Federal Court Remands Car Accident to Tennessee State Court

Most east Tennessee car accident lawsuits are filed in state court. There are several procedural and strategic reasons for this. However, when a federal question is involved in the case or when there is diversity of citizenship between the parties, the defendant(s) may remove the case to federal court.

“Making a federal case out of it” tends to result in more costly, complex, and time-consuming litigation, at least from the plaintiff’s point of view. Thus, if there is any possibility of having the case returned to state court after removal, the plaintiff may be wise to consider this option.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs were a husband and wife who, along with their minor child, were allegedly injured in an accident in Chattanooga. They filed suit in state court against the driver whose negligence they alleged caused the crash. They also named the driver’s employer as a defendant in suit, asserting a claim for vicarious liability. The employer removed the state court action to federal court, invoking diversity jurisdiction (the plaintiffs were not from Tennessee).

After the defendant employer filed documentation indicating that the defendant driver was not working on the day of the accident, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their case against the employer by stipulation. The plaintiffs then sought to have their claims against the remaining defendant (the allegedly negligent driver) remanded back to state court.

The Court’s Ruling

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga granted the parties’ joint motion to remand the case back to state court. The court first noted that, although the notice of removal was required to be, and purportedly was, filed by both defendants, the driver was not actually served with the plaintiff’s complaint until the day that the case was removed to federal court by the employer. In fact, the defendant driver agreed with the plaintiff that remand was appropriate and stated that he, too, would prefer to litigate the case in state court.

Technically speaking, a motion to remand a case to state court based on a defect in the removal procedure (other than an alleged absence of subject matter jurisdiction) should be filed withing 30 days. Although this requirement was not complied with in the case at bar, the parties argued that an error in the removal procedure brought the case to federal court improperly and a failure to promptly move for remand should not, in and of itself, keep the case in federal court when both remaining parties preferred to have the case return to state court. The court agreed, holding that the interests of justice supported the remand requested by both the plaintiff and the remaining defendant.

Speak to an Experienced Tennessee Injury Lawyer

If you need to speak to a knowledgeable east Tennessee car accident attorney about a motor vehicle accident in which you or a member of your family has been hurt, call the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., at 865-524-5657 and ask for a free consultation in our Knoxville or Maryville offices. If you need us to, we can travel to your home or arrange for a weekend or evening appointment.

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