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Hickman v. Great West Casualty Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 2, 2018

RODERICK HICKMAN
v.
GREAT WEST CASUALTY CO., ET AL.

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO JUDGE

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANIS VAN MEERVELD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint filed by plaintiff Roderick Hickman. (Rec. Doc. 7). For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         Background

         This lawsuit arises out of a car accident that occurred on September 1, 2016, when a vehicle operated by defendant Samuel Taylor allegedly made a wide right turn and struck the vehicle in which Mr. Hickman was a passenger. Mr. Hickman alleges he suffered debilitating damages and filed this lawsuit on August 16, 2017, against Mr. Taylor as well as Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. (the owner of the vehicle Mr. Taylor was driving, hereinafter “Hirschbach”), and Great West Casualty Company (who insured the vehicle Mr. Taylor was driving, hereinafter “GWCC” and with Mr. Taylor and Hirschbach, “Defendants”)). Mr. Hickman's Petition alleged that the vehicle in which he was a passenger was owned by Brandon Batiste. However, Mr. Batiste was not made a defendant.

         Defendants removed the suit to this Court on September 6, 2017, and then filed their Answer on either September 8, 2017 or September 21, 2017.[1] Among the defenses asserted in the Answer, defendants averred that “[a]dditionally and/or alternatively, all alleged damages and/or injuries made the subject of this litigation were proximately caused solely and entirely by the negligence of Brandon Batiste, the driver of the vehicle in which the plaintiff was a passenger, and as such the defendant bears no liability to the plaintiff.”

         Mr. Hickman did not file a motion to remand. On November 30, 2017, Mr. Hickman filed the present Motion for Leave to Amend his Complaint seeking to join Mr. Batiste and Mr. Batiste's insurer as defendants. Like Mr. Hickman, Mr. Batiste resides in Louisiana. If he is joined to this lawsuit as a defendant, this Court will lose diversity jurisdiction over the matter.

         Law and Analysis

         1. Standard for Amending Pleadings

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), when the time period for amending a pleading as a matter of course has passed, a party may amend its pleadings by consent of the parties or by leave of court. “The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 15(a)(2). Thus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit instructs that the “district court must possess a ‘substantial reason' to deny a request for leave to amend.” Smith v. EMC Corp., 393 F.3d 590, 595 (5th Cir. 2004). Nonetheless, “that generous standard is tempered by the necessary power of a district court to manage a case.” Yumilicious Franchise, L.L.C. v. Barrie, 819 F.3d 170, 177 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 566 (5th Cir. 2003)). The court may consider numerous factors when deciding whether to grant a motion for leave to amend, including “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failures to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, and futility of the amendment.” Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 566 (5th Cir. 2003).

         “If after removal the plaintiff seeks to join additional defendants whose joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, the court may deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand the action to the State court.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). Because the Court's decision on a motion for leave to amend to add a non-diverse defendant will affect its jurisdiction over the matter, the Court must “scrutinize that amendment more closely than an ordinary amendment.” Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833 F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987). In such cases, “courts must balance the defendant's interest in retaining the federal forum with plaintiff's competing interest in avoiding parallel federal/state lawsuits.” Williams v. Carmean, No. CIV. A. 99-1095, 1999 WL 717645, at *1 (E.D. La. Sept. 13, 1999). The Fifth Circuit has also instructed courts to consider “the extent to which the purpose of the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction, whether plaintiff has been dilatory in asking for amendment, whether plaintiff will be significantly injured if amendment is not allowed, and any other factors bearing on the equities.” Hensgens, 833 F.2d at 1182.

         2. Primary Purpose of the Amendment

         As the Plaintiff points out, in determining the primary purpose of the amendment courts have held that, “[a]s long as the plaintiff states a valid claim against the new defendants, the principal purpose is not to destroy diversity jurisdiction.” Jackson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. CIV. A. 03-2184, 2003 WL 22533619, at *2 (E.D. La. Nov. 6, 2003). For example, in Jackson, the court found the plaintiff's primary purpose was not to defeat diversity jurisdiction where the original complaint had sued Walmart Stores, Inc. and the “Jane Doe” employee that allegedly caused plaintiff's injury and the amendment sought to replace the fictitious name with the non-diverse employee once she had been identified. Id. The amendment was allowed. Id. In contrast, in Nuccio v. KFC Nat. Mgmt. Co., the court found that plaintiff's primary motive was to defeat diversity where plaintiff had no valid basis for a claim against non-diverse property owner/lessor as a defendant in a slip and fall case because the owner/lessor did not have control over the building where the fall allegedly occurred. No. CIV. A. 95-2586, 1996 WL 137637, at *1 (E.D. La. Mar. 25, 1996). The proposed amendment ...


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