United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
H.L. PEREZ-MONTES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court are three related motions filed by Plaintiff Cearey
James (“James”), as the mother and natural tutor
of the minor child Adaleigh Marie James
(“Adaleigh”), individually and on behalf of the
decedent, Brett T. Lasyone (“Lasyone”): (1) a
Motion to Remand (Doc. 9); (2) a Motion for Leave of Court to
file a Motion to Appoint a Legal Representative for the
Estate of Emily Dauzart (“Dauzart”) (“the
Dauzart estate”) and to file a First Supplemental and
Amending Petition to add additional defendants (“Motion
for Leave”) (Doc. 10); and (3) a Motion to Appoint a
Legal Representative for the Estate of Emily Dauzart
(“Motion to Appoint”) (Doc. 11). American Honda
Motor Co., Inc. (“AHM”) opposes all three
motions. (Docs. 15, 16, 17).
seeks to appoint a legal representative for the Dauzart
estate, and then add as Defendants the legal representative
of the Dauzart estate and Progressive Specialty Insurance
Agency, Inc. (“Progressive”). (Docs. 10, 11).
James asserts the Court should remedy the
“defect” of lack of a succession representative
for Dauzart, add the additional defendants, and remand this
matter to the Ninth Judicial District Court, Rapides Parish,
Louisiana. (Doc. 9). Because the Court lacks jurisdiction to
appoint a legal representative for the Dauzart estate;
because the proposed amendments to add additional defendants
are both premature and futile; and because the Court retains
diversity jurisdiction, James's motions (Docs. 9, 10, 11)
should be DENIED.
as natural tutor for the minor child Adaleigh, filed a
wrongful death and survival action in the Ninth Judicial
District Court, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, against Defendants
AHM, Honda Motor Company, LTD. (“HMC”), Honda
R&D Co., Ltd. (“Honda R&D”), and the
Estate of Emily Dauzart (“Dauzart estate”)
(collectively referred to as “Defendants”). (Doc.
1-2, pp. 4-5). James alleges Lasyone was a passenger in the
Honda Accord driven by Dauzart. (Doc. 1-2, p. 6). James
asserts AHM, HMC, and Honda R&D designed, developed,
manufactured, marketed, assembled, and sold the 2008 Honda
Accord. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 6-20). Dauzart was operating the 2008
Honda Accord on July 23, 2017, east on Louisiana Highway 112
when, for unknown reasons, it left the roadway and struck two
trees. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 5-6). Dauzart was ejected, and Lasyone
remained in the passenger seat. (Doc. 1-2, p. 6). The vehicle
ignited and was engulfed in flames shortly after the
accident. Id. Lasyone and Dauzart died as a result
of injuries sustained in the accident. Id.
asserts product liability claims against AHM, HMC, and Honda
R&D relating to the 2008 Honda Accord - specifically, the
fuel system. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 6-20). James alleges unreasonably
dangerous design defect, defective construction and
composition, breach of express warranties, and inadequate
warnings under the Louisiana Products Liability Act
(“LPLA”). Id. James also asserts
negligence and misrepresentation claims against AHM, HMC, and
Honda R&D, and a negligence claim against the Dauzart
estate. Id. James seeks compensatory damages, legal
interest, and costs. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 20-21).
Kay Robinson (“Robinson”), tutor of the minor
children Natalie Dauzart (“Natalie”) and Carter
Dauzart (“Carter”), filed an intervening
Petition, individually and on behalf of decedent Dauzart.
(Doc. 1-2, pp. 26-48). Robinson names as
Defandants-in-Intervention AHM, HMC, and Honda R&D. (Doc.
1-2, p. 27). Robinson asserts she is the duly-appointed tutor
of Natalie and Carter. (Doc. 1-2, p. 28). Robinson alleges
Dauzart is the mother of both Natalie and Carter.
Id. Robinson asserts violations of the LPLA against
AHM, HMC, and Honda R&D for unreasonably dangerous design
defect, defective construction and composition, breach of
express warranties, and inadequate warnings. (Doc. 1-2, pp.
29-46). Robinson also asserts negligence and
misrepresentation claims against AHM, HMC, and Honda R&D.
answered James's petition, asserting various affirmative
defenses.(Doc. 1-2, pp. 55-69). AHM asserted
Exceptions of No Right of Action and Improper Cumulation of
Actions as to Robinson's intervening petition. (Doc. 1-2,
pp. 70-80). AHM timely removed, asserting diversity
jurisdiction. (Doc. 1, pp. 2-8).
filed this Motion to Remand (Doc. 9), which seeks remand
contingent upon the Court appointing a legal representative
for the Dauzart estate (Doc. 11) and granting leave to file a
First Supplemental and Amending Petition to add Progressive
and a legal representative for the Dauzart estate as
defendants (Doc. 10). AHM opposes all three motions. (Docs.
15, 16, 17).
Law and Analysis
Standards governing the Motion to Remand.
federal court's jurisdiction is limited to areas
authorized by the United States Constitution and acts of
Congress. See Scarlott v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., 771
F.3d 883, 887 (5th Cir. 2014). 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).
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).
“Complete diversity requires that all persons on one
side of the controversy be citizens of different states than
all persons on the other side.” Harvey v. Grey Wolf
Drilling Co., 542 F.3d 1077, 1079 (5th Cir. 2008)
(citing Harrison v. Prather, 404 F.2d 267, 272 (5th
Cir. 1968)) (internal citation and quotation omitted). The
party invoking subject matter jurisdiction in federal court
has the burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction.
St. Paul Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Greenberg, 134
F.3d 1250, 1253-54 (5th Cir. 1998). Here, AHM bears that
matter jurisdiction must exist at the time of removal to
federal court, based on the facts and allegations contained
in the complaint. See St. Paul Reinsurance Co. Ltd.,
134 F.3d at 1253. “[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction,
because it involves a court's power to hear a case, can
never be forfeited or waived.” Arbaugh v. Y&H
Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) (citing Ruhrgas AG
v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999)). The
Court has “an independent obligation to determine
whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the
absence of a challenge from any party.” Id.
Jurisdictional facts are determined at the time of removal,
not by subsequent events. See La. v. Am. Nat'l Prop.
& Cas. Co., 746 F.3d 633, 635 (5th Cir. 2014).
Remand is required “[i]f at any time before final
judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Standards governing the Motion to Amend.
Civ. P. 15(a)(1) provides that:
a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course
within (A) 21 days after serving it, or (B) if the pleading
is one to which a responsive pleading is required, the party
may amend within 21 days after service of a responsive
pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule
12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). In all other cases, a party may
amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written
consent or the court's leave. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). A
court should freely give leave when justice so requires.
Rule 15(a) “evinces a bias in favor of granting leave
to amend, ” the Court is entrusted with the discretion
to deny a motion to amend if it is futile. See
Marucci Sports, L.L.C. v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic
Ass'n, 751 F.3d 368, 378 (5th Cir. 2014). “An
amendment is futile if it would fail to survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion.” Id. A district court
“acts within its discretion in denying leave to amend
where the proposed amendment would be futile because it could
not survive a motion to dismiss.” Rio Grande
Royalty Co. v. Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., 620 F.3d
465, 468 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Briggs v.
Mississippi, 331 F.3d 499, 508 (5th Cir. 2003)).
Relevant factors to consider include “undue delay, bad
faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously
allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility
of the amendment.” Wimm v. Jack Eckerd Corp.,
3 F.3d 137, 139 (5th Cir. 1993) (quotation omitted).
when, after removal, a “plaintiff seeks to join
additional defendants whose joinder would destroy subject
matter jurisdiction, the court may deny joinder, or permit
joinder and remand the action to State court.” 28
U.S.C. § 1447(e). When confronted with an amendment to
add a non-diverse party after removal, courts are cautioned
to use discretion in deciding whether to allow that party to
be added. Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833 F.2d
1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987). Amended pleadings in such cases
are to be scrutinized “more closely than an ordinary
court must balance the “defendant's interests in
maintaining the federal forum with the competing interest of
not having parallel lawsuits.” Id. Factors to
be considered include: (1) the extent to which the purpose of
the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction; (2) whether
the plaintiff has been dilatory in asking for the amendment;
(3) whether the plaintiff will be significantly injured if
the amendment is not allowed; and (4) any other factors
bearing on the equities. Id. “The district
court, with input from the defendant, should then balance the
equities and decide whether amendment should be permitted. If