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Jordan v. Republic Services National Accounts, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

July 3, 2019


          FOOTE Judge.




         Patrick and Pallie Jordan (“Plaintiffs”) filed this personal injury action in state court. The named defendants were Republic Services National Accounts, LLC and Wastequip Manufacturing Company, LLC. Plaintiffs allege that Patrick Jordan, while employed by Republic, was injured while making a delivery to a landfill. Plaintiffs allege that another Republic employee was dumping material from a different truck when a roll-off container manufactured by Wastequip malfunctioned and struck Patrick. Plaintiffs asserted product liability claims against Wastequip and alleged that Republic was liable (despite workers' compensation laws) on an intentional tort theory.

         Republic and Wastequip removed the case based on an assertion of diversity jurisdiction. They alleged that Plaintiffs are domiciled in Louisiana; Wastequip is a citizen of Delaware and North Carolina; and Republic is a citizen of Delaware and Arizona. They satisfied the amount in controversy element by pointing to claims of traumatic brain damage and other serious injuries. New parties have since been added to the suit, and their citizenship is not so clearly alleged. This order addresses those parties and seeks clarity on this critical jurisdictional issue.

         Citizenship and LLCs

         The citizenship of an LLC is determined by the citizenship of all of its members, with its state of organization or principal place of business being irrelevant. Harvey v. Grey Wolf Drilling Co., 542 F.3d 1077 (5th Cir. 2008). “A party seeking to establish diversity jurisdiction must specifically allege the citizenship of every member of every LLC or partnership involved in a litigation.” Settlement Funding, L.L.C. v. Rapid Settlements, Ltd., 851 F.3d 530, 536 (5th Cir. 2017). If the members are themselves partnerships, LLCs, corporations or other form of entity, their citizenship must be alleged in accordance with the rules applicable to that entity, and the citizenship must be traced through however many layers of members or partners there may be. Mullins v. TestAmerica Inc., 564 F.3d 386, 397-98 (5th Cir. 2009); Rodidaco, Inc. v. Chesapeake Energy Louisiana Corp. 2018 WL 3551525 (W.D. La. 2018).

         BFI Waste Service, LLC

         BFI Waste Services, LLC filed an answer (Doc. 11) and alleged that it, rather than Republic, was Patrick's employer. BFI's answer does not appear to state with specificity BFI's citizenship. BFI also filed a corporate disclosure statement (Doc. 9) in which it stated that it is an LLC wholly owned by Allied Waste North America, LLC, which is wholly owned by Allied Waste Industries, LLC, which is in turn wholly owned by Republic Services, Inc. The notice of removal alleged that Republic is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Arizona.

         If, when BFI alleges that the LLCs are “wholly owned by” other entities it means that the owners are the sole members of the LLCs, then this information from the corporate disclosure statement-coupled with information in the notice of removal-appears to adequately describe BFI's citizenship. If the court has misinterpreted BFI's allegations about its citizenship, BFI must file clarification in the record by July 22, 2019.

         It is preferable if attorneys would, in diversity cases, allege the citizenship of parties with specificity in the notice of removal, answer, amended complaint, or whatever pleading in which the party first appears. Otherwise, the court, which has an obligation to ensure the existence of subject matter jurisdiction even when not challenged by the parties, must dig through the record in search of nuggets of information and interpret ambiguous terminology, which risks that information might be overlooked or misunderstood, which can result in an inadvertent remand to state court.

         Wastebuilt Southwest, LLC

          Plaintiff later moved to file a first amended complaint to (1) substitute BFI in place of Republic and (2) add new defendant Wastebuilt Southwest, LLC. The first amended complaint alleges in Paragraph 4 that Wastebuilt is a Delaware limited liability company. Wastebuilt later filed an answer (Doc. 27) and a corporate disclosure statement (Doc. 29). The disclosure statement provided some information about the ownership of the company, but it does not appear that the pleadings contain the detailed membership information necessary to ensure that there is complete diversity of citizenship. Instructions to cure this are set forth at the end of this order.

         Box Gang ...

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