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Salas v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Brownsville Division

September 13, 2019

JOSEPHINE V. SALAS, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. and SUBSTITUTE TRUSTEE ARNOLD MENDOZA, Defendants.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Ignacio Torteya, III United States Magistrate Judge.

         The Court is in receipt of Plaintiff Josephine V. Salas's “Motion to Remand” (hereinafter, Salas's “Motion”). Dkt. No. 7. The Court has also received Defendants' “Response in Opposition to Salas's Motion to Remand” (hereinafter, Defendants' “Response”). Dkt. No. 8. For the reasons stated below, it is recommended that the Court DENY Salas's Motion.

         I. Statement of the Case

         On August 29, 2019, Defendant Wells Fargo Bank filed a Notice of Removal, removing the instant civil action from the 445th Judicial District Court of Cameron County, Texas. Dkt. No. 1. Salas filed her Motion on September 4, 2019, asserting that this Court should remand the case back to state court alleging improper removal by Defendants. Dkt. No. 7 at 1-2. Salas argues that removal was improper because: (1) the Court must strictly construe the removal statute; (2) the Court lacks federal question jurisdiction; (3) the Court lacks diversity jurisdiction; and (4) the amount in controversy in this action does not exceed $75, 000. Id. In their Response, Defendants assert that this Court does have subject-matter jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 8. Defendants argue that removal was proper because: (1) the case was removed based on diversity jurisdiction and not federal question jurisdiction; (2) the amount of controversy is measured by the value of the property in cases where injunctive relief is sought; and (3) the citizenship of the improperly joined substitute trustee can be disregarded. Id. at 3.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that may only exercise original jurisdiction when the case or controversy “arises under” federal law or based on complete diversity of citizenship among the parties and more than $75, 000 in controversy. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332; Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). The party removing an action bears the burden of establishing that federal jurisdiction is present. Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). All doubts concerning whether removal jurisdiction is proper must be resolved in favor of remand. Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, a federal court will not have subject matter jurisdiction unless: (1) “the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, ” and (2) complete diversity of citizenship is present between the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332; Villarreal v. State Farm Lloyds, No. 7:15-CV-292, 2015 WL 5838876, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 7, 2015) (citations omitted).

         III. Discussion

         A. Amount in Controversy

         Salas's Original Petition filed in state court requests actual damages, interest, and attorney's fees. Dkt. No. 1-5 at 7. Salas seeks to prevent foreclosure of the property at issue in this case. Id. Additionally, the property has an assessed market value of $109, 230. Dkt. No. 1-9 at 2. In an action that seeks declaratory or injunctive relief, the amount of controversy is measured by the value of the object of the litigation. Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Com'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347, 97 S.Ct. 2435, 53 L.Ed.2d 383 (1977); Copeland v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n, 2012 WL 3062168 at *1 (5th Cir. July 27, 2012) (“the value in controversy exceeds $75, 000 due to the value of the subject property.”). Remand, then, is not appropriate because Salas has not established “to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount[.]” See St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 289 (1938)). See also Ray Mart, Inc. v. Stock Bldg. Supply of Texas, LP, 435 F.Supp.2d 578, 586 (E.D. Tex. 2006) (“[W]here the plaintiff's claims can be proved to be of the type that are worth more than [$75, 000.00], they can be removed unless the plaintiff can show he is legally bound to accept less.”).

         B. Diversity of Citizenship

         1. Salas's domicile

         Salas is domiciled in Cameron County, Texas. Dkt. 1-5 at 3. A person is a citizen of a state based on their domicile, which is their permanent residence. 28 U.S.C. §1332(a)(2); Coury v. Prot, 85 F.3d 244, 249 (5th Cir. 1996) (“state citizenship for diversity purposes is regarded as synonymous with domicile.”). Salas, then, is a citizen of the state of Texas.

         2. Wells Fargo's corporate citizenship

         Wells Fargo Bank is a state citizen of South Dakota as evidenced by its Articles of Association. See Dkt. No. 1 at 4, 8 at 5; 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1); Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 85-89, 130 S.Ct. 1181, 175 L.Ed.2d 1029 (2010) (finding that a corporation's main headquarters is its principal place of business pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332(c)(1)); Wachovia Bank v. Schmidt, 546 U.S. 303, 307, 126 S.Ct. 941, 163 L.Ed.2d 797 (2006) (“a national bank…is a citizen of the State in which its main office, as set forth in its articles of association, is located.”). Moreover, a bank's physical presence through its branches does not render that bank a citizen of ...


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