United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Amarillo Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING REMAND
LOU ROBINSON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and Brief
in Support, Document 5, Defendant General Motors
LLC's (GM) response, Document 7, and Plaintiffs Reply,
Document 11. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs motion for
a remand is granted.
notice of removal Defendant General Motors alleged this case
was removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, asserting the
Court has original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(3) because of a complete diversity of citizenship and
the amount-in-controversy exceeded $75, 000. GM further
alleged that Defendant Gilbert Segura was fraudulently joined
in this lawsuit.
October 5, 2016 Plaintiff filed his original action in the
31st Judicial District Court of Wheeler County, Texas naming
Alan Michael Segura, Jr. and Jared Clay Patterson as
Defendants. On December 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed his First
Amended Original Petition adding Defendant Gilbert Segura,
now deceased, and asserting a negligent entrustment action
against Gilbert Segura. On July 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed his
Second Amended Original Petition which named GM as an
additional defendant, asserting a products liability claim
against his car's manufacturer, GM. Gilbert Segura never
appeared in this proceeding; he died on March 7, 2017.
Following agreed dismissals of defendants Jared Clay
Patterson and Alan Michael Segura, Jr., GM timely filed a
notice of removal under diversity jurisdiction, alleging
improper joinder of co-defendant Gilbert Segura.
29, 2016 in Wheeler County, Texas, while traveling on U.S.
83, Plaintiff was stopped immediately behind a vehicle
hauling cattle, awaiting a pilot car to lead traffic safely
through a construction zone. Alan Michael Segura, Jr., while
approaching the construction zone on U.S. 83, allegedly
failed to control his speed and rear-ended Plaintiffs
vehicle. Plaintiff alleges that the force of the collision
propelled Plaintiff into the cattle-hauling vehicle which was
stopped immediately in front of Plaintiff vehicle. Alan
Michael Segura, Jr. was driving a Ford flatbed truck with two
different license plates and two different title chains,
facts which are absent from Defendant GM's pleadings.
Plaintiff Calvin Dean Luck was driving a Chevrolet Silverado
pickup manufactured by GM.
district courts have jurisdiction over civil actions between
"citizens of different States" where the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a). Diversity actions are removable "only if none
of the parties in interest properly joined and served as
defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is
brought." 28 U.S.C. 1441(b). "Removal statutes are
to be construed strictly against removal and for
remand." Eastus v. Blue Bell Creameries, L.P.,
97 F.3d 100, 106 (5th Cir. 1996). When an amended complaint
filed after removal destroys diversity, "leave of court
is required even where the existing defendant has not filed
responsive pleadings." Wein v. Liberty Lloyds of
Texas Ins. Co., A-15-CA-19-SS, 2015 WL 1275915, 4 (W.D.
Tex. Mar. 19, 2015).
Court has granted Plaintiff leave to add a non-diverse party
to the suit. Plaintiff has now added as a party defendant
Johannah Joy Segura, who is the heir of the deceased former
defendant Gilbert Segura. Johannah Joy Segura is a citizen of
Texas. Plaintiff is also a citizen of Texas. Thus, the Court
is divested of jurisdiction due to Plaintiffs addition of a
non-diverse party. As such, the case must be remanded.
However, because Defendant GM alleges fraudulent joinder, the
Court will address that issue.
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. Smallwood v.
Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 385 F.3d 568, 573 (5th Cir. 2004).
The Fifth Circuit reiterated that to prove improper joinder
the defendant must show 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."
Id. The Fifth Circuit has stated that "the
burden of demonstrating fraudulent joinder is a heavy one,
" but "the mere hypothetical possibility that such
an [viable] action could exist" is insufficient. See
Griggs v. State Farm Lloyds, 181 F.3d 694, 701 (5th Cir.
1999). Instead, determining whether the plaintiff has
"stated a valid state law cause of action depends upon
and is tied to the factual fit between the plaintiffs
allegations and the pleaded theory of recovery."
Id. In reviewing the facts before the Court and
ruling on the issue of improper joinder, the Court is to
"resolve all uncertainties in favor of the nonremoving
party." Cavallini v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins.
Co., 44 F.3d 256, 259 (5th Cir. 1995).