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Walker v. Progressive County Mutual Ins. Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 5, 2015

BRENDA WALKER,
v.
PROGRESSIVE COUNTY MUTUAL INS. CO., HYDRO SPY, L.L.C., IRA NELSON AND CENTURY SURETY COMPANY, Section:

ORDER

NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN, District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Brenda Walker's ("Plaintiff") "Motion for Entry of Final Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 54(B)."[1] Having considered the motion, the memoranda in support and opposition, the record, and the applicable law, the Court will deny the motion.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

This litigation arises out of a multi-vehicle collision that occurred on July 17, 2013 between a commercial truck, a Regional Transit Authority bus driven by Plaintiff, and three other vehicles.[2] The commercial truck was owned by Hydro Spy, L.L.C. ("Hydro Spy") and driven by Ira Nelson ("Nelson").[3] Plaintiff alleges that she suffered multiple injuries as a result of the collision.[4]

There is a total of fourteen pending lawsuits arising from this accident, brought by nineteen plaintiffs.[5] Thirteen of those lawsuits are currently pending in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana.[6] Plaintiff is a defendant in all thirteen lawsuits pending in state court, named either personally or through her employer.[7] Ira Nelson is a named defendant, either personally or through his employer, in thirteen of the cases (including this one) and is a plaintiff in one state court lawsuit.[8] This is the only suit where Century Surety Company ("Century"), the removing Defendant, is named. The parties have not indicated whether the thirteen other cases that are pending in various sections of Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, have yet been consolidated.

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed a petition in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana against Progressive County Mutual Insurance Company ("Progressive") on October 24, 2013.[9] On or about June 26, 2014, she amended her petition to add Century, Hydro Spy, and Nelson as defendants.[10] Century is the alleged commercial excess liability carrier of Hydro Spy and Nelson.[11] Century removed the case to federal court on August 8, 2014 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, as Plaintiff is a Louisiana citizen and defendants are foreign insurance companies.[12] On September 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, "[13] wherein she sought to add the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development ("DOTD") as a party defendant. On September 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Remand."[14] Oral argument was heard on both motions on October 1, 2014.[15] The Court denied the Motion to Remand on October 3, 2014.[16]

On October 20, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint.[17] In that Order, the Court weighed the four factors set out in Hensgens v. Deere & Co . [18] and determined that, as a matter of law, Plaintiff would not be prejudiced if her second request for leave to amend her complaint was denied. First, the Court determined as a matter of fact that "the timing and circumstances of Plaintiff's motion to amend suggest that, at the very least, part of her purpose in amending her petition is to defeat federal jurisdiction."[19] Plaintiff failed to add DOTD as a defendant in her original suit, and again when she amended her Complaint to add Century as a defendant.[20] Instead, Plaintiff sought to add DOTD as a defendant only days after the case was removed.[21] The Court additionally found that Plaintiff failed to state a good faith, viable claim against DOTD.[22]

Second, the Court found that Plaintiff was dilatory in seeking leave to amend because "Walker herself claims that she first became aware of potential claims against DOTD upon receipt of the May 29, 2014 amended petition filed by Nelson. Still, she filed an amended petition in June 2014 that failed to add DOTD as a defendant, and only sought to add DOTD after the case was removed."[23] The Court found that Plaintiff failed to preserve her claims against DOTD and that she cannot now be heard to complain of significant injury when it is self-inflicted."[24]

Next, the Court found that, as a matter of fact, Plaintiff would not be prejudiced by a denial of leave to amend because she failed to file an action in state court to preserve her claims against DOTD before those claims prescribed.[25] The Court additionally found that DOTD was not an indispensable party to the litigation.[26] Finally, the Court determined that the cases pending in state court had not yet been consolidated, and in fact were pending in different sections of the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans.[27] Additionally, Plaintiff is a plaintiff in the present case only, and DOTD is a defendant in only one of the cases pending in state court.[28]

The Court concluded that:

On one hand, the Court is aware that thirteen related cases are pending in state court, and accordingly the risk of wasting judicial economy and the possibility of inconsistent judgments is substantial. On the other hand, however, applying the Hensgens factors, the Court concludes that the proposed amendment is primarily for the purpose of defeating federal jurisdiction, Walker was dilatory in naming DOTD as a defendant, and Walker will not be prejudiced by denying the amendment. Furthermore, the Court is aware that Century is a defendant in the present case only, that Walker is a plaintiff in the present case only, and that DOTD is a defendant in only one of the cases pending in state court. Accordingly the claim here is, to some extent, severable from the other lawsuits.
The Court notes that Walker has failed to state a claim against DOTD in her proposed amended petition and, even if she has, she has no persuasive explanation as to why she failed to name DOTD before the running of prescription. "To deprive the existing defendant of its right to a federal forum by the joinder of a party against whom the plaintiffs have no viable claim for relief would not be equitable in the least." Moreover, Walker has not cited, nor can the Court locate, any authority for allowing a diversity-destroying amendment where the only Hensgens factor favoring such amendment is the possibility of parallel litigation. Parallel litigation in and of itself does not ...

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