United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Hornsby I U.S. Magistrate Judge.
Lonidier (“Plaintiff”) and her minor child were
injured in a multi-vehicle accident on I-20 in Bienville
Parish. Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and her son, filed
suit in state court against three other drivers, their
employers, and their insurers. Defendants removed the case
based on an assertion of diversity jurisdiction.
petition does not show complete diversity of citizenship;
Plaintiff and defendant-driver Roderick Minnieweather are
both Louisiana citizens. Defendants argue that removal is
nonetheless allowed because Minnieweather was improperly
joined as a party. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand (Doc.
15) and challenged the improper joinder plea. For the reasons
that follow, it is recommended that the motion be granted and
that this case be remanded to state court.
Congress has provided a statutory framework for removal of
certain cases where there is diversity of citizenship. Those
statutes have been interpreted by the courts to require
complete diversity; jurisdiction is lacking if any defendant
is a citizen of the same state as any plaintiff. That strict
requirement would, on its face, permit a plaintiff to name as
a defendant any citizen of his home state and defeat removal.
To prevent such shams, the “judge-imported concept of
fraudulent joinder” was developed. Bobby Jones
Garden Apartments, Inc. v. Suleski, 391 F.2d 172, 176
(5th Cir. 1968). The Fifth Circuit has since adopted the term
“improper joinder” to describe the doctrine.
Smallwood v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., 385 F.3d 568
n. 1 (5th Cir. 2004) (en banc).
most common way a defendant shows improper joinder is to
demonstrate the inability of the plaintiff to establish a
cause of action against the non-diverse party in state court.
The defendant must show that there is no reasonable basis for
the district court to predict the plaintiff might be able to
recover against the in-state defendant. Smallwood,
385 F.3d at 573; Travis v. Irby, 326 F.3d 644,
646-47 (5th Cir. 2003). That is the burden the defendants
shoulder in this case.
and her son were traveling westbound on I-20 in a Honda CRV.
Plaintiff was driving in the left lane behind a
tractor-trailer (eighteen wheeler) driven by Angelo Fields.
In front of Mr. Fields was a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by
Rodney Luckett. Directly behind Plaintiff in the left lane
was a tractor-trailer driven by Angel Cruz. Petition,
about the same time, Roderick Minnieweather was driving a
tractor-trailer in the right lane. Minnieweather was, like
the others, traveling westbound. His rig was positioned
somewhere to the right of the tractor-trailer driven by Mr.
Cruz. ¶¶ 17-19. Accordingly, the line of vehicles
in the left lane was headed by Mr. Luckett's Jeep Grand
Cherokee, followed by Mr. Fields in a tractor-trailer,
followed by Plaintiff in her Honda CRV, followed by Mr. Cruz
in a tractor-trailer. To the right of Mr. Cruz was Mr.
Minnieweather in his tractor-trailer. The petition includes a
drawing, borrowed from an accident report, that depicts those
positions. ¶ 20.
vehicle in front of Mr. Luckett slowed suddenly to avoid a
tire carcass in the left lane. Mr. Luckett slowed his Jeep
Grand Cherokee to avoid hitting that vehicle. Mr. Fields
could not or did not stop his tractor-trailer in time and hit
Mr. Luckett's Jeep. Those two vehicles came to a stop in
the left lane of I-20. ¶¶ 21-23.
was able to come to a controlled stop behind Mr. Fields'
tractor-trailer. As Mr. Cruz (left lane) and Mr.
Minnieweather (right lane) approached the location of the
accident in their tractor-trailers, Mr. Cruz attempted to
change lanes to the right lane, but sideswiped Mr.
Minnieweather's tractor-trailer before veering back to
the left lane and striking Plaintiff's Honda CRV. The
impact smashed Plaintiff's vehicle into the rear of Mr.
Fields' tractor-trailer. The impact ripped off the doors
of the small SUV, shattered its windows, and spun it around.
The SUV ended up pinned ...