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Luck v. Segura

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Amarillo Division

December 22, 2017




         Before 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.

         Basis of Removal

         In its 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.

         Procedural History

         On 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.


         On July 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.

         Removal Standards

         Federal 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).

         The 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.

         Improper Joinder Standards

         The 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).

         Improper ...

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