The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge
Fourth-party plaintiffs, Medford Village East Associates, LLC ("MVE"), and Stephen D. Samost,*fn1 filed a fourth-party amended complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey on April 23, 2009. As part of the amended complaint, MVE named as fourth-party defendants Pennoni Associates, Inc. ("Pennoni") and sought engineering plans and other work product possessed by Pennoni. On January 11, 2011, Pennoni filed its Notice of Removal in this Court. MVE now moves to remand the case to the New Jersey Superior Court.
For the following reasons, MVE's Motion to Remand is granted, and this case is to be remanded to the Superior Court.
This Court is asked to exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the underlying claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1338. Pennoni removed this action from the state court on the basis of a purported federal question raised by MVE concerning copyrights.
The underlying basis for this litigation is a dispute, several years old, over a substantial property in Medford Township, New Jersey. The history of this case involves numerous parties, real estate agreements, engineering plan proposals, and development approvals, as well as extensive litigation in New Jersey state court, federal bankruptcy court, and, now, the federal district court. For purposes of the present matter, this Court will focus primarily upon the procedural history between MVE and Pennoni. Accordingly, facts involving other parties and issues in this global litigation will only be recited to the extent necessary to address this matter.
MVE owned a 280-acre property in Medford Township and agreed to sell it to the Township, who, in turn, agreed to sell portions of the property to different parties. Pennoni contracted with one of the parties involved in the property transaction to perform engineering services, including the modification of engineering plans and data. During the course of the real estate transactions, Pennoni received the engineering plans and assets of other companies or firms involved in the property's ongoing development in order to perform its work.
In or around early 2008, litigation ensued in the Superior Court of New Jersey between several parties concerning the property and related dealings. In March 2008, Lexon Insurance Company ("Lexon"), a defendant in the case, filed a third-party complaint against MVE. About two months later, MVE answered Lexon's complaint and filed a fourth-party complaint, in which Pennoni was named as one of the fourth-party defendants. In light of pending bankruptcy proceedings, MVE reserved the right to assert fourth-party claims against several parties including Pennoni and described those claims in vague contingent language. On the Superior Court's docket, however, a notation dated November 29, 2008, states "CRT INIT TO DSM," suggesting that the Superior Court initiated the dismissal of MVE's claims against Pennoni to the extent the first complaint could be said to have alleged any. (Pl. Mot., Exhs. 31 & 41). The parties appear to be in agreement, or at least do not dispute, that the complaint was dismissed by a ministerial act of the clerk of the court pursuant to state court rules obligating plaintiffs to effect service and otherwise prosecute claims.
Despite the clerk's entry, or perhaps because of it, on March 18, 2009, the Judge of the Superior Court then presiding over the matter, whose authority presumably exceeds that of the clerk, entered a Management Order enumerating the following directives:
1. To the extent that any of the pleadings of any party have been stricken through application of a Notice from the Court, those pleadings are hereby reinstated without the need for any further filing.
2. Any amendments to pleadings or responses to existing pleadings shall be filed by April 23, 2009.
. . . . 7. Service of documents on any party may be effected by e-mail.
(Pl. Mot., Exh. 34, at 2). In a Revised Management Order dated April 13, 2009, the same Judge of the Superior Court ...