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Daigle v. Family Dollar Stores of Louisiana, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 9, 2019

NORMA DAIGLE
v.
FAMILY DOLLAR STORES OF LOUISIANA, INC., ET AL.

         SECTION: “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 7). For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED .

         BACKGROUND

         This personal injury suit arises out of Plaintiff Norma Daigle's fall in a Family Dollar store in Meraux, Louisiana. A slippery mess produced by a leaking hair product allegedly caused Daigle's fall, in which she hit her head and broke her glasses, on June 30, 2017. Another customer allegedly told store employees about the mess before Daigle fell. The fall caused Daigle to injure her ankle, head, face, and back.[1]

         Daigle sued Defendants Family Dollar Stores of Louisiana, Inc. (“Family Dollar”), the store's owner; Cheryl Starks, the store's manager; and the store's insurance company in Louisiana's 34th Judicial District Court for St. Bernard Parish.[2] On June 28, 2018, Family Dollar timely removed Daigle's suit to this Court on diversity grounds.[3] Even though both Plaintiff and Defendant Starks are Louisiana citizens, Defendant Family Dollar-a citizen of Delaware and North Carolina-argues that complete diversity exists on the ground that Starks was improperly joined to Plaintiff's suit.[4] Plaintiff responded with the instant Motion to Remand on July 30, 2018.[5] She argues that because Starks may be liable to her, she is not improperly joined. Therefore, Plaintiff argues, complete diversity does not exist, and this Court should remand this suit to state Court. Defendants oppose.[6]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Generally, a defendant may remove a civil state court action to federal court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the action.[7] The burden is on the removing party to show “that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper.”[8] When determining whether federal jurisdiction exists, courts consider “the claims in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal.”[9] District courts must “strictly construe” the removal statute, “and any doubt about the propriety of removal must be resolved in favor of remand.”[10] “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”[11]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Federal diversity jurisdiction exists when no plaintiff has the same citizenship as any defendant.[12] Here, Plaintiff and Defendant Starks share Louisiana citizenship. Nevertheless, under the improper joinder doctrine, district courts may disregard the citizenship of a defendant for diversity purposes if “the plaintiff has failed to state a claim against that defendant on which relief may be granted.”[13] The removing party “bears a heavy burden of proving that the joinder of the in-state party was improper.”[14] “When . . . a court determines that a nondiverse party has been improperly joined to defeat diversity, that party must be dismissed without prejudice.”[15]

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Starks's negligence contributed to her fall. To establish a prima facie negligence case against a store's employee under Louisiana law, a plaintiff must show that: (1) the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the breach of a duty owed by the employer to a third person; (2) the employer delegated that duty to the employee; (3) the employee breached the duty “through personal (as contrasted with technical or vicarious) fault;” and the level of personal fault was more than breach of a “general administrative duty, ” instead involving “a personal duty towards the injured plaintiff, breach of which specifically has caused the plaintiff's damages.”[16] All four elements must be met to establish liability.[17]

         Here, Plaintiff alleges “[t]hat upon information and belief, another customer had made the employees of Family Dollar aware of the broken/leaking hair product but the employees failed to clean it up and/or place any warning signs in the area to warn patrons of the hazardous conditions.”[18]Plaintiff further alleges the following specifically against Defendant Starks:

1. In failing to keep the aisles in a safe condition knowing that persons having to happen down said aisles could be harmed or otherwise injured;
2. By allowing the store to be in an unsafe and hazardous condition knowing that persons having to occasion said premises could be injured;
3. By allowing the floor to be unsafe, hazardous and wet condition knowing that persons having to occasion said ...

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