United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendants' motion to vacate the
Court's remand of this case. ECF No. 26. The motion is
fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc.
R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies
Richard and Megan Hackett filed suit in the Circuit Court for
Montgomery County, Maryland, against Defendants Bayview Loan
Servicing, LLC. and The Bank of New York Mellon, as Trustee
for the Certificate Holders of the CWALT, Inc., Alternative
Loan Trust 2006-OA19. ECF No. 2. Plaintiffs, on behalf of
themselves and a not yet certified class, alleged improper
charges to property loans and a denial of the Hacketts'
loan modification application in violation of the Truth in
Lending Act (“TILA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1601,
et seq. and various Maryland laws.
removed the case to this Court, asserting federal question
and diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. After Defendants moved
to dismiss, Plaintiffs conceded dismissal of the TILA claims
and sought remand on the remaining state law claims. ECF No.
19 at 6. The Court granted dismissal of the federal TILA
claims. ECF No. 22 at 5. The Court then found that the it
lacked diversity jurisdiction because the amount in
controversy was not met. Id. at 8. Accordingly, the
Court remanded the case for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Id. at 9. On January 9, 2019,
Defendants moved to vacate this Court's Order pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3), alleging that
Plaintiffs procured remand by “misrepresenting”
the amount in controversy. ECF No. 26.
court remands a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
review of the remand order is generally precluded. Things
Remembered, Inc. v. Petrarca, 516 U.S. 124, 127-28
(1995) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d)). However, the Fourth
Circuit has distinguished review of an order from
vacatur of an order, holding that a court may vacate
a remand order that had been “procured through attorney
misconduct.” Barlow v. Colgate Palmolive Co.,
772 F.3d 1001, 1010-11 (4th Cir. 2014). The Court, therefore,
allowed narrow review of the manner in which the party sought
remand, but precluded review of the substantive grounds upon
which the Court granted remand. Id. at
motion to remand concerned the damages clauses in
Plaintiffs' class complaint. The clauses state that
Plaintiffs seek: (1) “[A] money judgment . . . to the
State Law Class members . . . in excess of $75,
000.00;” (2) “[A] money judgment in favor of the
Named Plaintiffs and the State Law Class Members . . . in
excess of $75, 000.00;” (3) “[A] money judgment .
. . to the Named Plaintiffs and the Usury Class members $500
for each violation of Com. Law § 12-121(b) and a total
sum in excess of $75, 000.00;” (4) “[A] money
judgment in favor of the Named Plaintiffs and the State Law
Class members . . . in excess of $75, 000.00;” (5)
“[A] money judgment in favor of Named Plaintiffs . . .
in the sum of $63, 500; and (6) “reasonable
attorney's fees, litigation expenses and costs.”
ECF No. 2 ¶¶ 79(b), 88(b), 98(b), 109(b),
neither the Complaint nor the Notice of Removal expressly
stated that Plaintiffs sought relief in excess of $75, 000
for each class plaintiff. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 13-14;
see also ECF No. 20 at 4-5 (Defendant arguing
against remand but not addressing whether relief was
aggregated). Because the amount-in-controversy requirement
“cannot be met by aggregating separate claims of
individual class plaintiffs, ” Gilman v. Wheat,
First Sec., Inc., 896 F.Supp. 507, 509 (D. Md. 1995),
the Court determined that it had no basis to find that the
Plaintiffs' Complaint pleaded an individual damages
threshold exceeding $75, 000 for each class member or for the
individual Plaintiffs. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)
(requiring an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000 for
a court to exercise diversity jurisdiction). The Court,
therefore, granted Plaintiffs' motion to remand.
now argue that Plaintiffs essentially perpetrated a fraud on
the Court by having argued that the Complaint's ad damnum
clauses should read in the aggregate as to the putative class
members' damages. Defendants more particularly assert
that “because no class has been certified, any
reference to plaintiffs or plaintiffs' claims for relief
and damages in the Notice of Removal necessarily relates to
the only two plaintiffs in this case-Mr. and Mrs.
Hackett.” ECF No. 26-1 at 3. Accordingly, say
Defendants, Plaintiffs arguments “obscure[d]
actual demands for relief in the Complaint” and
“prevented the Court from ever considering the basis
for its jurisdiction set forth in the Notice of
Removal.” ECF No. 26-1 at 3; ECF No. 28 at 4.
is an extraordinary remedy, “only to be invoked upon a
showing of exceptional circumstances.” McLawhorn v.
John W. Daniel & Co., 924 F.2d 535, 538 (4th Cir.
1991); see also Stoyanov v. Mabus, No. DKC-07-1985,
2016 WL 4269039, at *1 (D. Md. Aug. 15, 2016). This is
particularly true for remand, where Congress has created an
“important policy” that “disfavors
prolonged interruptions to litigation created by litigating
which of two otherwise legitimate courts should resolve the
disputes between the parties.” Ellenburg v. Spartan
Motors Chassis, Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir. 2008).
pressing for this extraordinary remedy, Defendants speculate
that Plaintiffs somehow prevented the Court from
understanding the true import of the damages clause in the
Complaint and thus the grounds for removal. The Court cannot
see how Plaintiffs' advancing a non-frivolous argument,
which this ultimately Court credited, renders the process
“contaminated.” See Barlow, 772 F.3d at
1011. If this were true, then almost any decision that
follows contested motions would be vulnerable to the same
attack: that the decision itself was procured through
“misrepresentation.” Further, to credit
Defendants' arguments now would effectively give
Defendants that which they cannot have-reconsideration on the
merits. Because the Court finds no evidence that Plaintiffs
advanced any misrepresentations or otherwise
“contaminated” the process, the Court denies
Defendants' motion to vacate.