United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ELLIOTT B. FLOOD ET AL.
UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. ET AL.
ORDER & REASONS
M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
are a group of taxi drivers and companies (collectively,
“Taxis”) that sued defendants Uber Technologies
Inc. and its subsidiary Rasier LLC (collectively,
“Uber”) as well as several individual Uber
drivers alleging violations of the Louisiana Unfair Trade
Practices Act (“LUTPA”) and other state law
claims. Uber removed the case to this Court. The Taxis now
move to remand. For the following reasons, the Taxis'
motion is granted.
Taxis assert that Uber and its drivers have conspired to
systematically and consistently flout several municipal and
state laws designed to level the playing field between
traditional taxi services and peer-to-peer ride sharing
providers. This conduct, the Taxis contend, creates
unfair competition in violation of the LUTPA.
removed the Taxis' lawsuit from the Civil District Court
for the Parish of Orleans, invoking diversity jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Uber recognizes that the
plaintiffs and the individual Uber driver defendants are not
diverse, as they are all citizens of Louisiana. Uber nevertheless
maintains that jurisdiction in this Court is proper because
the individual Uber driver defendants are improperly joined
and, as a result, their citizenship should be disregarded for
the central question before the Court is whether the
individual Uber drivers are properly joined defendants. If
they are, then complete diversity is lacking, and remand is
required. If they are not, then complete diversity exists,
and remand would be inappropriate.
challenging the propriety of joinder, “[t]he removing
party bears a heavy burden of proving that the joinder of the
in-state party was improper . . . that is, to show that sham
defendants were added to defeat jurisdiction.”
Smallwood Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 385 F.3d 568, 574
(5th Cir. 2004). “Since the purpose of the improper
joinder inquiry is to determine whether or not the in-state
defendant was properly joined, the focus of the inquiry must
be on the joinder, not the merits of the plaintiff's
case.” Id. at 573.
removing defendant may show improper joinder in one of two
ways: “(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.” Id. (quoting Travis v.
Irby, 326 F.3d 644, 646-47 (5th Cir. 2003)). As to the
second method-the only one at issue here-the Fifth Circuit
has held that the test “is whether the defendant has
demonstrated 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. In
determining the validity of an improper joinder claim, the
Court does “not determine whether the plaintiff will
actually or even probably prevail on the merits of the claim,
but look[s] only for a possibility that the plaintiff might
do so.” Guillory v. PPG Indus., Inc., 434 F.3d
303, 309 (5th Cir. 2005).
assess a plaintiff's possibility of recovery against an
in-state defendant, the 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 574.
“Ordinarily, if a plaintiff can survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
challenge, there is no improper joinder.” Id.
When conducting the 12(b)(6)-style inquiry, federal pleading
standards apply. Int'l Energy Ventures Mgmt., LLC v.
United Energy Grp., Ltd., 818 F.3d 193, 208 (5th Cir.
2016). Further, the Court “must evaluate all of the
factual allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, resolving all contested issues of substantive fact
in favor of the plaintiff.” Guillory, 434 F.3d
at 308 (quotations omitted).
ambiguities are construed against removal because the removal
statute should be strictly construed in favor of
remand.” Settlement Funding LLC v. Rapid
Settlements Ltd., 851 F.3d 530, 536 (5th Cir. 2017).
Similarly, the Court must “resolve all ambiguities in
the controlling state law in the plaintiff's
favor.” Burden v. Gen. Dynamics Corp., 60 F.3d
213, 216 (5th Cir. 1995). As a general matter, 12(b)(6)-type
challenges are “viewed with disfavor” and are
“rarely granted.” See Leal v. McHugh,
731 F.3d 405, 410 (5th Cir. 2013).
Court is not the first to pass upon the question of whether
the Taxis have pleaded a valid cause of action under the
LUTPA. Green v. Garcia-Victor, No. 16-905 (Civ.
Dist. Ct. Par. Orleans 2016), involves a virtually identical
LUTPA claim brought by taxi drivers and companies against a
number of individual Uber drivers. In Green, taxi
drivers sued Uber drivers alleging violations of the LUTPA.
Like the Taxis in the instant case, the Green
plaintiffs assert that Uber drivers in New Orleans engage in
a plan or practice to violate state and municipal laws in
order to unfairly compete with their taxi ...