Last week, we told you about our recent victory in a Nebraska federal court, where we successfully argued that our nursing home client’s case belonged in state court. Around the same time the Nebraska court decided that case, a Texas federal court handed the firm a similar victory and ordered the insurance company defendant to pay the fees incurred in preparing the motion to remand and briefing.
Our client, New Life Assembly of God, is a non-profit that operates a church in the small West Texas town of Pampa. A storm damaged the church in June 2014. Church Mutual Insurance Company and adjuster Steven Buettner wrongfully denied the claim.
We filed suit in state court on New Life’s behalf. Like the defendants in the Nebraska case, Church Mutual removed the case to federal court, arguing that New Life improperly joined Buettner as a defendant in order to avoid federal jurisdiction.
We filed a motion to remand. When Church Mutual responded, it made its improper joinder argument and also claimed that our motion was untimely. We filed a reply, and the very next day, Judge Mary Lou Robinson of the Northern District of Texas granted the motion to remand. She not only rejected Church Mutual’s removal arguments, but also found that the insurer lacked an objectively reasonable basis for removing the case and ordered it to pay the reasonable and necessary attorneys’ fees incurred in filing and pursuing the motion to remand. New Life’s case will proceed in state court in Gray County, where it belongs.
Judge Robinson’s ruling in the New Life case is especially significant because it may make insurance company lawyers think twice before removing a case – driving up litigation costs and inflating their own fees – when they know there is no basis for removal and that the court may hold them accountable for the improper removal.