to the Superior Court, claiming that the procedures for removal were not satisfied and that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the Complaint did not assert any federal claims. In addition, Plaintiff states that he did not intend to assert any federal claims and was unaware that he had asserted any federal claims. Defendants oppose the motion to remand on the grounds that Plaintiffs procedural objections are untimely and without merit and federal question jurisdiction exists for removal.

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

Section 1441(a) permits a defendant to remove a civil action from state court to a federal court in which the action could have been filed originally; that is, where the federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Section 1446 outlines the procedures for removal, while§ 1447 sets forth the procedures following removal. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1446, 1447. Defects in removal may be procedural or jurisdictional. Jurisdictional defects may be raised at any time. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 69 (1996). Indeed, "[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).

"[T]he party asserting federal jurisdiction in a removal case bears the burden of showing, at all stages of the litigation, that the case is properly before the federal court." Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007); see also Brown v. Jevic, 575 F.3d 322, 326 (3d Cir. 2009). Removal statutes "are to be strictly construed against removal and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand." Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Steel Vallry Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal Div., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d Cir. 1987)).

"The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiffs properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar, Inc., 482 U.S. at 392 (citing Gully v. First Nat'l Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112-13 (1936)). "The controversy must be "genuine and present... not merely... conjectural." Gully, 299 U.S. at 113. "In short, the federal law must be in the forefront of the case and not collateral, peripheral, or remote.'" U.S. Express Lines v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383, 389 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Merrell Dow Pharm. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 813 n.11 (1986)). "[T]he mere presence of a federal issue in a state cause of action does not automatically confer federal-question jurisdiction." Merrell Dow, 478 U.S. at 813. The well-pleaded complaint rule "makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law." Id at 392 (citing The Fair v. Kohler Die & Specialty Co., 228 U.S. 22, 25 (1913)).

There are two situations in which federal jurisdiction could be available even though a plaintiff bases claims contained in the complaint on state law: "when it appears that some substantial, disputed question of federal law is a necessary element of the well-pleaded state claims or... when it appears that plaintiff's claim is really one of federal law." Goepel v. National Postal Mail Handlers Union, 36 F.3d 306, 310 (3d Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A state claim is "really one of federal law" if the "federal cause of action completely preempts the state cause of action." Id. at 310 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

"An independent corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule is the further principle that a plaintiff may not defeat removal by omitting to plead necessary federal questions." Smith v. Northland Group, Inc., 2013 WL 1766775, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 24, 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). This principle, referred to as the "artful pleading doctrine, " comes into play when the complaint contains a federal claim artfully pled as a state law claim. See United Jersry Banks v. Parell, 783 F.2d 360, 367 (3d Cir. 1986). The "artful pleading" doctrine "requires a court to peer through what are ostensibly wholly state claims to discern the federal question lurking in the verbiage." Higgins, 281 F.3d at 389 (internal citation omitted). If a court concludes that a ...


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