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Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc. v. Gannon

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 16, 2017

Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA, Inc., and Medtronic, Inc., Plaintiffs,
v.
Patrick B. Gannon, Defendant.

          Jonathan S. Parritz, Melissa R. Muro LaMere, Wayne S. Moskowitz, and William Z. Pentelovitch, Maslon LLP, for Plaintiffs.

          Anthony Barrett Haller and Leigh Ann Buziak, Blank Rome LLP, One Logan Square, Mary L. Knoblauch, Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie PA, for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on two motions: Defendant’s Renewed Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue or, in the Alternative, to Transfer [Doc. No. 4] (“Motion to Dismiss”), and Plaintiffs’ Motion to Remand [Doc. No. 13].

         Defendant Patrick Gannon (“Gannon”) removed this case to federal court from Anoka County District Court where it was originally filed. Plaintiffs Medtronic, Inc., Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., and Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA, Inc. (collectively “Medtronic”) maintain that Gannon is bound to litigate this claim in Minnesota state court by a valid forum selection clause in his employment contract. The Court finds that the forum selection clause is binding and grants Medtronic’s Motion to Remand. Consequently, the Court does not reach Gannon’s Motion to Dismiss.

         II. STANDARD

         28 U.S.C. § 1441 generally provides a defendant in a state civil case the right to remove that case to federal district court, assuming the case could have been brought there originally. See Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 134 (2005). In turn, the plaintiff may move to have the case remanded if subject matter jurisdiction is lacking, or if some other defect makes removal improper. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The party seeking removal and opposing remand has the burden to demonstrate federal jurisdiction, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand. In re Bus. Men’s Assurance Co. of Am., 992 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir. 1993). “In addition to the notice of removal and its exhibits, to determine whether there is jurisdiction, the court may consider documents submitted after the notice of removal as well as those attached to subsequent motions.” In re Trusts, 241 F. Supp. 3d 905, 914 (D. Minn. 2017) (quoting Guggenberger v. Starkey Labs., Inc., No. 16-cv-2021, 2016 WL 7479542, at *5 (D. Minn. Dec. 29, 2016)); see also Willingham v. Morgan, 395 U.S. 402, 407-08, 407 n.3 (1969) (considering affidavits submitted after removal to determine that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction); Pudlowski v. St. Louis Rams, LLC, 829 F.3d 963, 964-65 (8th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (same).

         Courts to have considered the issue, including the Eighth Circuit, have concluded that removal in the face of a valid forum selection clause fixing venue in the state courts is the sort of defect that qualifies a case for remand. See, e.g., iNet Directories, LLC v. Developershed, Inc., 394 F.3d 1081, 1082 (8th Cir. 2005); Waters v. Browning-Ferris Indus., Inc., 252 F.3d 796, 797 (5th Cir. 2001); Karl Koch Erecting Co. v. N.Y. Convention Ctr. Dev. Corp., 838 F.2d 656, 659 (2d Cir. 1988). Eighth Circuit precedent requires any waiver of the right to remand to be “clear and unequivocal.” Weltman v. Silna, 879 F.2d 425, 427 (8th Cir. 1989).

         III. BACKGROUND

         On March 3, 2015, Gannon began an employment relationship with Medtronic by signing three documents: the Offer Letter, the Employee Agreement, and the Repayment Agreement. (See Notice of Removal, Ex. 1, pt. 1 [Doc. No. 1-1], at 49-63; pt. 2 [Doc. No. 1-2], at 278.)[1] Each document’s contents will be explored below, but at the outset it should be noted that the Employee Agreement contains a forum selection clause, mandating that litigation of disputes “arising out of or related to this Agreement” take place in Minnesota state court. (Id., pt. 1, at 57.) Gannon is a Massachusetts citizen, and has lived in Massachusetts during all times relevant to this Order. (Gannon Decl. [Doc. No. 8], at 1-2.)

         A. Procedural History

         In late 2016, Gannon left his employment with Medtronic and returned to his prior employer, DePuy Spine. (Notice of Removal, Ex. 1, pt. 1, at 23.) Medtronic brought suit in Anoka County District Court in the state of Minnesota, alleging that Gannon breached the restrictive covenant in the Employee Agreement and that DePuy Spine intentionally interfered with the contract between Gannon and Medtronic. (Id. at 43-45.) Medtronic later filed an Amended Complaint, which added an additional count against Gannon. (Id., pt. 2, at 156-84.) Count five of the Amended Complaint seeks damages for Gannon’s failure “to perform his repayment obligations under the Repayment Agreement” between Gannon and Medtronic. (Id. at 181.)[2]

         Gannon moved to dismiss count five of the Amended Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Id. at 258-74.) Before the state court could rule on that motion, however, the parties settled counts one through four of the Amended Complaint. (Id., pt. 3 [Doc. No. 1-3], at 115-123.) With DePuy Spine no longer part of the case, Gannon removed to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal [Doc. No. 1].)[3] He then renewed his motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, and further moved for dismissal based on improper venue or transfer to the federal district court for the District of Massachusetts. (See Def.’s Mem. in Supp. of Renewed Notice of Mot. to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue, or, in the Alternative, to Transfer [Doc. No. 6] (“Def.’s Mem. in Supp.”), at 1.) Medtronic moved to remand to Minnesota state court, ...


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