Bigham v. Life Insurance Company of North America
OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 2/19/14. (scn, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, SOUTHERN DIVISION
LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF
CIVIL ACTION NO.
Plaintiff Maurine Bigham alleges that defendant Life
Insurance Company of North America (LINA) misled her into
believing that she was purchasing a significantly more
generous disability-insurance policy than she actually
When she became disabled and the policy ended
earlier than she believed it would, she brought this
lawsuit making claims for fraud and breach of contract.
LINA brought a counterclaim that, rather than owing Bigham
overpaid her by $ 20,253.12.
The court has diversity-of-
citizenship jurisdiction over Bigham’s claims, 28 U.S.C.
counterclaim, 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
This lawsuit is now before the court on Bigham’s
motion to add party and motion to dismiss her claims
The court will grant the latter and
deny the former as moot.
The court will also dismiss
LINA’s counterclaim without prejudice.
Bigham now believes that her employer, Houston County
Center (SAMC), may have participated in or perpetrated the
fraudulent representations with regard to the disabilityinsurance policy.
She initially moved to add SAMC as a
defendant in this case, but, since SAMC and Bigham are
both citizens of Alabama, that would destroy diversity of
Therefore, Bigham has filed a separate suit
against SAMC in state court, and she now also moves to
dismiss this federal action, so she can pursue her claims
against both LINA and SAMC together and in full in state
complaint, she may dismiss her case only by either signed
41(a)(1)(A)(ii), or court order, Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2).
Because LINA does not consent to dismissal, her suit may
be dismissed only by court order.
The Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals has explained that:
“The district court
enjoys broad discretion in determining whether to allow a
voluntary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2). ... [I]n most
cases, a voluntary dismissal should be granted unless the
defendant will suffer clear legal prejudice, other then the
mere prospect of a subsequent lawsuit, as a result. ... The
crucial question to be determined is, Would the defendant
equities and do justice between the parties in each case,
imposing such costs and attaching such conditions to the
dismissal as are deemed appropriate.” Pontenberg v. Boston
Scientific Corp., 252 F.3d 1253, 1255-1256 (11th Cir. 2001)
(internal citations removed) (quotation marks omitted)
(emphasis in original). In Pontenberg, the appellate court
held that delay and neglect by the plaintiff, even until
the summary-judgment stage, did not give rise to “clear
legal prejudice” which would justify refusal to dismiss a
Id. at 1256.
In this case, LINA admitted that it would face no
prejudice from dismissal, merely the loss of a preferred
forum. No depositions have been taken yet, and the written
discovery which has been exchanged will be useful to a
state lawsuit as well.
Indeed, LINA acknowledges that it
may in fact benefit from having SAMC as a fellow defendant
to share liability.
Bigham’s dismissal motion should be
Moreover, there is an alternative ground to dismiss
As stated, Bigham initially moved to add
SAMC as a defendant.
Joinder may be pursuant to either
Fed. R. Civ. P. 19 (“Required Joinder of Parties”) or Fed.
R. Civ. P. 20 (“Permissive Joinder of Parties”). Although
Bigham describes SAMC as a “necessary party,” her motion
does not identify which form of joinder she seeks, nor does
she describe how SAMC is a necessary party. The court will
treat the motion as a Rule 20 motion.
However, since SAMC
and Bigham are both citizens of Alabama, such permissive
joinder would destroy diversity of citizenship, with the
result that this case would have to be dismissed.
Under Rule 40(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, discussed above, the focus was on prejudice to
the defendant--whether LINA would suffer “clear legal
However, with regard to joinder, the focus is
also on the plaintiff, here Bigham.
The court should
consider whether plaintiff will be significantly injured
if the joinder is not allowed, whether plaintiff has been
dilatory in asking for joinder, and any other factors
bearing on the equities.
Cf. Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833
F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987) (district court, when
nonindispensable party that would warrant remand, should
discretion), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 851 (1989).
Under these considerations, Bigham’s lawsuit should
still be dismissed.
First, it appears that Bigham desires
to pursue a proper claim against SAMC, since she alleges
misrepresented the terms of the policy.
for Bigham represents that he did not learn about SAMC’s
involvement until about a month and a half ago.
while it is true that Bigham waited several months before
seeking to amend her complaint or dismiss the action, she
has not been dilatory.
Third and finally, it would be in
the best interest of all parties for the claims against
LINA and SAMC to be tried by the same factfinder.
rigorous considerations underscores the propriety of the
dismissal of this lawsuit.
Rule 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
defendant in such cases by attaching conditions to the
dismissal.” Pontenberg, 252 F.3d at 1258. Here, dismissal
will result in no prejudice to LINA; indeed, it appears
that the pursuit of Bigham’s claims against both LINA and
SAMC in one lawsuit will benefit LINA. The court therefore
sees no need to impose any conditions of dismissal on
When the court dismisses all claims over which it had
supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. 28
U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). Since LINA’s counterclaim is for less
diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), there are no
jurisdiction. When the court has the option of declining
fairness to the parties, and whether all the claims would
be expected to be tried together.” Palmer v. Hospital Auth.
of Randolph Cnty., 22 F.3d 1559, 1569 (11th Cir. 1994)
(citing United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726
It best furthers judicial economy, convenience
of the parties, and common sense for all of the claims
Bigham has against LINA and SAMC and the counterclaim LINA
has against Bigham to be tried together, for they are all
For the above reasons, Bigham’s motion to dismiss will
prejudice. Her motion to add party will be denied as moot.
An appropriate judgment will be entered.
DONE, this the 19th day of February, 2014.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?