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NH Special Events, LLC v. Franklin Exhibits Management Group, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 31, 2019

NH Special Events, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
Franklin Exhibits Management Group, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff NH Special Events, LLC's motion to remand. ECF No. 13. The motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the Court remands this case.

         I. Background

         In August 2018, Plaintiff entered into a license agreement with Defendant Franklin Exhibits Management Group, LLC to allow Defendant to display an Air Force One replica at the National Harbor. ECF No. 13-1 at 2. The agreement was terminated on February 8, 2019, however, Defendant failed to remove the display. Id.

         In March 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for wrongful detainer in the District Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, seeking possession of the premises and damages. ECF No. 1-1 at 2. The Sheriff's Office (“Sheriff”) attempted service of the summons and complaint on Defendant and, after it was unable to serve the summons, affixed a copy of the summons and complaint to the property and mailed a copy to Defendant. Id. at 4; ECF No. 1-4 at 25.

         The district court scheduled a trial for April 11, 2019, but Defendant failed to appear. ECF No. 13-1 at 3. As a result, the district court entered a default judgment against the Defendant granting possession of the property to Plaintiff but did not assess damages. Id. Plaintiff's counsel also wrote to Defendant on May 15, 2019, stating Plaintiff's intention to take possession of the property in accordance with the judgment. ECF No. 17-4 at 1. A day after receiving this letter, Defendant “conducted a Maryland Case Search” and claims to have first become aware of the Complaint. ECF No. 17 at 5.

         Defendant subsequently moved to vacate the default judgment. ECF No. 1-1 at 10. The court granted the motion on June 20, 2019 in open court and with both parties in attendance. ECF No. 13-1 at 3-4. Defendant accepted service of the complaint at the hearing and noted removal the following day. Id. at 4; ECF No. 1. Plaintiff thereafter moved to remand. ECF No. 13.

         II. Standard of Review

         This Court, as one of limited jurisdiction, may hear only civil cases that implicate a federal question or are brought pursuant to the Court's diversity jurisdiction. Exxon Mobile Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). Diversity jurisdiction is proper where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and no plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Johnson v. Am. Towers, LLC, 781 F.3d 693, 704 (2015). Where diversity jurisdiction is proper, a defendant may remove the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994).

         Because removal “raises significant federalism concerns, [courts] must strictly construe removal jurisdiction.” Mulcahey, 29 F.3d at 151; see also Cohn v. Charles, 857 F.Supp.2d 544, 547 (D. Md. 2012) (“Doubts about the propriety of removal are to be resolved in favor of remanding the case to state court.”). The defendant, as the removing party, bears the burden of “demonstrating the court's jurisdiction over the matter.” See Md. Stadium Auth. v. Ellerbe Becket, Inc., 407 F.3d 255, 260 (4th Cir. 2005); Strawn v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296 (4th Cir. 2008).

         III. Analysis

         28 U.S.C. § 1446 governs the procedure for removal. The statute states:

The notice of removal of a civil action or proceeding shall be filed within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or proceeding is based, or within 30 days after the service of summons upon the defendant if such initial pleading has then been filed ...

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