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CH Robinson Worldwide, Inc. v. Rona Sales, LLC

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 4, 2019

CH ROBINSON WORLDWIDE, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
RONA SALES, LLC, d/b/a Rosewood North America Defendant.

          Timothy W. Fafinski, Corporate Counsel, Minnesota 55359, for Plaintiff.

          Craig Edgar Shriver, Law Office of Craig E. Shriver, Minnesota 55110, for Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DAVID T. SCHULTZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant RoNA Sales, LLC, removed this action from Hennepin County district court, invoking federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiff CH Robinson Worldwide, Inc., now moves to remand. Because CH Robinson's Complaint does not state a federal claim on its face, the Court recommends the action be remanded.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Although the parties disagree about many of the facts in this case, those relevant to the Court's decision are straightforward. RoNA and CH Robinson had an ongoing business relationship in which CH Robinson provided transportation-related services[1] for RoNA's products. Notice of Removal Ex. B (Compl.), at ¶ 2, Docket No. 1. As part of this relationship, Dan Cook, RoNA's president, signed a credit application containing a forum selection clause that limited lawsuits to state district court. Fafinksi Decl. Ex. D (Business Credit Application), Docket No. 7. A dispute arose between the parties after Walmart, RoNA's customer, claimed products were not being delivered. Cook Decl. Ex. D, Docket No. 13; Wilharm Decl. ¶ 6, Docket No. 8. As part of the dispute RoNA withheld payment on CH Robinson's invoices. Cook Decl. ¶ 10; Notice of Removal Ex. B, at ¶ 6.

         CH Robinson served RoNA with a three-count complaint alleging (1) breach of contract, (2) account stated, and (3) unjust enrichment, all stemming from RoNA's unpaid invoices. Id. at ¶¶ 8-18. RoNA subsequently removed the action, citing federal question jurisdiction as the basis for removal because one or more of CH Robinson's claims allegedly arise under 49 U.S.C. §§ 13101-14916.[2]

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         In both their briefs and at the motion hearing, the parties focused their arguments on the applicability of the forum selection clause. But there is a more fundamental issue: under the well-pleaded complaint rule, there is no federal question in CH Robinson's Complaint to bestow subject matter jurisdiction on this Court.[3]

         I. Legal Standard

         Generally, Defendants to a civil action brought against them in state court may remove the case to federal court if it could have originally been brought there. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction. Cent. Iowa Power Coop. v. Midwest Indep. Transmission Sys. Operator, Inc., 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th Cir. 2009). Federal courts must remember that they are “courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013). Accordingly, courts should “resolve al doubts about federal jurisdiction in favor of remand.” Dahl v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 478 F.3d 965, 968 (8th Cir. 2007).

         II. Lack of Federal Question Jurisdiction

         In its Notice of Removal, RoNA invokes federal question jurisdiction as the basis for this Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Removal based upon federal question jurisdiction is generally governed by the well pleaded complaint rule, which examines the facial allegations of a complaint to determine whether they “affirmatively allege a federal claim.” Beneficial Nat'l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 6 (2003). The plaintiff is master of the complaint and may “generally avoid removal to federal court by alleging only state law claims.” Johnson v. MFA Petroleum Co., 701 F.3d 243, 247 (8th Cir. 2012). A federal defense to a ...


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