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Rabenstine v. National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

January 20, 2015

VICTORIA G. RABENSTINE, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE BOATING LAW ADMINISTRATORS, INC., JAMES HAGAN, and STATE OF LOUISIANA, through the DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE & FISHERIES, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

HENRY COKE MORGAN, Jr., Senior District Judge.

This matter was before the Court upon Plaintiffs Motion to Remand to State Court, Doc. 12, and Motion for Extension Pursuant to Rule 16(b) Scheduling Order. Doc. 19. A hearing was held on January 15, 2015. Ruling from the bench, the Court DENIED the Motion to Remand, GRANTED the Motion for Extension, and now issues this Opinion and Order explaining its reasoning.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

a. Factual Background

This is a personal injury action arising out of a boating accident, brought "under the general maritime and tort laws of the United States as well as any other applicable law of the Commonwealth of Virginia." Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiff Victoria Rabenstine ("Plaintiff" or "Rabenstine") is a resident of Virginia. Id . ¶ 2. There are three defendants in this action: Defendant National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, Inc. ("NASBLA")[1] Defendant James Hagan ("Hagan"), a foreign citizen; and Defendant State of Louisiana, through the Department of Wildlife & Fisheries ("Louisiana"). Id . ¶¶ 3-4. Rabenstine was a student in a "Tactical Operator's Course." in which Defendant Hagan was an instructor. Id . ¶¶ 6-8. Defendant Hagan is alleged to be an agent or servant of Defendants NASBLA and Louisiana, Id . ¶ 8. Rabenstine was injured in a boating accident on May 21, 2012, which she alleges was caused by Defendants' negligence, Id . ¶ 9. The accident occurred on the James River near Craney Island, which is alleged to be a navigable water. Id . ¶ 7.

b. Procedural Background

On May 12, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News ("Circuit Court"). Compl. On June 11, 2014, Defendant NASBLA filed in the Circuit Court its answer and plea in bar. Doc. 1, Ex. C. On June 26, 2014, Defendant Louisiana filed its answer and plea in bar in the Circuit Court. Doc. 1, Ex. D. On June 27, 2014, Defendant Louisiana removed the action to this Court. Doc. 1. In its notice of removal. Defendant Louisiana asserted diversity jurisdiction as the grounds for removal. Doc. 1 at 3. Defendant Hagan filed its answer in this Court on July 3, 2014. Doc. 5.

The Rule 16(b) Order in this case was entered on September 30, 2014. Doc. 11. Trial is set to commence on May 12, 2015. Id.

On October 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Remand. Doc. 12. Defendant Louisiana filed its opposition on November 13, 2014. Doc. 15. Defendant NASBLA joined Defendant Louisiana's opposition on November 14, 2014. Doc. 16. Plaintiff filed her reply brief on November 17, 2014. Doc. 17.

On January 12, 2015. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Extension Pursuant to Rule 16(b) Scheduling Order. Doc. 19. Plaintiff also submitted a letter to the Court, indicating the she desired a continuance of the trial dale. Doc. 18.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) provides that "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants...." A defendant may remove a state court action to federal court only if it originally could have been filed by the plaintiff in federal court. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441). When analyzing a motion to remand, significant federalism concerns require the court to construe the removal statute strictly against removal. Venezuela v. Massimo Zanetti Bevcraiie USA, Inc., 525 F.Supp.2d 781, 784 (E.D. Va. 2007). The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is thus placed upon the party seeking removal. Mulcahey v. Columbia Oruanic Chems, Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921)). "If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand is necessary." Mulcahey, 29 F.3d at 151.

The time to bring a motion to remand is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1447. "A motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect other than lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be made within 30 days after the filing of the notice of removal under section 1446(a)." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). If remand is ...


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