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Lewis v. Khamedov

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 7, 2019

SHAQUANA LEWIS
v.
FAYZULLO KHAMEDOV, MMM FREIGHT CORP., STATE NATIONAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY AND/OR STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY

          NOTICE AND ORDER

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is a civil action involving claims for damages based upon the injuries allegedly sustained by Shaquana Lewis (“Plaintiff”) on May 10, 2018 on Interstate 10 in West Baton Rouge Parish when Plaintiff's car was struck by an 18-wheeler driven by Defendant Fayzullo Khamedov (“Khamedov”) while Khamedov was in the course of his employment with Defendant MMM Freight Corp. (“MMM”) (the “Accident”).[1] Plaintiff alleges that the Accident was caused by the fault and negligence of Khamedov in failing to operate the 18-wheeler in a safe manner, giving rise to vicarious liability on the part of MMM.[2] Plaintiff names defendants State National Fire Insurance Company (“State National Fire”) and/or State National Insurance Company (“State National Insurance”) as the automobile liability insurer(s) of Khamedov and MMM.[3]

         On or about April 29, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Petition for Damages (“Petition”) against Khamedov, MMM, State National Fire and State National Insurance in the Eighteenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of West Baton Rouge alleging that Defendants are liable to Plaintiff based on these claims.[4] On May 31, 2019, MMM and State National Insurance (the “Removing Defendants”) removed the matter to this Court asserting that this Court has diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[5] However, as explained below, the Notice of Removal is deficient in its allegations regarding citizenship and the amount in controversy.

         Citizenship of Plaintiff and Joinder of State National Fire

         Proper information regarding the citizenship of all parties is necessary to establish the Court's diversity jurisdiction, as well as to make the determination required under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 regarding whether the case was properly removed to this Court. The Notice of Removal alleges that Khamedov is a citizen of Wisconsin, MMM is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois, and State National Insurance is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas.[6] With regard to Plaintiff's citizenship, the Notice of Removal states that Plaintiff alleges in the Petition that she is a resident and citizen of Louisiana.[7] This is incorrect. The Notice of Removal merely states that Plaintiff resides in Lafayette Parish, State of Louisiana. Residency is not sufficient to adequately allege the citizenship of an individual.[8]Further, the Petition and the Notice of Removal states that State National Fire is a citizen of Louisiana.[9] Removing Defendants assert that “Defendant State National Fire Insurance Company is a Louisiana corporation with its principal place of business in the State of Louisiana. Removing Defendants respectfully submit that the citizenship of State National Fire Insurance Company should be disregarded as it was improperly joined.”[10] Removing Defendants readily acknowledge that the citizenship of State National Fire “may be an impediment to diversity jurisdiction but contend that State National Fire was improperly named and joined in the lawsuit because “there is no mention of State National Fire Insurance Company anywhere in the Uniform Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Report” prepared by the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Department.[11] According to Removing Defendants, because Plaintiff has no cause of action against State National Fire, it was “improperly named and joined in this matter, and their (sic) citizenship does not destroy diversity because the citizenship of all the remaining Defendants is diverse from Plaintiff.”[12] Plaintiff's Petition, in turn, asserts:

15.
Petitioner is informed…that at the time of the subject motor vehicle collision FAYZULLO KHAMEDOV, by virtue of his employer MMM FREIGHT CORP., had a policy of automobile liability insurance with STATE NATIONAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY and/or STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, INC. insuring against the negligent acts of FAYZULLO KHAMEDOV, with was in full force and effect at the time of the accident, and which insurance inures to the benefit of Petitioner under the provisions of the Louisiana Direct Action Statute, Louisiana R.S. 22:1269.
16.
Petitioner further alleges upon information and belief that under the terms of said policy, STATE NATIONAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY and/or STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, INC. obligated itself to pay any and all damages caused to others as a result of the negligence of FAYZULLO KHAMEDOV, who was covered by said policy at the time of said accident.[13]

         Defendant will be ordered to substitute the Notice of Removal with a Notice that adequately alleges Plaintiff's citizenship. Further, considering Removing Defendants' position that complete diversity exists when the citizenship of State National Fire is not considered, Plaintiff will be ordered to file either a motion to remand addressing the joinder of State National Fire, or an Amended Complaint deleting all claims against State National Fire if Plaintiff agrees State National Fire was improperly joined.

         Deficient Allegations as to the Amount in Controversy

         With respect to the amount in controversy, it is not clear from the Notice of Removal or the Petition whether Plaintiff's claims likely exceed $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.[14] Plaintiff alleges that the passenger side of her vehicle was “violently impacted” by the 18-wheeler, and her vehicle left the roadway and crashed into the retention cables separating the eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 10. The Petition alleges injuries to Plaintiff as follows:

8.
As a result of the aforementioned motor vehicle crash caused by FAYZULLO KHAMEDOV, Petitioner SHAQUANA LEWIS sustained severe and disabling injuries to her neck, back, and body as a whole, and suffered fear, fright, shock, mental anguish, mental distress and any ...

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