Lewis v. Invacare Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER as follows: (1) Plaintiff's 6 Motion to Remand is GRANTED as further set out in the order. (2) This case is REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Tallapoosa County, Alabama. (3) The Clerk is DIRECTED to take appropriate steps to effect the remand. Signed by Honorable Judge Mark E. Fuller on 10/18/2013. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist) Copy mailed to Clerk, Circuit Court of Tallapoosa County.(dmn, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DERENDA G. LEWIS, the Personal
Representative of the Estate of
Donny K. Lewis, deceased,
EAST ALABAMA HOMEMED,
LLC; et al.,
CASE NO. 3:13-cv-561-MEF
(WO - Do Not Publish)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff Derenda G. Lewis’s (“Plaintiff”)
Motion to Remand (Doc. # 6) filed on September 5, 2013. This lawsuit was originally filed
in the Circuit Court of Tallapoosa County, Alabama. Arguing that Plaintiff had fraudulently
joined Defendant East Alabama HomeMed (“EAHM”), an Alabama resident, Defendants
removed the action from state to federal court. Plaintiff seeks remand of this action
contending that EAHM was not fraudulently joined. For the reasons set forth in this
Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court finds that the Motion to Remand is due to be
GRANTED because EAHM was not fraudulently joined.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095
(11th Cir.1994); Wymbs v. Republican State Executive Comm., 719 F.2d 1072, 1076 (11th
Cir. 1983). As such, federal courts only have the power to hear cases that they have been
authorized to hear by the Constitution or the Congress of the United States. See Kokkonen,
511 U.S. at 377. Because federal court jurisdiction is limited, the Eleventh Circuit favors
remand of removed cases when federal jurisdiction is not absolutely clear. See Burns, 31
F.3d at 1095.
Removal of a case from state to federal court is proper if the case could have been
brought originally in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The removing defendant has
the burden of establishing that a court has subject matter jurisdiction over an action. See
Diaz v. Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502, 1505 (11th Cir. 1996) (stating that the party seeking
removal to federal court has the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction).
Defendants argue that removal was proper because the Court has jurisdiction over this
case due to diversity of citizenship. The diversity statute confers jurisdiction on the federal
courts in civil actions between citizens of different states, in which the jurisdictional amount
of greater than $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, is met. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
According to the rule of “complete diversity,” no plaintiff may share the same state
citizenship with any defendant. See Riley v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., 292
F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002).
From the Complaint it appears that there is not complete diversity of citizenship in this
case because EAHM and Plaintiff are both residents of Alabama. Defendants argue that, due
to the fraudulent joinder, the Court should disregard EAHM’s residency for purposes of
diversity jurisdiction and conclude that complete diversity between the parties exists. See,
e.g., Owens v. Life Ins. Co. of Ga., 289 F. Supp. 2d 1319, 1325 (M.D. Ala. 2003); Bullock
v. United Benefit Ins. Co., 165 F. Supp. 2d 1255, 1247 (M.D. Ala. 2001) (“When a defendant
has been fraudulently joined, the court should disregard his or her citizenship for purposes
of determining whether a case is removable based upon diversity of citizenship.”). Thus, in
order to determine whether complete diversity exists in this case, the Court must address the
issue of fraudulent joinder.
As the United States Supreme Court has long recognized, a defendant’s “right to
removal cannot be defeated by a fraudulent joinder of a residential defendant having no real
connection to the controversy.” Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921).
The Eleventh Circuit has articulated that joinder may be deemed fraudulent in three
The first is when there is no possibility that the plaintiff can
prove a cause of action against the resident (non-diverse)
defendant1 . . . The second is when there is outright fraud in the
plaintiff’s pleading of jurisdictional facts . . . [A third situation
arises] where a diverse defendant is joined with a nondiverse
defendant as to whom there is no joint, several or alternative
liability and where the claims against the diverse defendant has
no real connection to the claim against the nondiverse
Triggs, 154 F.3d at 1287. A removing defendant bears the burden of proving fraudulent
joinder. See Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d 1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).
This burden on the defendant is a heavy one. It requires the court to evaluate the parties’
factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all uncertainties
about state substantive law in favor of the plaintiff. See id. If there is a possibility that a
“The plaintiff need not have a winning case against the allegedly fraudulent defendant; he
[or she] need only have a possibility of stating a valid cause of action in order for the joinder to be
legitimate.” Triggs v. John Crump Toyota, 154 F.3d 1284, 1287 (11th Cir. 1998) (emphasis in
state court would find that the complaint states a cause of action against any one of the
resident defendants, the federal court must find that the joinder is proper and remand the case
to the state court. See Coker v. Amoco Oil Co., 709 F.2d 1433, 1440 (11th Cir. 1983).2 In
other words, a motion to remand should be denied only if the court is convinced that there
is “no possibility that the plaintiff can establish any cause of action against the resident
defendant.” See Cabalceta v. Standard Fruit Co., 883 F.2d 1553,1561 (11th Cir. 1989).
Defendants assert only the first type of fraudulent joinder. Specifically, they argue
that there is no possibility that Plaintiff can establish a cause of action against EAHM. The
Court has carefully reviewed the claims against EAHM and the arguments and affidavits of
the parties, and it must conclude that in this case there is a possibility that Plaintiff can
establish at least one of her causes of action against EAHM. Accordingly, this Court must
find that the joinder is proper and remand the case to the Circuit Court of Tallapoosa County,
It is hereby ORDERED as follows:
Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand (Doc. # 6) is GRANTED.
This case is REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Tallapoosa County,
It is important to note that the Court should determine its jurisdiction over the case “based
upon the plaintiff’s pleadings at the time of removal,” Coker, 709 F.2d 1433, 1440 (11th Cir. 1983),
supplemented by any affidavits or deposition transcripts filed by the parties. “While ‘the proceeding
appropriate for resolving a claim of fraudulent joinder is similar to that used for ruling on a motion
for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b),’ the jurisdictional inquiry ‘must not subsume
substantive determination’. . . When considering a motion for remand, federal courts are not to
weigh the merits of a plaintiff’s claim beyond determining whether it is an arguable one under state
law.” Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d 1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted) (internal
The Clerk is DIRECTED to take appropriate steps to effect the remand.
DONE this the 18th day of October, 2013.
/s/ Mark E. Fuller
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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