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Joiner v. Loutzenhiser

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

August 11, 2017

ALVIN JOINER AND BARBARA JOINER
v.
BRYAN LEE LOUTZENHISER, LL TRANS, INC., AND UNITED CASUALTY COMPANY

          RULING REGARDING UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT OF INTERVENTION AND MOTION TO SUBSTITUTE PLEADING

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court is: (1) an Unopposed Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint of Intervention (the “Motion for Leave”);[1] and (2) a Motion to Substitute Pleading (the “Motion to Substitute”)[2] filed by BITCO General Insurance Company (“BITCO”). For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion to Substitute and the Motion for Leave are GRANTED.

         I. Background

         This is a civil action involving claims for damages as a result of injuries sustained by Plaintiffs, Alvin Joiner and Barbara Joiner (“Plaintiffs”), from an automobile accident on or about August 25, 2016. The matter was removed by United Financial Casualty Company (“United”) on April 4, 2017 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332.[3]

         Prior to removal, BITCO filed a Petition of Intervention in the state court proceeding.[4]Therein, BITCO alleged that at the time of Mr. Joiner's injury, “he was allegedly in the course and scope of his employment with Robert W. Wall, Inc.” (“Wall”) and that Wall “was insured for worker's compensation coverage” through BITCO.[5] BITCO further alleged that it “was called upon to pay and did respond in payments of worker's compensation benefits and medical expenses to plaintiff.”[6] Accordingly, BITCO sought to intervene “to become a party to this litigation and join with plaintiff in asserting his claim against” defendants and prayed for a judgment in its favor “against plaintiff and defendants jointly and in solido, decreeing that intervenor be paid by preference and priority out of any judgment rendered herein in favor of plaintiff, all sums which intervenor may have paid under the Louisiana Worker's Compensation Statute….”[7]

         On June 30, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an Unopposed Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint for Damages.[8] Therein, Plaintiffs asserted that “[it] is now believed that Bryan Lee Loutzenhiser was not employed by LL Trans, Inc., but may have been employed by Zane Huffman d/b/a Z2K Trucking.”[9] On July 3, 2017, Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for Damages was filed, substituting Zane Huffman d/b/a Z2K Trucking in the place of LL Trans and alleging that Zane Huffman d/b/a Z2K Trucking is “a resident of the full age of majority and domiciled in Kiowa County, Kansas….”[10] Like Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, BITCO seeks to file an Amended Complaint of Intervention specifying Zane Huffman d/b/a Z2K Trucking as a defendant.[11] BITCO asserts that prior to filing its Motion for Leave, it “obtained consent for the filing and granting of the motion from all parties having an interest to oppose.”[12]

         II. Law and Analysis

         BITCO does not specify whether it seeks to intervene as of right under Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a) or permissively under Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b). As set forth herein, because BITCO is an intervenor of right, an analysis of permissive intervention pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b) is unnecessary.

         A. Timeliness of the Motion to Intervene

         “Whether leave to intervene is sought under section (a) or (b) of Rule 24, the application must be timely.” Stallworth v. Monsanto Co., 558 F.2d 257, 263 (5th Cir. 1977). The timeliness of a motion to intervene is a matter committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. McDonald v. E.J. Lavino, 430 F.2d 1065, 1071 (5th Cir. 1970). Timeliness “is not limited to chronological considerations but ‘is to be determined from all the circumstances.'” Stallworth v. Monsanto Co., 558 F.2d 257, 263 (5th Cir. 1977). The Fifth Circuit has set forth four factors to consider when evaluating whether a motion to intervene is timely: (1) the length of time during which the proposed intervenor should have known of his interest in the case before he petitioned to intervene; (2) the extent of prejudice that those parties already in the litigation would suffer “as a result of the would-be intervenor's failure to apply for intervention as soon as he actually knew or reasonably should have known of his interest in the case;” (3) the extent of prejudice to the proposed intervenor if he is not allowed to intervene; and (4) the existence of “unusual circumstances militating either for or against a determination that the application is timely.” Ross v. Marshall, 426 F.3d 745, 754 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing Stallworth v. Monsanto Co., 558 F.2d 257, 264-266 (5th Cir. 1977)).

         Here, Plaintiffs filed suit on February 21, 2017. BITCO filed a Petition of Intervention in the state court proceedings in March, 2017 and filed the instant Motion for Leave on July 20, 2017.[13] No party has asserted BITCO's intervention is untimely. A scheduling conference is currently set for August 24, 2017, and the parties' Revised Status Report is due by August 10, 2017.[14] Accordingly, there is no scheduling order currently in place and this litigation remains in its early stages. Considering the lack of opposition, the procedural posture of this suit, and the extent of prejudice to BITCO if it is not allowed to intervene (discussed below), BITCO's intervention is timely.

         B. Intervention of Right

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a)(2), a party is entitled to intervene in a pending lawsuit when: (1) the motion to intervene is timely; (2) the potential intervenor asserts an interest that is related to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action in which he seeks to intervene; (3) the potential intervenor is so situated that disposition of the case may as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect his interest; and (4) the parties already in the action do not adequately protect the potential intervenor's interest. Ford v. City of Huntsville, 242 F.3d 235, 239 (5th Cir. 2001). As discussed above, BITCO's intervention is timely.

         Pursuant to the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Act, “[i]f either the employee…or the employer or insurer brings suit against a third person…he shall forthwith notify the other in writing of such fact and of the name of the court in which the suit is filed, and such other may intervene as party plaintiff in the suit.” La. R.S. § 23:1102(A). “Although the statute provides that the other may intervene as a party plaintiff if either the employee or the employer brings suit against a third person (tortfeasor), the jurisprudence holds that an employer's failure to intervene in a suit filed by the employee, after proper notice, bars the employer from bringing a separate suit against a third party tortfeasor.” Houston General Ins. Co. v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 649 So.2d 776, 782 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1994) (citing Roche v. Big Moose Oil ...


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