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Willman v. Riceland Foods

October 9, 2007

WILLIAM E. WILLMAN, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
v.
RICELAND FOODS, INC.; BAYER A.G.; BAYER CROPSCIENCE; AND BAYER CROPSCIENCE ARKANSAS LP DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.*fn1 Separate Defendant Bayer CropScience LP ("Bayer") responded.*fn2

This is an action for property and economic loss caused by alleged negligence of all Defendants and fraud on the part of separate Defendant Riceland Foods, Inc. ("Riceland").

Bayer removed*fn3 this action on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and alleged that Riceland is an improper defendant. Riceland did not join in the removal.*fn4

Plaintiffs seek remand of this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) because complete diversity of citizenship does not exist. Plaintiffs also request costs and attorney fees related to removal of this action.

I. Background

Plaintiffs own and operate rice farms in Lonoke County, Arkansas, and are members of Riceland's cooperative. Riceland is an Arkansas corporation with its principal place of business in Stuttgart, Arkansas. The Bayer Defendants include a limited partnership, whose general and limited partners are citizens of other states, and corporations organized under the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Plaintiffs allege that: (1) Bayer was negligent for allowing an experimental rice --LLRICE 601 ("601 rice") -- to escape into the nation's general rice supply; and (2) Riceland was negligent and deceitful for failing to disclose to members of its cooperative what it knew about 601 rice contamination.

II. Authority

A. Removal

Removal based on diversity requires that the parties be of diverse state citizenship and that the amount in controversy exceed $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.*fn5 The party claiming federal jurisdiction has the burden of proof.*fn6

Removal jurisdiction is completely statutory, and must be narrowly construed because jurisdictional statutes should not be applied in a manner that is broader than their language will allow.*fn7 Put another way, there is a strong presumption in favor of remand.*fn8 Because of this presumption, the merits of a plaintiff's claim cannot be determined on motion to remand,*fn9 and a district court has no responsibility to settle an ambiguous question of state law.*fn10

B. Fraudulent Joinder

The right to removal of a diversity case cannot be defeated by a fraudulent joinder of a resident defendant.*fn11 A district court's decision that a party was or was not ...


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