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March 14, 2018
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ORDER - This matter involves a dispute over a settlement agreement stemming from two cases in Indiana and Texas state courts over unpaid tortillas. The problem, according to Plaintiff Adam Gonzalez, is that the settlement agreement at issue requires that the parties' dispute be resolved in either Hamilton County Superior Court in Indiana or in the 191st Judicial District Court in Texas. The Southern District of Indiana is, of course, neither of those courts. Mr. Gonzalez therefore asks the Court to remand his lawsuit to Hamilton County Superior Court, where it was originally filed, in accordance with the terms of the settlement agreement. Defendant Landes Foods, LLC's ("Landes") response is that remand is inappropriate pursuant to the doctrine of unclean hands. But because that doctrine does not apply to this matter, the Court GRANTS Mr. Gonzalez's Motion to Remand to State Court. [Filing No. 15.] Facing a valid forum selection clause pointing to a state court forum, Landes's sole argument in opposition to remand is that Mr. Gonzalez may not rely upon the clause under the doctrine of unclean hands. But that doctrine has no application in this case under either federal or Indiana law, both of which generally enforce valid forum selection clauses. The Court therefore GRANTS Mr. Gonzalez's Motion to Remand, 15, and DENIES AS MOOT Mr. Gonzalez's earlier-filed Motion to Remand based upon Landes's initial notice of removal, 7. The Court REMANDS this matter to Hamilton County Superior Court. Mr. Gonzalez requests fees and costs incurred as a result of Landes's removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Any petition for fees and costs shall be filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(B) and shall be briefed according to the procedure in Local Rule 7-1(c)(2). (See Order). Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 3/14/2018.(APD)
April 4, 2018
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ORDER - On March 14, 2018, the Court remanded this matter to Hamilton County Superior Court pursuant to a settlement agreement signed between the parties to resolve two previous matters. [Filing No. 19.] Although the merits of this matter are now before that court, this Court retains the jurisdiction and authority to award attorney's fees pursuant to the fee-shifting provision in 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Wisconsin v. Hotline Indus., Inc., 236 F.3d 363, 365 (7th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff Adam Gonzalez has now moved for attorney's fees pursuant to that provision and the terms of the parties' settlement agreement. [Filing No. 21.] Defendant Landes Foods, LLC ("Landes") opposes Mr. Gonzalez's Motion, maintaining that it had an objectively reasonable basis to remove this matter to federal court. But Landes's removal violated the plain terms of the parties' settlement agreement, and the Court previously rejected its unclean hands argument--the only argument raised in opposition to remand--on no fewer than three equally determinative bases. The Court concludes, therefore, that Landes lacked a reasonable basis for removal. The Court agrees with Landes, however, that Mr. Gonzalez must support his fee request with additional documentation. For the reasons described below, the Court GRANTS IN PART Mr. Gonzalez's Motion for Attorney's Fees. Despite having signed an admittedly valid forum selection clause requiring this lawsuit to be litigated in Indiana state court, Landes removed it to federal court. The Court concludes that Landes lacked an objectively reasonable basis for doing so. The Court, in its discretion, therefore GRANTS IN PART Mr. Gonzalez's Motion for Attorney's Fees, 21, to the extent that the Court concludes that Mr. Gonzalez is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). However, the Court agrees with Landes that Mr. Gonzalez must provide additional documentation to support his claim to attorney's fees. The additional documentation should reflect the time spent on each of the categories listed in paragraph four of counsel's affidavit, [Filing No. 21-1 at 1]; review of both of defendant's Notices of Removal; preparation of both of plaintiff's Motions to Remand; review of defendant's Motion to Seal; preparation of a response to the Motion to Seal; review of the Court's Order on the Motion to Seal; and redaction of documents and providing a proposal to the defendant's attorney. Mr. Gonzalez's detailed fee petition shall be filed on or before April 18, 2018. (See Order). Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 4/4/2018. (APD)