United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
Morris United States District Court Judge
Eddie Michael Ingman filed this action in Montana's Eight
Judicial District Court, Cascade County on July 7, 2017.
(Doc. 3.) Plaintiff named as defendants FCA U.S. LLC, Grimes
Buick-GMC, Inc., and Does 1 through 100. Id. FCA
U.S. removed this action to federal court on August 10, 2017,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1452. (Doc. 1.)
filed a Motion to Remand, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A.
§§ 1441, 1447 on September 1, 2017. (Doc. 7.)
Plaintiff additionally moved for sanctions and costs,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1446(a), 1447(c), and
Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. Id. Defendants filed a Motion to
Transfer to the Southern District of New York, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1412 on September 14, 2017. (Doc. 22.) The
Court conducted a hearing on November 2, 2017. (Doc. 45.)
LLC (subsequently known as Old Carco LLC) and twenty-four of
its affiliated entities (collectively “Debtors”)
filed for bankruptcy in April 2009. (Doc. 1 at 2.) The
Debtors and FCA U.S. entered into a Master Transaction
Agreement (“MTA”) under which FCA U.S. purchased
substantially all of Debtors' assets and assumed certain
liabilities. Id. at 3. The United States Bankruptcy
Court for the Southern District of New York entered an order
approving an asset sale to FCA U.S. (“Sale
Order”) under the terms of the MTA on June 1, 2009.
Sale Order by the bankruptcy court makes clear that FCA U.S.
assumed Chrysler's notification and remedy obligations
pertaining to pre-existing safety defects in vehicles. (Doc.
1-2 at 21.) In an amendment to the MTA (“Amendment No.
4”), FCA U.S. agreed to assume liability for all
product liability claims that may arise on or after closing
and are not barred by the statute of limitations. Amendment
No. 4 specifically excluded any product liability claims that
alleged “exemplary or punitive damages.”
(Doc. 1 at 5.) The bankruptcy court approved Amendment No. 4
on November 19, 2009. Id.
alleges serious injuries from a single vehicle incident on
March 5, 2017. Plaintiff was driving a 2001 Chrysler Jeep
Wrangler Sahara/TJ Sahara on U.S. Highway 89 in Cascade
County, Montana. (Doc. 3 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that FCA
US's predecessor, Chrysler Group LLC, defectively
designed or manufactured the vehicle. Id. at 6.
Plaintiff alleges that sometime after the bankruptcy sale,
FCA U.S. knew or should have known, that the vehicle had not
been designed, manufactured, sole, inspected, supplied,
modified, and/or provided in a reasonable manner.
Id. at 8. Plaintiff further alleges that after the
bankruptcy sale, FCA U.S. negligently, carelessly, and/or
maliciously failed to ensure that consumers had been warned
of the dangers associated with the design of the vehicle,
including steps to remedy and/or recall the product.
Id. at 8. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages against
FCA U.S. based on FCA US's alleged post-bankruptcy sale
conduct. Id. at 10.
U.S. filed a Notice of Removal on August 10, 2017. (Doc. 1.)
Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand on September 1, 2017.
Plaintiff asserts that the punitive damages provision in
Amendment No. 4 to the Sale Order addresses only claims that
arise from FCA's conduct before the bankruptcy sale.
(Doc. 7.) Plaintiff contends that his punitive damages claim
relies solely on FCA's conduct that occurred after the
sale. Plaintiff seeks to have this case remanded to
Montana's Eight Judicial District Court based on this
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claims
alleged against the Defendants. (Doc. 7 at 2.)
U.S. filed a Motion to Transfer Venue on September 14, 2017.
(Doc. 22.) FCA U.S. seeks to transfer this matter to the
United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York, for referral to the bankruptcy court. FCA U.S. believes
that the bankruptcy court sits in the best position to
interpret and enforce the meaning of Amendment No. 4. (Doc.
22 at 11.) FCA U.S. further contends that it would serve the
interest of justice to allow the bankruptcy court to
interpret its own order.
defendant may remove an action from state court if it
originally could have been brought in federal court. 28
U.S.C. § 1441. A court must remand a case removed from a
state court “if at any time before final judgment it
appears that the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). This Court
first must determine whether it possesses subject matter
jurisdiction. Federal courts operate “under an
independent obligation to examine their own
jurisdiction.” Hernandez v. Campbell, 204 F.3d
861, 865 (9th Cir. 2000). A federal court may not entertain
an action over which it lacks jurisdiction. Id.
Court faces a Motion to Remand competing with a Motion to
Transfer Venue. This Court lacks power to transfer a case
without first having determined that it possesses
jurisdiction. The Complaint raise no federal question under
§ 1331. The allegations in the Complaint likewise
demonstrate an absence of the complete diversity requirement
for jurisdiction under § 1332.
U.S. argues that this Court remains free to rule “in
any order” when faced with the competing motion to
remand and the motion to transfer venue. Another court in
this District, Simonsen v. Tsunami Capital, LLC,
2009 WL 368651 (D. Mont. 2009), faced a similar quandary.
Simonsen determined that it should not exercise
discretionary jurisdiction. The court instead recommended
that the matter be remanded to state court thereby rendering
moot the motion to change venue. Id. at 7.
Significant overlap exists between these two issues in this
case. The Court agrees with Simonsen, however, that