Federal Court Refuses to Send South Carolina Woman’s Slip and Fall Case Back to State Court Following Removal by Defendants

When filing a South Carolina premises liability claim against a store, restaurant, or other establishment, the plaintiff may have a choice of venue – that is, a choice between multiple courts in which his or her legal action can be filed. However, there may be some situations in which the plaintiff’s choice of venue may be overridden by the opposing party. One such situation is when both a federal court and a state court have jurisdiction over a case.

If the plaintiff chooses to file his or her suit in state court, the defendant can them “remove” the case to federal court. The only way to have the action moved back to state court after removal is for the plaintiff to show that the federal court is without jurisdiction.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case filed by a shopper against a supermarket and others, the plaintiff originally filed suit in the Bamberg County Court of Common Pleas, alleging that she had suffered significant injuries as a result of a trip and fall accident caused by the defendants’ negligence and seeking monetary compensation for her injuries. The defendants removed the plaintiff’s action to federal court, in response to which the plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case back to state court.

Decision of the Court

The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Orangeburg Division, denied the plaintiff’s motion. The court began its analysis by acknowledging that there are two types of original jurisdiction in the federal courts: cases involving a federal question and cases involving diversity of citizenship and meeting a statutorily set amount in controversy (currently $75,000). Here, no federal question was plead by either party, so the federal court could only have jurisdiction based on diversity.

The court went on to state that there was no dispute between the parties that the amount in controversy met the statutory threshold for diversity jurisdiction. Thus, the only real issue was whether there was true diversity of citizenship between the parties. According to the pleadings, the plaintiff was a citizen of South Carolina, the corporate defendant was a resident of both Delaware and Florida, and the remaining defendants were South Carolina residents. Under this scenario, there was not complete diversity of citizenship because the plaintiff and at least one defendant were residents of the same state.

However, the defendants pointed out that one defendant had been sued under the fictitious name; they argued that this defendant’s citizenship should be disregarded when determining diversity. The court agreed. The argument then became whether the plaintiff had fraudulently joined the remaining defendant for the purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction in federal court. Although the plaintiff denied that she had done this, the court found that the defendant in question was improperly joined and, thus, denied the plaintiff’s request to send the matter back to state court.

Call an Injury Attorney About Your Case

For a free consultation regarding your recent personal injury accident, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices in Greenville or Spartanburg at 864-582-5118. We will be glad to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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