In late April, a district court in New York granted plaintiff Utica Mutual Insurance Company’s (“Utica”) motion to remand, implicating the voluntary-involuntary removal rule. Utica originally filed a breach of contract lawsuit against defendant American Re-Insurance Company (“American”). The lawsuit also named as co-defendant, Transatlantic Reinsurance Company (“Transatlantic”), a corporation domiciled and with a principal place of business in New York. American was initially unable to remove the case to federal court due to lack of diversity among the co-defendants.
A New York state court severed the claims against American and Transatlantic, thereby eliminating the diversity impediment for removal. Utica argued that “removability can only be created by Utica’s voluntary conduct,” and not by the court’s involuntary severance order. American argued that the voluntary-involuntary rule’s fraudulent misjoinder exception applied, as Transatlantic was improperly joined. The court found—citing second circuit precedent—that an action was not removable when non-diverse parties were made diverse by a court’s involuntary severance order. The voluntary-involuntary rule was designed to “protect against the possibility that a party might secure a reversal on appeal in state court of the non-diverse party’s dismissal, producing renewed lack of complete diversity in the state court action….in order to be removable, be one which could have been brought in federal court in the first instance.” The case turned on whether the order was final, and not simply voluntary.
As Utica’s severance order appeal was not yet final, a requirement under the voluntary-involuntary rule, the district court remanded the case back to the New York State Supreme Court. The court noted that American’s fraudulent misjoinder claim was “time barred” as defendants failed to file within thirty days after receipt. The court also noted that American understood “Utica’s motivation for joining Transatlantic and [American] as defendants in the same action,” an admission that went against their claim for fraudulent misjoinder.
Utica Mutual Ins. Co. v. American Re-Ins. Co., No. 6:14-CV-1558 (USDC N.D.N.Y. Apr. 27, 2015).