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Legston v. Sos International (VA) Ltd.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

January 31, 2019



          M. Hannah Lauck, Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on two motions: Defendant SOS International (VA) LTD and Defendant SOS International LTD's (collectively, "Defendants")[1] Motion to Transfer Venue (the "'Motion to Transfer"), (ECF No. 4), and Plaintiff Eddie Legston's Motion to Remand ("the Motion to Remand"), (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff did not respond[2] to Defendants' Motion to Transfer, and the time to do so has expired. Defendants responded to Plaintiffs Motion to Remand. Legston did not reply to Defendants' response to the Motion to Remand.

         Accordingly, the matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid in the decisional process. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Remand and deny the Motion to Transfer as moot.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Factual Background

         Legston brings this personal injury action against Defendants for damages he sustained while working as a civilian instructor providing classroom training for military equipment at Camp Taji, Iraq. (Compl. 4, ECF No. 1-1.) Legston alleges that he was injured when he was struck on the head while operating a piece of exercise equipment that was improperly maintained by Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 6-14.) He further claims that Defendants "negligently caused, permitted, and allowed to exist certain dangerous, hazardous and unsafe conditions, that they knew or should have known existed, and negligently fail[ed] to warn [Legston] of the dangerous [conditions.]" (Id. ¶ 20.)

         B. Procedural History

         Legston originally filed the Complaint in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond (the "Richmond Circuit Court"). On July 3, 2018, Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441[3] and 1442.[4] In their Notice of Removal, Defendants noted that Legston improperly identified SOS International LTD as "SOS International (VA) LTD'" and "SOS International LTD." On July 10, 2018, Defendants filed an Answer in this Court, reiterating Legston's improper identification of Defendants. On that same date, Defendants filed the Motion to Transfer.

         Legston did not respond to Defendants' Motion to Transfer. On July 11, 2018, the next day, Legston filed the Motion to Remand, arguing that the case should be remanded because it was improperly removed by Defendants and that Defendants could not show the required federal jurisdiction over the case. Defendants responded to the Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 11.)

         II. Analysis: Motion to Remand

          The Court first addresses the Motion to Remand. Legston moves to remand the case to the Richmond Circuit Court, claiming that it was improperly removed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1442(a) because Defendants have not, and cannot, meet their burden of establishing that federal question jurisdiction exists over the matter in controversy. In their Response, Defendants concede that neither of the Defendants, as currently named, provide base operations support for the U.S. Military in Iraq, and therefore this could not provide a basis for the exercise of federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a). Accordingly, Defendants do not oppose the Motion to Remand. Based on the record before it, and lacking any opposition, the Court concludes that this case was improperly removed and should be remanded to the Richmond Circuit Court.

         A. Legal Standard

         The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. See, e.g., Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chem. 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." Id. (citations omitted). Although the federal officer removal statute should be construed liberally, the burden is on the removing party to establish each of the elements of federal officer jurisdiction. CRGT, Inc. v. Northrop Grumman Sys. Corp., No. 1:12-cv-554, 2012 WL 3776369, at *1 (E.D. Va. Aug. 28, 2012). Therefore, the removing party must establish: (1) that it exists as a "person" within the meaning of the statute; (2) that the removing party acted pursuant to a federal officer's directions; (3) that a causal nexus existed between his or her actions taken under color of federal office and the plaintiffs claims; and, (4) that a colorable federal defense exists. L-3 Communications Corp. et al. v. Serco, Inc., 39 F.Supp.3d 740, 745 (E.D. Va. Aug. 19, 2014); see also Mesa v. California, 489 U.S. 121, 124-25 (1989).

         B. The Court Will Remand the Case to the ...

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