United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
SPARKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the
above-styled cause, and specifically Plaintiff Jeanne
Sparlin's Motion to Remand [#11] and Defendants State
Farm Lloyds (State Farm) and Dale Marek (collectively
Defendants)' Response [#12] in opposition. Having
considered the documents, the governing law, and the case
file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion
is a Texas citizen and the named insured on two insurance
policies issued by State Farm (the Policies). Removal Notice
[#1-3] Ex. A (Pet.) ¶ 9. The Policies cover Plaintiffs
real properties located at 619 Luther Dr. and 615 Luther Dr.
Georgetown, Texas (the Properties). Id. ¶ 10.
State Farm is an unincorporated association whose
underwriters are all citizens of the State of Illinois.
Removal Notice[ #1] ¶ 5. Mr. Marek, a citizen of Texas,
is an insurance adjuster. Id. ¶ 6.
December 27, 2015, a hail and wind storm allegedly caused
damage to the Properties. Pet. ¶ 11. Plaintiff submitted
a claim to State Farm for the damage, which included
replacement of a roof. Id. ¶ 12. State Farm
assigned Mr. Marek to adjust the claim, and Mr. Marek
inspected the Properties and adjusted Plaintiffs claim on
State Farm's behalf. Id. ¶ 13.
August 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit in Texas state court.
Removal Notice ¶2. Plaintiff alleges Mr. Marek violated
Texas Insurance Code § 541.060 when he improperly
evaluated the Properties, failed to include the true cost of
repairing the Properties in his adjustment, used his own
statements about the non-severity of damage to the Properties
as a basis for denying coverage, and failed to provide an
adequate explanation for the compensation Plaintiff received.
Pet. at ¶¶ 33-36. In addition, Plaintiff alleges
State Farm failed to review the adjustment and improperly
denied coverage for the full extent of the Property's
damages. Id. ¶¶ 16-28. As a result,
Plaintiff contends State Farm wrongfully denied his claim,
breached the insurance contract, violated multiple sections
of the Texas Insurance Code, and breached its duty of good
faith and fair dealing. Id. ¶¶ 42-53.
Farm removed the case to this Court, arguing the Court
possesses diversity jurisdiction. According to State Farm,
Mr. Marek was improperly joined because Plaintiff failed to
state a reasonable basis for recovering against Mr. Marek.
Plaintiff filed a motion for remand, which is ripe for a
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is placed upon
the party seeking removal." Willy v. Coastal
Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir. 1988). Moreover,
because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism
concerns, courts must strictly construe removal jurisdiction.
Id. Any doubts or ambiguities regarding the
propriety of removal are construed against removal and in
favor of remand to the state court. Manguno v. Prudential
Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir.
2002). Here, State Farm invoked federal court diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). District courts
have diversity jurisdiction over civil actions between
citizens of different states when the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Section 1332
requires "complete diversity"-that is, the
citizenship of every plaintiff must be different from that of
every defendant. Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519U.S.
61, 68 (1996). Parties upon whose citizenship diversity
jurisdiction is grounded must be real and substantial parties
to the controversy. Navarro Sav. Ass 'n v. Lee,
446 U.S. 458, 460-61 (1980). Thus, the Court must
"disregard nominal or formal parties and rest
jurisdiction only upon the citizenship of the real parties to
the controversy." Id.; see also AmericoldRealty Tr.
v. Conagra Foods, Inc., 136 S.Ct. 1012 (2016).
parties dispute whether Mr. Marek, who is a nondiverse
defendant, is properly joined. If Mr. Marek is improperly
joined, then this Court has subject matter jurisdiction.
nondiverse defendant is improperly joined if "(1) the
plaintiff has stated a claim against a diverse
defendant that he fraudulently alleges is nondiverse, or (2)
the plaintiff has not stated a claim against a
defendant that he properly alleges is nondiverse."
Int'l Energy Ventures Mgmt, L.L.C. v. United Energy
Grp., Ltd., 818 F.3d 193, 199 (5th Cir. 2016) (emphasis
in original). Because it is undisputed Mr. Marek is
nondiverse, only the latter option is relevant. See
deciding whether a nondiverse defendant has been improperly
joined because the plaintiff failed to state a claim against
him, the court may conduct a Rule 12(b)(6)-type analysis.
Int 7 Energy Ventures Mgmt., L.L.C v. United
Energy Grp., Ltd.,818 F.3d 193, 200 (5th Cir. 2016).
"To pass muster under Rule 12(b)(6), [a] complaint must
have contained enough facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face." Id. (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted) (alternation in original).
In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
generally accepts as true all factual allegations contained
within the complaint. Leatherman v. Tarrant Narcotics
Intelligence & Coordination Unit,507 U.S. 163, 164
(1993). However, a court is not bound to accept legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Papasan v.
Allain,478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Although all