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Anderson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 8, 2019

Patricia Anderson; Thomas Anderson, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted November 7, 2018 Seattle, Washington

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington D.C. No. 3:15-cv-05159-RBL Ronald B. Leighton, District Judge, Presiding

          Mark D. Herman (argued), Covington & Burling LLP, Washington, D.C., for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Gregory Scott Worden (argued) and Donna M. Chamberlin, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, Seattle, Washington, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Before: M. Margaret McKeown and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges, and Susan R. Bolton, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Removal

         The panel affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to remand to state court, and held that the defendant insurer timely removed an insurance coverage case to federal court.

         The panel held that receipt of an initial pleading by a statutorily designated agent did not begin the thirty-day removal clock under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1), and it was actual receipt by the insurer that started the removal clock. Applying this rule, the panel concluded that the insurer timely removed the case.

         In a contemporaneously filed memorandum disposition, the panel affirmed in part and vacated in part the remainder of the judgment, and remanded for further proceedings.

          OPINION

          McKEOWN, Circuit Judge.

         Patricia Anderson and Thomas Anderson's single-car accident in 1998 began a saga of litigation culminating in this appeal. Little of the tragic history involving nine different trial and appellate proceedings is relevant to this opinion, in which we determine only whether State Farm timely removed the case to federal court.[1] Addressing an issue of first impression in this circuit, we join the Fourth Circuit in holding that receipt of an initial pleading by a statutorily designated agent does not begin the thirty-day removal clock under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1), and that it was instead actual receipt by State Farm that started the removal clock. See Elliott v. Am. States Ins. Co., 883 F.3d 384, 394 (4th Cir. 2018). Applying this rule, we conclude that State Farm timely removed the case.

         The Andersons sued State Farm in Washington state court. Because State Farm is an out-of-state (or "foreign") insurer, state law designates Washington's Insurance Commissioner as State Farm's statutory agent. RCW 48.05.200(1). To serve legal process on State Farm, the Andersons served the Commissioner, who forwarded the complaint to State Farm's designated recipient. RCW 4.28.080(7)(a), 48.05.200(1)-(2). The Andersons served the Commissioner on February 9, 2015, and State Farm received the forwarded complaint four days later, on February 13. On March 16, State Farm removed the case to federal court.

         The parties agree on how to count to thirty, but they disagree over when to begin counting. According to the Andersons, removal was untimely because the thirty-day removal clock began on February 9, when the Commissioner received the complaint. State Farm contends removal was timely as calculated from February 13, when the forwarded copy of the complaint reached State Farm's designated recipient.[2] The district court agreed with State Farm and denied the Andersons' motion to remand. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ยง ...


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