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Carpenter v. Wal-Mart Louisiana, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 24, 2015

MARY CARPENTER, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART LOUISIANA, LLC ET AL., SECTION

ORDER

SUSIE MORGAN, District Judge.

Before the Court are Plaintiff Mary Carpenter's (1) Motion to Remand, [1] and (2) Motion to Amend the Pleadings.[2] Both motions are opposed by Defendants Wal-Mart Louisiana, LLC, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust (collectively "the Wal-Mart Defendants").[3] For the reasons that follow, both motions are denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Mary Carpenter filed suit on September 5, 2014 in state court against the Wal-Mart Defendants and Mike Noel, alleged to be the supervising manager of the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 4001 Behman Place, New Orleans, Louisiana. Plaintiff seeks damages for personal injuries she allegedly sustained on June 13, 2014 as a result of slipping and falling in a puddle of rainwater on the floor of the Wal-Mart Supercenter.[4]

Plaintiff claims the Defendants were negligent in failing to exercise reasonable care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition.[5] With respect to Mike Noel, specifically, the petition makes the following allegations:

On information and belief, [Mike] Noel is the supervising manager of the business that Defendants operate at the Premises. As such, Mr. Noel owes duties to customers entering the Premises to protect and warn of hazards that he knows, or should know, about.... On information and belief, the puddle [Plaintiff slipped on] came from a source above the location. Defendants[, ] their agents, Mr. Noel, and others knew or should have known of this water source and the unreasonably dangerous puddle at the Premises, as water has previously leaked during rainstorms. Under Mr. Noel's direction or supervision, Defendants and their agents placed buckets in the aisles to collect rain water during prior storms.[6]

The petition asserts the Wal-Mart Defendants and Mike Noel, jointly and/or in solido, are liable for the damages Plaintiff sustained during the fall.

On October 16, 2014, the Wal-Mart Defendants removed this action to federal court.[7] In the notice of removal, the Wal-Mart Defendants assert Plaintiff improperly joined Mike Noel as a defendant, even though Plaintiff has no arguable claim for recovery against him under Louisiana law, to defeat diversity jurisdiction and keep this matter in state court.[8] The Wal-Mart Defendants contend no one named Mike Noel was an employee of the Wal-Mart Supercenter where the incident occurred at any time pertinent to this litigation.[9] The Wal-Mart Defendants argue that, "[b]ecause plaintiff has no arguable or reasonable basis on which to state a cause of action against the improperly named defendant, Mike Noel, the joining of this defendant and the alleged lack of diversity caused by his presence does not bar removal to this court."[10]

On November 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand this action to state court, arguing that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction because she has a viable claim against Defendant Mike Noel.[11] Plaintiff claims Noel owed Plaintiff an independent duty of care to exercise his supervision over the Wal-Mart Supercenter with reasonable care because (1) he negligently directed employees to correct the water intrusion problem at his store by placing buckets to collect rainwater, and (2) he had actual knowledge that water had accumulated on the floors of the store and that his store employees had not adequately dried the floors.[12] Additionally, Plaintiff argues there is a factual dispute as to whether Mike Noel was, in fact, the manager on duty.[13]

The Wal-Mart Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion to remand on January 2, 2015, arguing Plaintiff "fail[ed] to present a shred of competent evidence that any individual by the name of Mike Noel' exists and was employed as a manager at the Wal-Mart Supercenter" and again asserting that he was improperly joined to preclude removal.[14]

The Court ordered limited discovery for Plaintiff to learn the identity of the manager at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at the time of the incident and ordered both parties to file supplemental memoranda with respect to the motion to remand.[15] The Wal-Mart Defendants provided Plaintiff with the names and job titles of all members of management who worked at the Wal-Mart Supercenter during June of 2014, specifically identifying those who were at the store premises on the date of the incident.[16] No one by the name of "Mike Noel" or any similar name was included on this list.

Per the Court's order, Plaintiff filed a supplemental memorandum in support of her motion to remand in which she admits Mike Noel was not the store manager that committed the acts alleged in the petition.[17] Plaintiff learned from the Wal-Mart Defendants' discovery responses that the correct store managers who were on duty are Regina Lewis and Rashanda Holden. On the same day she filed her supplemental memorandum, Plaintiff also filed a motion to amend her pleadings to add Regina Lewis and Rashanda Holden as defendants in place of Mike Noel.[18] The Wal-Mart Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion to amend, arguing the purpose of her proposed amendment is solely to defeat diversity jurisdiction.[19] With all supplemental briefing completed, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and Motion to Amend are ripe for determination.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. Motion to ...


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