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Golden v. General Motors LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

November 22, 2017

GLENN GOLDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT PITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Glenn Golden's opposed motion for leave to file an amended complaint, (Dkt. 13). The motion is DENIED.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Glenn Golden brought this suit in state court on May 17, 2017, (Orig. Pet., Dkt. 1-5), alleging claims based on injuries Golden sustained while driving on the Circuit of Americas track on August 29, 2015, (id. ¶ 8). Defendant General Motors LLC (“GM”) filed its answer on June 16, 2017, (Orig. Answer, Dkt. 1-8), and removed the case to this Court on June 22, 2017, (Notice of Removal, Dkt. 1). Golden filed an amended complaint without leave of the Court on August 30, 2017, (Dkt. 8). On September 7, 2017, Golden filed a motion for leave to file that amended complaint. (Dkt. 13). GM opposed the request for leave to amend, (Dkt. 17), because the proposed amended complaint would add a new defendant, Toy Tech Auto Care (“Toy Tech”), a Texas business, which would deprive the Court of the diversity jurisdiction of which GM availed itself by removing this case.

         DISCUSSION

         Golden filed his amended complaint more than 21 days after General Motors' first responsive pleading in the case. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure make clear that amendments to a complaint made after 21 days have expired following the other party's responsive pleading can only be made with either (1) the written consent of the defendant or (2) court approval. Fed R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(stating that a party may amend its pleading as a matter of course “21 days after service of a responsive pleading”); see Id. 15(a)(2) (“In all other cases, a party may amend its pleadings only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.”). Golden had neither GM's written consent nor court approval as of August 30.

         Golden proffers four reasons to support his request for leave to amend his complaint: (1) in general, courts should freely grant leave to amend complaints; (2) the Court should consider the extenuating circumstances of Hurricane Harvey; (3) there was no undue delay because Golden acted to amend promptly after receiving GM's initial disclosure naming Toy Tech as a potential responsible third party; and (4) GM will not be prejudiced by allowing leave to amend because no new claims are being asserted against GM. (Pl.'s Mot. Leave File Am. Compl., Dkt. 13, at 2-3). The Court finds none of these contentions persuasive; Golden's request for leave to amend his complaint should therefore be denied.

         I. Standard for Granting Leave to Amend

         In general, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure encourage courts to permit plaintiffs to amend their pleadings freely. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) (“The court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.”). However, the caveat “when justice so requires” is significant. The phrase contemplates circumstances in which justice does not so require. One such circumstance recognized by the Fifth Circuit is when the proposed amendment would add a defendant that would destroy diversity jurisdiction when the existing defendant removed the case to federal court on that basis. See Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833 F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987) (“[T]he addition of a nondiverse party must not be permitted without consideration of the original defendant's interest in the choice of forum. The district court, when faced with an amended pleading naming a new nondiverse defendant in a removed case, should scrutinize that amendment more closely than an ordinary amendment.”); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e) (“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.”).

         When determining the propriety of permitting a plaintiff to amend his complaint in a manner that will defeat diversity jurisdiction in a case that has been removed, courts should consider (1) “the extent to which the purpose of the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction, ” (2) “whether plaintiff has been dilatory in seeking amendment, ” (3) “whether plaintiff will be significantly injured if amendment is not allowed, ” and (4) “any other factors bearing on the equities.” Hensgens, 833 F.2d at 1183. A consideration of these factors counsels denying leave to amend.

         A. Purpose of Amendment

         Golden did not seek to add Toy Tech as a defendant until after removal, even though Golden was aware of Toy Tech's involvement in the facts giving rise to the dispute long before removal. This delay suggests that the purpose of adding Toy Tech may be to defeat diversity jurisdiction. See Martinez v. Holzknecht, 701 F.Supp.2d 886, 889 (S.D. Tex. 2010) (“[W]here a plaintiff knew or should have known the identity of the nondiverse defendant at the time of the lawsuit's original filing in state court, many courts have viewed this scenario with much suspicion and have suggested and/or determined that a plaintiff's effort was, in fact, to frustrate diversity jurisdiction.”). Golden's stated reason for attempting to add Toy Tech at this stage is that GM listed Toy Tech as a potential responsible third party in its initial disclosures, which were not served on Golden until August 24. (Pl.'s Mot. Leave File Am. Compl., Dkt. 13, at 1 (“On August 24, 2017, GM served its Initial Disclosures. In those Initial Disclosures, GM listed ToyTech Auto Care as a potential responsible third party for having serviced the vehicle prior to the incident.”)). However, Golden cannot, and does not, plausibly claim that he was unaware of Toy Tech's involvement in the incident giving rise to this case prior to receiving GM's initial disclosures. In fact, Golden informed General Motors about Toy Tech's potential involvement as early as December 2015, by including invoices from Toy Tech in documents sent to GM's claims department. (Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s Mot. Leave File Compl., Dkt. 17, at 3). One of these invoices was for front brake service. (Id.). Golden knew about the involvement of Toy Tech in the incident from which this suit arose long before receiving the initial disclosure from General Motors. Golden does not explain this delay in his motion, nor does he explain why the initial disclosure suddenly required the addition of Toy Tech. Without further explanation from Golden regarding the timing of his request to add Toy Tech as a defendant, the Court is not persuaded that the proposed amendment is not sought for the purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction.

         B. Delay in Seeking Amendment

         Golden's delay in seeking to add Toy Tech as a party also favors denying Golden's request for leave to amend. The complaint was filed on May 17, GM removed the case on June 22, and Golden first attempted to amend the complaint to add Toy Tech on August 30. Three and a half months after the complaint was filed and more than two months after the case was removed constitutes considerable delay, especially since Golden knew of Toy Tech's involvement even before the complaint was filed. See Phillips v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 192 F.Supp.2d 727, 729 (E.D. Tex. 2001) (finding dilatory the plaintiffs' attempt to add parties who would defeat diversity jurisdiction when plaintiffs waited to do so over two months after the filing of the original petition and nearly 30 days after removal); Gill v. Michelin North America, Inc., 3 F.Supp.3d ...


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