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Cottingham & Butler Claim Services, Inc. v. Conduent Care Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

April 11, 2018

COTTINGHAM & BUTLER CLAIM SERVICES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CONDUENT CAR SOLUTIONS, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LINDA R. READE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is Plaintiff Cottingham & Butler Claim Services, Inc.'s (“Cottingham”) “Motion for Remand”[1] (“Motion”) (docket no. 4).

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 31, 2017, Cottingham filed a “Petition at Law” (“Petition”) (docket no. 2) in the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Iowa (“Iowa District Court”). In the Petition, Cottingham asserts a claim for breach of contract against Defendant Conduent Car Solutions, LLC (“Conduent”). See Petition at 1-3. On December 19, 2017, Conduent filed a Notice of Removal (docket no. 1), bringing the case before the court. On December 21, 2017, Cottingham filed the Motion. On December 29, 2017, Conduent filed an Answer (docket no. 5). On January 2, 2018, Conduent filed a Resistance (docket no. 6). On January 3, 2018, Cottingham filed a Reply (docket no. 7). Neither party has requested oral argument and the court finds that oral argument is unnecessary. The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

         III. ANALYSIS

         In the Motion, Cottingham requests that the court remand the instant action to the Iowa District Court based on an Agreement signed by the parties, which contains a forum selection clause. The forum selection clause provides that venue is only proper “in the courts of the State of Iowa.” Motion at 2. Cottingham contends that, based on the Agreement, venue is only proper in the state courts of Iowa. Id. Conduent argues that the forum selection clause does not “restrict[] litigation between the parties to state courts in the State of Iowa.” Resistance at 2 (emphasis omitted). Rather, Conduent contends that “[t]he broad language in the Agreement allows [the] parties to file suit in either the Iowa District Court or the federal courts of the State of Iowa.” Id. at 4.

         A. Applicable Law

         “A defendant . . . desiring to remove any civil action from a State court shall file in the district court of the United States for the district and division within which such action is pending a notice of removal . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a). Parties may contractually waive the right to remove a case by incorporating a forum selection clause. See iNet Directories, LLC v. Developershed, Inc., 394 F.3d 1081, 1082 (8th Cir. 2005); see also RK Dixon Co. v. Dealer Mktg. Servs., Inc., 284 F.Supp.2d 1204, 1208 (S.D. Iowa 2003). “A forum selection clause is a manifestation of the parties' expectations of where any resultant litigation will take place.” RK Dixon, 284 F.Supp.2d at 1209.

         The court “has the inherent power to remand [a case] to state court in order to give effect to [a] forum-selection clause[], even if subject-matter jurisdiction exists and there has been no ‘defect' in removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).” Medtronic, Inc. v. Endologix, Inc., 530 F.Supp.2d 1054, 1056 n.1 (D. Minn. 2008); see also Foster v. Chesapeake Ins. Co., 933 F.2d 1207, 1214-16 (3d Cir. 1991) (finding that remand based on a forum selection clause was lawful even though not specifically authorized by § 1447(c)); McDermott Int'l, Inc. v. Lloyds Underwriters of London, 944 F.2d 1199, 1203 (5th Cir. 1991) (noting that remand was appropriate in a case involving a forum selection clause). “Forum selection clauses are prima facie valid and are enforced unless they are unjust or unreasonable or invalid for reasons such as fraud or overreaching. They are enforceable unless they would actually deprive the opposing party of his fair day in court.” M.B. Rests., Inc. v. CKE Rests., Inc., 183 F.3d 750, 752 (8th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted).

         B. Analysis

         Conduent does not allege that the forum selection clause is unjust, unreasonable or invalid for any reason and, upon review, the court finds no basis upon which to so find. As such, the court need only consider whether the clause waives Conduent's right to remove the case to federal court. The Agreement's forum selection clause states:

This agreement and the performance hereunder, shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Iowa and of the United States (without giving effect to its conflicts of law principles, which might otherwise be applicable). Further, in the unlikely event that court proceedings should arise from this agreement, any such actions or proceedings shall be maintained only in the courts of the State of Iowa. Such courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction over any such proceedings brought by either party.

         See Petition at 7. Cottingham argues that the phrase “in the courts of the State of Iowa” precludes removal of the action to federal court. Conduent contends that the phrase “in the courts of the State of Iowa” also ...


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