United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is plaintiff's motion to remand. For the following
reasons, the Court grants the motion.
case arises out of injuries allegedly sustained by plaintiff
Gracelen Rivet when she was struck by a
vehicle. Plaintiff alleges that, on or about July
28, 2016, she was standing next to the passenger door of a
2000 Toyota Sienna when the car suddenly began rolling
backwards, crushing her arm and ankle. On July 26, 2017,
plaintiff filed a petition for damages in state court against
defendants Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc., and Lakeside
petition alleges that plaintiff's injuries were caused by
the unreasonably dangerous condition of the vehicle, and that
Toyota Motor Sales is the manufacturer of the vehicle under
the Louisiana Products Liability Act. The petition further asserts
that plaintiff's injuries were caused by the negligence
of Lakeside Imports, which allegedly sold and repaired the
vehicle. The petition also alleges that Toyota
Motor Sales and Lakeside Imports negligently sold a vehicle
with a known defect, failed to make adequate repairs, failed
to inspect and replace parts damaged during repairs,
performed inadequate inspections of the vehicle, and
committed other acts of negligence.
October 24, 2017, Toyota Motor Sales removed the matter to
this Court on the basis of diversity of
citizenship. Although Lakeside Imports is a Louisiana
corporation, Toyota Motor Sales asserts that it was
improperly joined because plaintiff has no reasonable
possibility of recovery against Lakeside
Imports. Plaintiff now moves to
defendant may generally remove a civil action filed in state
court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the
action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The
“removing party bears the burden of establishing the
facts necessary to show that federal jurisdiction
exists.” See Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas
Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th Cir. 1995). For diversity
jurisdiction to exist, the amount in controversy must exceed
$75, 000, and there must be complete diversity of citizenship
between plaintiffs and defendants. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a); Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v.
Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978). A defendant may
nevertheless remove a case to federal court if a non-diverse
party was improperly joined. Smallwood v. Ill. Cent. R.
Co., 385 F.3d 568, 573 (5th Cir. 2004).
removing party bears a “heavy burden of proving that
the joinder was improper.” Id. at 576. A
defendant may establish improper joinder by showing either
“(1) actual fraud in the pleading of jurisdictional
facts, or (2) inability of the plaintiff to establish a cause
of action against the non diverse party in state
court.” Davidson v. Georgia-Pacific, LLC, 819
F.3d 758, 765 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation omitted).
If removal is based on the second theory, the defendant must
demonstrate “that there is no possibility of recovery
by the plaintiff against an in-state defendant, which stated
differently means that there is no reasonable basis for the
district court to predict that the plaintiff might be able to
recover against an in-state defendant.” Id.
(quoting Smallwood, 385 F.3d at 573).
analyzing whether a plaintiff has demonstrated a reasonable
possibility of recovery, the district court may
“conduct a Rule 12(b)(6)-type analysis, looking
initially at the allegations of the complaint to determine
whether the complaint states a claim under state law against
the in-state defendant.” Smallwood, 385 F.3d
at 573. The Court may also “pierce the pleadings”
and consider summary judgment-type evidence as to
“discrete facts that would determine the propriety of
joinder.” Id.; see also Davidson, 819
F.3d at 766. In conducting this inquiry, the Court must
“take into account all unchallenged factual
allegations, including those alleged in the complaint, in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Travis v.
Irby, 326 F.3d 644, 649 (5th Cir. 2003). The Court must
resolve all ambiguities in favor of the non-removing party.
the Court must take care not to move “beyond
jurisdiction and into a resolution on the merits.”
Smallwood, 385 F.3d at 574. When “a showing
that compels a holding that there is no reasonable basis for
predicting that state law would allow the plaintiff to
recover against the instate defendant necessarily compels the
same result for the nonresident defendant, there is no
improper joinder; there is only a lawsuit lacking in
merit.” Id. No. federal jurisdiction exists
over such a case, and it must be remanded to state court.
Id. at 576.
Motor Sales argues that Lakeside Imports was improperly
joined because plaintiff has no reasonable possibility of
recovery against it.Toyota Motor Sales relies on an affidavit
from Linda Reed, comptroller at Lakeside
Imports. Reed attests that she searched
Lakeside's sales and service records and was unable to
locate any records for the 2000 Toyota Sienna involved in
plaintiff's accident. Reed further states that
Lakeside maintains its sales records for three years and its
service records for seven years, and any repair would thus
have occurred before August 15, 2010. In its motion
to remand, plaintiff presents a Carfax vehicle history report
for the Toyota Sienna. This report ...