Smith v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC

Filing 60

ORDER entered granting 36 Motion for Leave to File amended complaint. The proposed first amended complaint is deemed filed upon entry of this Order. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e), this action is remanded to the Circuit Court of Mobile County Alabama. Smith's motion to remanded is MOOT. Signed by Judge Kristi K. DuBose on 8/21/2014. (mcb)

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IN  THE  UNITED  STATES  DISTRICT  COURT   FOR  THE  SOUTHERN  DISTRICT  OF  ALABAMA   SOUTHERN  DIVISION     THOMAS  C.  SMITH,  SR.,     )     )   Plaintiff,     )     )   v.       )   CIVIL  ACTION  NO.  14-­‐0060-­‐KD-­‐B     )   WINN-­‐DIXIE  MONTGOMERY,  LLC,  and       )   GEORGE  R.  BATISTE,     )     )   Defendants.   )     ORDER       This  action  is  before  the  Court  on  plaintiff  Thomas  C.  Smith,  Sr.’s  Motion  for   Leave  of  Court  to  File  First  Amended  Complaint  (doc.  36)  and  Motion  to  Remand  (doc.   37),  the  responses  filed  by  defendants  Winn-­‐Dixie  Montgomery,  LLC  and  George  R.   Batiste  (Defendants)  (docs.  39,  40)  and  Smith’s  replies  (docs.  43,  44).    Upon   consideration,  the  motion  for  leave  to  file  the  First  Amended  Complaint  is  GRANTED   and  the  proposed  First  Amended  Complaint  is  deemed  filed  upon  entry  of  this  order.   Accordingly,  pursuant  to  28  U.S.C.  §  1447(e),  this  action  is  remanded  to  the  Circuit   Court  of  Mobile  County,  Alabama.    Smith’s  motion  to  remand  is  MOOT.       Plaintiff  Thomas  C.  Smith,  Sr.  brought  this  action  for  negligence  and  wantonness   against  the  Defendants  in  the  Circuit  Court  of  Mobile  County,  Alabama.    Smith  alleges   that  Defendants  miss-­‐filled  his  prescription  for  100  ml  of  Humulin  R,  a  synthetic  form  of   Insulin,  with  500  ml  of  Humulin  R.      On  March  19,  2013,  Smith  injected  himself  at  work   and  his  blood  sugar  level  dropped  substantially  while  he  was  driving  home.      Smith’s   inappropriate  driving  was  reported  to  the  Mobile  County  Sheriff’s  Department  and  a     1   Deputy  Sheriff  pulled  him  over.    Smith’s  behavior  was  erratic  and  fluctuated  between   calm  and  aggressive.    The  Deputy  Sheriff  put  handcuffs  on  Smith  who  injured  his  wrists   while  struggling  against  the  cuffs.    Paramedics  arrived  and  stabilized  Smith’s  blood   sugar  level.    He  was  transported  to  the  University  of  South  Alabama  Medical  Center   where  he  was  hospitalized  for  treatment.  (Doc.1-­‐1,  Complaint)       Smith  filed  his  Complaint  against  the  Defendants  on  January  16,  2014.  (Doc.1-­‐1)   Defendants  removed  the  action  to  this  Court  on  February  14,  2014  (doc.  1).    The  Rule   16(b)  Scheduling  Order  was  entered  on  March  12,  2014  (doc.  11)  and  discovery   commenced.  On  June  6,  2014,  the  deadline  for  amendments  to  pleadings,  Smith  filed  his   motion  for  leave  to  amend  his  Complaint  to  add  Joanie  Bosarge  as  a  defendant  (doc.  36).       Smith  alleges  that  even  though  he  had  a  cash  register  receipt  for  the  Humulin  R  which   showed  the  Cashier  as  Joan____,  he  found  out  at  a  deposition  on  May  21,  2014  that   Joan___  ,  was  Joanie  Bosarge  a  former  Pharmacy  Technician  for  Winn-­‐Dixie  who  may   have  been  involved  in  processing  his  prescription.    Defendants  object  to  the  motion.       Rule  15(a)(2)  of  the  Federal  Rules  of  Civil  Procedure  provides  that  the  “court   should  freely  give  leave  [to  amend]  when  justice  so  requires.”    Relevant  to  this  removed   action  28  U.S.C.  §  1447(e),  provides  as  follows:     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  State  court.     28  U.S.C.  §  1447(e).     The  statute  vests  discretion  in  the  district  court  to  determine  whether  joinder  of   a  defendant  who  destroys  diversity  jurisdiction  is  appropriate.    “[W]hen  faced  with  an   amended  pleading  naming  a  new  nondiverse  defendant  in  a  removed  case,”  the  court     2   “should  scrutinize  that  amendment  more  closely  than  an  ordinary  amendment.”     Hensgens  v.  Deere  &  Co.,  833  F.2d  1179,  1182  (5th  Cir.  1987).    To  do  so,  the  district  court   “should  consider  the  extent  to  which  the  purpose  of  the  amendment  is  to  defeat  federal   jurisdiction,  whether  plaintiff  has  been  dilatory  in  asking  for  amendment,  whether   plaintiff  will  be  significantly  injured  if  amendment  is  not  allowed,  and  any  other  factors   bearing  on  the  equities.”  Id.      These  factors  serve  to  balance  the  Defendants’  “interest  in   retaining  the  federal  forum”  with  the  “danger  of  parallel  federal/state  proceedings  with   the  inherent  dangers  of  inconsistent  results  and  the  waste  of  judicial  resources.”  Id.         The  first  factor  weighs  in  favor  of  granting  the  motion.    The  evidence  before  the   Court  does  not  indicate  that  Smith’s  purpose  is  to  defeat  federal  jurisdiction.  Smith   intended  to  sue  other  persons  such  as  pharmacists  or  technicians  involved  in   processing  his  prescription  as  evidenced  by  the  style  of  his  original  complaint  and  the   discovery  served  with  his  original  complaint  wherein  he  sought  the  name,  address  and   job  title  of  the  persons  responsible  for  filling  his  prescription.    Smith  has  shown  that   had  this  action  not  been  removed,  he  would  have  amended  his  complaint  to  add  such   other  persons  involved  in  processing  his  prescription  when  their  identities  were  made   known  through  discovery.    Strongly  in  Smith’s  favor  is  the  fact  that  he  did  not  seek  leave   to  amend  to  add  Joan___  as  a  defendant,  until  he  discovered  that  she  was  a  Pharmacy   Technician  (doc.  36,  Exhibit  9,  License)  and  a  person  who  may  have  processed  the   prescription  at  issue.    See  Ibis  Villas  at  Miami  Gardens  Condo  Ass'n,  Inc.  v.  Aspen   Speciality  Ins.  Co.,  799  F.Supp.2d  1333,  1335  (S.D.Fla.2011)  (moving  to  add  a  non-­‐ diverse  defendant  immediately  after  removal  and  before  discovery  indicates  that  the   motion  was  made  with  the  “specific  purpose  of  destroying  diversity  jurisdiction.”)     3     Smith  has  not  been  dilatory  in  asking  for  amendment,  and  therefore,  the  second   factor  weighs  in  favor  of  granting  the  motion.    The  motion  was  filed  on  June  6,  2014,  the   deadline  for  amendment  of  pleadings  as  set  forth  in  the  Rule  16(b)  Scheduling  Order,   and  approximately  three  weeks  after  the  deposition  of  the  Pharmacy  Supervisor  who   identified  Joan  ____  as  a  Pharmacy  Technician.    Prior  to  that  time,  the  information  in   Smith’s  possession  indicated  that  Joan  ___  was  a  cashier.    Also,  as  set  forth  above,  Smith   sought  discovery  of  the  persons  involved  in  filling  his  prescription  when  he  filed  his   original  complaint.  He  also  conducted  discovery  on  this  issue  after  removal  despite  the   delays  incurred.    On  June  5,  2014,  the  eve  of  the  deadline  to  move  for  leave  to  amend,   Winn-­‐Dixie  responded  to  Smith’s  discovery  requests  and  identified  Joanie  Bosarge   among  the  pharmacy  employees  working  in  the  pharmacy  on  March  6,  2013  (doc.  36,  p.   4;  doc.  43-­‐2,  p.  4).       The  third  factor  weighs  in  favor  of  allowing  the  amendment.  In  deciding  whether   Smith  would  be  significantly  injured,  the  Court  may  look  to  whether  he  can  be  afforded   complete  relief  in  the  absence  of  the  amendment.    Holiday  Isle,  LLC  v.  Clarion  Mortgage   Capital,  Inc.,  2008  WL  1756369,  *3  (S.D.  Ala.  Apr.  11,  2008).    In  that  regard,  Defendants   argue  that  Smith  could  obtain  complete  relief  in  this  action  because  Batiste  is  jointly   responsible  and  liable  under  Alabama  law1  for  the  acts  or  omissions  of  Bosarge  or  other                                                                                                                   1  Ala.  Code  §  34-­‐23-­‐131  (“(a)  A  pharmacy  technician  shall  not  perform  pharmacy   functions  or  be  present  in  the  prescription  department  of  a  pharmacy  unless  he  or  she   is  under  the  direct  supervision  of  a  licensed  pharmacist.    A  pharmacy  technician  shall   not  perform  pharmacy  functions  or  be  present  in  the  prescription  department  of  a   pharmacy  unless  he  or  she  is  registered  by  the  board.  (b)  When  supervision  is  required,   a  licensed  pharmacist  shall  be  jointly  responsible  and  liable  for  the  actions  of  a   pharmacy  technician.  .  .  .  ”)         4   pharmacy  technicians  he  supervises  and  because  Winn-­‐Dixie  is  liable  under  the   doctrine  of  respondeat  superior  for  the  act  or  omissions  of  both  Batiste  and  Bosarge.     However,  as  Smith  points  out,  Defendants  answered  and  denied  that  Batiste  was  acting   in  the  line  and  scope  of  his  employment  at  the  time  the  prescription  was  filled  (doc.  2,  at   ¶  9).  He  also  points  out  that  success  against  Winn-­‐Dixie  under  the  doctrine  of   respondeat  superior  is  not  guaranteed.    Thus,  Smith  could  be  afforded  complete  relief  if   Bosarge,  Batiste,  and  their  employer  Winn-­‐Dixie  are  joined  as  defendants  in  a  single   action  and  Smith  allowed  to  pursue  any  applicable  individual  claims  against  Bosarge   and  Batiste,  should  it  be  found  that  Batiste,  who  is  responsible  for  supervising  Bosarge   when  performing  pharmacy  functions,  was  not  acting  within  the  line  and  scope  of  his   employment  when  the  miss-­‐filling  of  the  prescription  occurred.       Defendants  cite  to  Linares  v.  Home  Deport,  USA,  Inc.,  2012  WL  1441577,  *3  (S.  D.   Fla.  Apr.  26,  2012)  for  their  argument  that  it  is  unlikely  that  Smith  would  pursue  a  state   court  action  against  Bosarge  if  not  allowed  to  join  her  in  this  action.    However,  Smith   has  indicated  his  intent  to  file  suit  against  Bosarge  in  the  state  court  should  this   amendment  not  be  allowed.    Thus,  the  likelihood  that  he  will  pursue  his  claim  against   Bosarge  is  not  remote.    Moreover,  Bosarge  as  a  licensed  Pharmacy  Technician  who  is   required  by  statute  and  administrative  regulation  to  be  supervised  by  Batiste  when   performing  pharmacy  functions  is  not  in  the  same  posture  as  the  named  defendant  in   Linares  who  was  alleged  in  the  proposed  amended  complaint  to  have  negligently   maintained  the  store  and  failed  to  train  employees.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “Pharmacy  Functions”  are  defined  as  “Those  functions  performed  in  a  pharmacy   department  which  do  not  require  the  professional  judgment  of  a  licensed  pharmacist.”   Ala.  Code  §  34-­‐23-­‐130(1).         5     Other  factors  bearing  on  the  equities  weigh  in  favor  of  allowing  Smith’s  motion   for  leave  to  amend.      Smith  convincingly  explains  that  he  has  tried  to  learn  the  identities   of  the  pharmacists  and  technicians  allegedly  responsible  for  miss-­‐filling  his  prescription   since  the  inception  of  his  lawsuit  and  that  had  he  known  about  Bosarge,  she  would  have   been  included  in  the  lawsuit  from  the  beginning.      Despite  Winn-­‐Dixie’s  disclosure  on   June  5,  2014,  of  the  names  of  the  pharmacy  employees  working  March  6,  2013  when   Smith’s  prescription  was  filled,2  Winn-­‐Dixie  still  has  not  produced  the  incident  report,  3   which  likely  would  identify  the  persons  involved  in  processing  the  prescription.   Moreover,  on  June  5,  2014,  Winn-­‐Dixie  provided  its  responses  to  Smith’s  request  for   supplemental  responses  wherein  it  states  that  it  “has  not  determined  which  employee   re-­‐filled  Plaintiff’s  Humulin  R  100  prescription  on  March  6,  2013”  and  that  it  “continues   to  research  and  investigate  the  subject  refill  in  order  to  determine  which  pharmacy   employee  re-­‐filled”  the  prescription  (doc.  43-­‐2,  p.  3).     In  conclusion,  weighing  the  Defendants’  “interest  in  retaining  the  federal  forum”   with  the  “danger  of  parallel  federal/state  proceedings  with  the  inherent  dangers  of   inconsistent  results  and  the  waste  of  judicial  resources[.]”  Hensgens,  at  1182,  Smith’s   motion  for  leave  to  amend  is  due  to  be  granted.    Smith  timely  moved  for  leave  to  amend                                                                                                                   2  (Doc.  36,  Exhibit  11)     3  Smith  provides  the  Court  with  a  copy  of  his  demand  letter  dated  July  24,  2013  (doc.   43-­‐4).    In  the  letter,  Smith  states  that  the  Pharmacy  Supervisor  filled  out  an  incident   report  when  Smith’s  wife  complained  about  the  miss-­‐filled  prescription  that  lead  to   Winn-­‐Dixie  investigators  contacting  the  Smiths  and  asks  that  the  investigators  stop.     (Id.,  p.  3)  Smith  stated  that  Winn-­‐Dixie  had  not  provided  a  copy  of  the  incident  report   and  noted  his  intent  to  file  a  motion  to  compel  to  obtain  the  incident  report.    (Doc.  43,  p.   2,  n.2)    A  motion  to  compel  has  now  been  filed.  (Doc.  48)         6   to  add  Bosarge  as  a  defendant  soon  after  he  was  made  aware  that  she  was  a  Pharmacy   Technician  who  may  have  been  involved  in  processing  his  prescription.    As  a  result,  this   action  is  due  to  be  remanded  to  the  Circuit  Court  of  Mobile  County,  Alabama  for  further   proceedings.    Ingram  v.  CSX  Transportation,  Inc.,  146  F.3d  858,  861–862  (11th  Cir.1998)   (“When  the  district  court  granted  Ingram's  motion  to  add  the  City  as  a  defendant,   complete  diversity  no  longer  existed  between  the  parties,  thereby  destroying  subject   matter  jurisdiction.”)                 Done  and  ordered  this  the  21st  day  of  August  2014.                                 s/  Kristi  K.  DuBose           KRISTI  K.  DuBOSE         UNITED  STATES  DISTRICT  JUDGE     7  

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