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Lawhorne v. Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

July 11, 2019

Bessie Lawhorne, Plaintiff,
v.
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SNORMAN K. MOON ENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Bessie Lawhorne's Motion to Remand the action to the Circuit Court for the City of Charlottesville pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). (Dkt. 8). Defendant Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., which removed the action, filed an opposition. (Dkt. 15). The Court heard the matter and the Motion is ripe for a determination. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Voluntary Dismissal without Prejudice with Respect to Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Dkt. 19). For the reasons set out below, the Court will remand the case to the Circuit Court for the City of Charlottesville and deny the motion to dismiss as moot.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This is an automobile accident case. According to the complaint, on May 12, 2017, Bessie Lawhorne (“Lawhorne”) was a passenger in a minivan traveling eastbound on I-64 in Louisa County, Virginia. (Dkt. 1, Notice of Removal Ex. A, Am. Compl. ¶ 6). Lawhorne alleges that another car, driven by Defendant Trisha Mashayekh, struck the minivan from behind, “forcing [it] off the roadway and into the median.” (Id. ¶ 8). Lawhorne alleges that as a result of the collision she sustained serious, severe, painful, and permanent injuries. (Id. ¶ 10). Lawhorne further alleges that at the time of the collision Mashayekh was acting within the course and scope of her employment with Walgreen Co. and/or Walgreen Boots Alliance (“WBA”). (See Id. ¶¶ 13, 17).

         Lawhorne filed a personal injury action in the Circuit Court for the City of Charlottesville in January 2019, naming Mashayekh and WBA as defendants. On February 6, she amended the complaint to add Walgreen Co. (See Dkt. 9 (Pl.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Remand at 2)). In her amended complaint, Lawhorne alleges she is a citizen of Virginia and, upon information and belief: (1) Defendant Mashayekh is a resident of Virginia; (2) Walgreen Co. is a corporation with its principle office in Illinois; and (3) Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. is a corporation with its principle office in Illinois. (Dkt. 1-1 (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 1-4).

         Lawhorne's negligence action is against Mashayekh directly and against Walgreen Co. and WBA under the principles of agency and respondeat superior. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8-19). She seeks $2.5 million in damages. (Am. Compl. at 8). Service was made on WBA in February 2019 and WBA filed an answer on February 22, 2019. Service was not made on the other defendants, including Mashayekh, prior to removal.

         WBA removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a)(1), 1441, and 1446. (Dkt. 1). WBA asserts that Lawhorne, a citizen of Virginia, and WBA, a foreign corporation, are diverse from each other and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. (Dkt. 1). WBA also alleges that at the time of the removal, Walgreen Co. and Mashayekh had not been served with process and, as a result, “complete diversity exists” and the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action. (Id.; Dkt. 9 at 1)).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by the United States Constitution and by statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Generally, a case may be filed in federal court if there is diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 or if there is federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         The removal statute allows a state court defendant to remove a case to federal district court if the state court action could have been originally filed there. Fed.R.Civ.P. § 1441(a) (“Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, 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 defendants, to the district court . . . .”). This Court has “original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000 [] and is between [] citizens of different states.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). “Section 1332 requires complete diversity among the parties, meaning that the citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from the citizenship of every defendant.” Cent. W.Va. Energy Co. v. Mountain State Carbon, LLC, 636 F.3d 101, 103 (4th Cir. 2011) (citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996)).

         Removal statutes are strictly construed against removal and all doubts about the propriety of removal are resolved in favor of retained state court jurisdiction. Marshall v. Manville Sales Corp. 6 F.3d 229, 232 (4th Cir. 1993). The removing party bears the burden of showing removal was proper. Md. Stadium Auth. v. Ellerbe Becket Inc., 407 F.3d 255, 260 (4th Cir. 2005). In determining a motion to remand, the court looks to the record at the time of the removal. Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1213-15 (11th Cir. 2007).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

         WBA removed this action from the Circuit Court for the City of Charlottesville, alleging federal subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441 because “Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., is not a citizen of Virginia and complete diversity exists given the other co-defendants have not been served.” (Dkt. 1 at 1, 2). Thus, WBA asserts that the Court should not remand this case because at the time of removal complete diversity existed among the ...


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