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Delaluz v. Management & Training Corp.

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

August 15, 2017

ADRIANA DELALUZ as next friend, heir, and/or personal representative of the estate of her deceased minor child, ISELA HUERTA CARRANZA, Plaintiff,
v.
MANAGEMENT & TRAINING CORPORATION and JOHN DOES 1-10 agents, employees, and/or contractors of Management & Training Corporation whose identities are currently unknown, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER REMANDING CASE

          CLARK WADDOUPS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Management & Training Corp. (“MTC”) removed this action to federal court and filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings shortly thereafter. (Dkt. No. 6.) The parties briefed and argued the Motion, and submitted supplemental briefing at the court's request. (See Dkt. No. 17.)

         After the court took the Motion under advisement, the Tenth Circuit issued City of Albuquerque v. Soto Enterprises, Inc., No. 16-2065___, F.3d___, 2017 WL 3138363 (10th Cir. July 25, 2017), holding that a defendant waives its removal right by filing a motion to dismiss in state court. The court finds this binding precedent directly on point to this case, and concludes that MTC has waived its right to remove this action by having previously filed, argued, and received a decision on its motion to dismiss in state court. Therefore, the court REMANDS this case to state court.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of Plaintiff Adriana Delaluz's negligence and slander action, brought on behalf of her deceased minor daughter, Isela Huerta Carranza, against MTC and unnamed others. Ms. Delaluz alleges that MTC's negligence in administering a job corps program in Clearfield, Utah, caused Isela's untimely death in March 2014.

         On February 18, 2016, Ms. Delaluz filed her complaint in the Second Judicial District Court of the State of Utah, Davis County. (Dkt. No. 2-2 (Complaint).) MTC was served on February 23, 2016. (Dkt. No. 2-5, p. 4 (State District Court Documents).) On July 26, 2016, Ms. Delaluz amended her complaint. (Id. at 8-24 (First Amended Complaint (FAC)).) Shortly thereafter, on August 16, 2016, MTC filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. (Id. at 93.) MTC argued that the state district court should dismiss Ms. Delaluz's tort claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id.) On December 16, 2016, the state court heard oral arguments on MTC's motion. (Id. at 91-92, 93.)

         On January 4, 2017, Judge Kay of the Second District Court issued a written memorandum decision denying MTC's motion to dismiss and allowing Ms. Delaluz's negligence and slander claims to proceed. (Id. at 93-103.) On January 6, 2017, Ms. Delaluz filed her Second Amended Complaint, removing causes of action that she had stipulated to dismiss and fleshing out the general factual allegations in ways irrelevant to this decision. (Dkt. No. 2-3 (Second Amended Complaint (SAC)); compare Dkt. No. 2-5, pp. 8-24 (FAC).) Judge Kay noticed a Rule 16 hearing that same day. (Dkt. No. 2-5, pp. 104-05.) On January 24, 2017, MTC timely filed a petition for interlocutory appeal in the Utah Court of Appeals, challenging Judge Kay's order denying its motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 6-4.)

         On January 31, 2017, after nearly a full year of litigation in state court, MTC removed the case to this court. (Notice of Removal, Dkt. No. 2.)[1] MTC alleges as grounds for removal that the action implicates this court's diversity jurisdiction. (See id.) According to MTC, Ms. Delaluz's Second Amended Complaint contains allegations regarding her and Isela's citizenship not present in the initial complaint.[2] Ms. Delaluz alleges that Isela was a citizen of Utah at her death and, because MTC is also a Utah citizen, the parties are nondiverse. (See SAC ¶¶ 4-8, Dkt. No. 2-3.) MTC contests these allegations, arguing that, because Isela was a minor at her death, Isela retains her mother's citizenship of Idaho, and she cannot be said to have emancipated herself from her mother or otherwise abandoned her Idaho citizenship. (See Notice of Removal ¶¶ 10-18; see also MTC's Br. re Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Dkt. No. 18.)

         Ms. Delaluz did not move for remand and does not contest MTC's arguments on Isela's citizenship. She has stated that she simply prefers to move forward with this case, in either state or federal court, as quickly as possible. (See Dkt No. 19.)

         On February 2, 2017, MTC moved for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. No. 6.) After a hearing, the court requested supplemental briefing on the question of Isela's citizenship and took the motion under advisement. (Dkt. No. 17.)[3]

         ANALYSIS

         “A case originally filed in state court may be removed to federal court if, but only if, ‘federal subject-matter jurisdiction would exist over the claim.'” Firstenberg v. City of Santa Fe, N.M., 696 F.3d 1018, 1023 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Hansen v. Harper Excavating, Inc., 641 F.3d 1216, 1220 (10th Cir. 2011)). The court must always assure itself of its jurisdiction over an action, even when the parties do not raise it, because “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002). As the party invoking this court's jurisdiction, MTC has the burden to show a basis for jurisdiction exists here. Id.

         MTC argues the court has jurisdiction over the claims in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the parties are completely diverse and the relevant threshold amount is at issue. (See MTC's Br. re Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Dkt. No. 18.) Ms. Delaluz does not contest the jurisdictional facts or legal arguments MTC presents. On this record, the court finds MTC has demonstrated that Isela's citizenship properly remains located in Idaho and that the parties are therefore diverse, despite contrary allegations in the Second Amended Complaint.

         Though the court is satisfied that it has subject matter jurisdiction, the procedural posture of this case raises a non-jurisdictional issue: whether MTC waived its removal right by participating ...


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