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Olvera v. Primerica Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

January 21, 2014

IRENE FIGUEROA OLVERA, Plaintiff,
v.
PRIMERICA LIFE INSURANCE fCOMPANY, et al, Defendants.

ORDER

MICAELA ALVAREZ, District Judge.

The Court now considers the self-styled "Plaintiff's Opposed Motion for Leave to Join Defendant Sylvia Garcia Ficker Through the Filing of Plaintiff's First Amended Original Complaint, "[1] filed by Irene Figueroa Olvera ("Plaintiff"). Primerica Life Insurance Company ("Defendant") has responded.[2]

After considering the motion, response, record, and relevant authorities, the Court DENIES the motion.

I. Case Background and Posture

As the Court has recounted in a previous order, on February 21, 2012, Juan Garza purchased life insurance from Defendant.[3] Ms. Ficker visited his home to fill out the initial application.[4] Subsequently, Mr. Garza died in a vehicle accident.[5] Defendant denied coverage and rescinded the policy in November 2012 on the basis that Mr. Garza had failed to disclose a pre-existing health condition.[6] Plaintiff, Mr. Garza's designated beneficiary, filed suit in County court on December 17, 2012, [7] but did not serve process on Ms. Ficker and Defendant until 12 and 13 September, 2013, respectively.[8] Defendant and Ms. Ficker timely removed to this Court on October 8, 2013.[9]

The Court subsequently denied Plaintiff's motion to remand and dismissed Ms. Ficker from the case, [10] finding her improperly joined because Plaintiff had not properly pled a claim under Texas law.[11] Acting within the timeline for joinder of parties set by the Court, [12] Plaintiff now seeks to join Ms. Ficker to the case once more by filing an amended complaint containing more specific allegations against her. Because Ms. Ficker is a Texas resident, the Court must explore the standards for joinder of a non-diverse defendant.

II. Relevant Legal Standards for Joinder of a Non-Diverse Defendant

The Court's previous dismissal of Ms. Ficker from the case has the consequence that adding her to the case requires joinder, not mere amendment of the complaint.[13] The joinder of Ms. Ficker in this case would destroy the Court's diversity jurisdiction and require remand.[14] Thus, as acknowledged by Plaintiff in the title of this motion and by Defendant in its response, the lenient standards for amending a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 are supplanted here by the more stringent standards of § 1447(e).[15]

Section 1447(e) states, "If after removal the 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 the State court."

In its canonical decision on whether joinder should be permitted or denied under §1447(e), Hensgens v. Deere & Co ., the Fifth Circuit set out four factors to guide district courts: whether "the purpose of the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction, whether plaintiff has been dilatory in asking for amendment, whether plaintiff will be significantly injured if amendment is not allowed, and any other factors bearing on the equities."[16]

The Hensgens factors were tailored for cases in which the proposed non-diverse party had never been a party to the case, but also apply to cases in which the non-diverse party was previously joined, as here. Having set out the four factors relevant to a decision on joinder of a diversity-destroying party, the Court turns to the motion itself.

III. This Motion and the Relevant Legal Standards

Purpose of the Amendment

The first Hensgens factor is the touchstone of the inquiry. Post-removal joinder of a diversity-destroying defendant raises suspicion that a party is gaming federal jurisdiction. The other factors, while important in their own ...


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