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Poole v. Thor Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 17, 2019

MITCHEL SHANNAN POOLE INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF RACHAEL NICOLE POOLE, DECEASED
v.
THOR INDUSTRIES, INC., ET AL.

          NOTICE

          RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have fourteen (14) days after being served with the attached Report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge which have been accepted by the District Court.

         ABSOLUTELY NO EXTENSION OF TIME SHALL BE GRANTED TO FILE WRITTEN OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT.

         MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (R. Doc. 5) filed on November 6, 2018. Defendant Verless Travis Stewart, Jr. (“Stewart”) filed his Opposition (R. Doc. 11) on November 27, 2018. Defendant Keystone filed its Opposition (R. Doc. 12) on November 27, 2018. Defendant Thor Industries, Inc. (“Thor”) filed its Opposition (R. Doc. 13), and Defendant Rick's RV Sales, Inc. (“Rick's”) filed its Opposition (R. Doc. 17) also on November 27, 2018.

         Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Expedited Consideration (R. Doc. 3), Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions (R. Doc. 4), and Plaintiff's Motion for Oral Argument (R. Doc. 6), all filed on November 6, 2018. Defendant Stewart filed his Opposition (R. Doc. 10) to Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions on November 27, 2018. Defendant Keystone filed its Opposition (R. Doc. 14) to Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions and its Opposition (R. Doc. 15) to Plaintiff's Motion for Expedited Consideration on November 27, 2018. Lastly, Defendant Rick's filed its Opposition (R. Doc. 16) to Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions on November 27, 2018.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff initiated this action with the filing of his Petition for Damages on July 14, 2017. (R. Doc. 1-1 at 2-10). Therein, Plaintiff filed suit individually and on behalf of his deceased wife, alleging that his wife was killed as a result of being electrocuted while working on their RV in February of 2017. As Defendants, Plaintiff initially named (1) Thor Industries, Inc. and Dutchmen Manufacturing, Inc. (now “Keystone”), the manufacturer of the allegedly defective RV, (2) Rick's RV Sales, Inc. (“Rick's”), the alleged seller and repair entity of the RV, and (3) Joshua and April Dosramos (the “Dosramoses”), the persons from whom Rachael Poole allegedly purchased the RV. (R. Doc. 1-2 at 2-3). Against Keystone, Plaintiff brings claims under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, for defective design, defective construction, breach of express warranties, and inadequate warning. (R. Doc. 1-2 at 4-7). Plaintiff's claims against Rick's purport to arise out of services performed by Rick's on the RV. (R. Doc. 1-1 at 7). Lastly, Plaintiff brings claims for negligence and redhibition against Joshua and April Dosramos. (R. Doc. 1-2 at 7-8).

         Keystone and Thor initially removed this action on April 17, 2018, alleging federal jurisdiction on the basis of diversity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, bearing the caption Mitchell Shannan Poole, et al. v. Thor Industries, Inc., et al., No. 3:18-cv-474-RLB. Plaintiff sought to remand the action, and also sought leave of Court to file an amended petition adding two new parties as Defendants, Travis Stewart and Garrin Vincent. Based on the law and the facts before it at the time, the Court granted leave to amend and remanded the case to state court on the basis of lack of diversity jurisdiction due to Mr. Vincent, a Louisiana resident. Defendants filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Order remanding the action to state court, which was denied on the basis that the Court had been divested of jurisdiction.

         On October 26, 2018, Travis Stewart filed a Notice of Removal (R. Doc. 1), asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 based on the argument that the non-diverse Defendants (Rick's, the Dosramoses, and Vincent) were fraudulently joined. Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Remand (R. Doc. 5) on November 6, 2018, along with the other related motions.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Legal Standard

         A defendant may remove “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). When original jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, the cause of action must be between “citizens of different States” and the amount in controversy must exceed the “sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)-(a)(1). Subject matter jurisdiction must exist at the time of removal to federal court, based on the facts and allegations contained in the complaint. St. Paul Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253 (5th Cir. 1998) (“jurisdictional facts must be judged as of the time the complaint is filed”). Remand is proper if at any time the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction [and] possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted). The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, is strictly construed and any doubt as to the propriety of removal should be resolved in favor of remand. Gasch v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co., 491 F.3d 278, 281-82 (5th Cir. 2007); see also Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002) (“Any ambiguities are construed against removal because the removal statute should be strictly construed in favor of remand.”); Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001) (“We must presume that a suit lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum.”).

         The party seeking removal based on improper joinder of a non-diverse defendant bears a “heavy” burden of proving that the joinder was improper. Travis v. Irby, 326 F.3d 644, 649 (5th Cir. 2003). To meet its burden, the removing party must show an “(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. at 646-47. In the latter situation, “the test for [improper] joinder 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.” Smallwood v. Illinois Cent. R. Co., 385 F.3d 568, 573-74 (5th Cir. 2004).

         Generally, a court should “conduct a Rule 12(b)(6)-type analysis . . . to determine whether the complaint states a claim under state law against the in-state defendant.” Id. at 573. However, where a plaintiff has omitted or misstated “discrete facts that would determine the propriety of joinder, ” the district court may “pierce the pleadings and conduct a summary inquiry” to determine whether a non-diverse defendant has been improperly joined. Id. Although the court may consider “summary judgment-type evidence in the record, ” it must resolve all disputed questions of fact and ambiguities in the controlling state law in favor of the plaintiff. Travis, 326 F.3d at 649.

         B. Analysis of Jurisdiction

         Plaintiff makes two arguments in support of remand.[1] First, Plaintiff suggests that the doctrines of collateral estoppel, res judicata, or “law of the case” are applicable and mandate remand without further consideration. (R. Doc. 5 at 14-20). Second, Plaintiff argues that the Non-Diverse Defendants are properly named such that remand is warranted. (R. Doc. 5 at 20-27). In response to Plaintiff's first argument, ...


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