Cooper v. Chase Park Plaza Hotel
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to remand [Doc. #22] is denied. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion of defendant Angie Owens to dismiss [Doc. #30] is granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion of defendant Chase Park Plaza Hotel, LLC, to strike first amended complaint [Doc. #24] is denied as moot. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall have until August 17, 2015, to file an amended complaint alleging facts sufficient to establish jurisdiction. ( Response to Court due by 8/17/2015.) Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 8/3/2015. (KMS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CARRIE L. COOPER,
CHASE PARK PLAZA HOTEL, LLC, et al.,
Case No. 4:15-CV-443 (CEJ)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the court on plaintiff’s motion to remand, the motion of
defendant Chase Park Plaza Hotel, LLC, to strike the amended complaint, and the
motion of defendant Angie Owens to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Plaintiff Carrie Cooper initiated this action in the state court, asserting claims
of employment discrimination in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA),
Mo.Rev.Stat. §§ 213.010 et seq.1 Defendant Chase Park Plaza Hotel, LLC, removed
the case to this court, invoking jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship.
Plaintiff is a citizen of Missouri; defendant Chase Park is a citizen of Texas,
Maryland, and Delaware.
On April 13, 2015, the court entered a Case Management Order, establishing
May 15, 2015, as the date by which the parties could amend pleadings or join
parties without leave of court. [Doc. #12]. On May 15, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion
Plaintiff was employed as a bartender. She alleges that she was terminated for violating
“integrity” guidelines governing the handling of financial transactions. Plaintiff alleges that
four other female bartenders were terminated for similar offenses, leaving only male
bartenders still employed. First Am. Comp. ¶¶26, 31. [Doc. #17].
for leave to amend her complaint to join as defendants Angie Owens, the director
of human resources for defendant Chase Park, and ARL SL Management, LLC, (ARL)
the entity that allegedly employed plaintiff. In her motion, plaintiff stated that
Owens is a citizen of Missouri and that her joinder would destroy diversity
jurisdiction. The court granted plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint.
Chase Park moved for reconsideration, arguing that plaintiff joined Owens solely for
the purpose of destroying diversity jurisdiction and that plaintiff’s claims against
Owens were time-barred. [Doc. #18]. The court denied the motion to reconsider
stating that, because plaintiff sought amendment before the expiration of the date
set in the Case Management Order, she had not been required to seek leave in the
first instance. [Doc. #20]. The court noted that any deficiencies in the amended
complaint could be addressed by an appropriate motion.
Where, as here, a plaintiff seeks to add a diversity-destroying defendant to a
case that was removed, “the court may deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand
the action to the State court.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). The district court, when faced
with an amended pleading naming a new nondiverse defendant in a removed case,
should scrutinize that amendment more closely than an ordinary amendment.
Bailey v. Bayer CropScience L.P., 563 F.3d 302, 309 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833 F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987)).
In this case, the court has already granted plaintiff leave to file the amended
complaint and so must determine whether it has the authority to reconsider that
decision and address the propriety of joinder under § 1447(e). The court finds that
authority in Fed.R.Civ.P. 21, which provides that a “court may at any time, on just
terms, add or drop a party.” The Supreme Court has stated that “Rule 21 invests
district courts with authority to allow a dispensable nondiverse party to be dropped
at any time, even after judgment has been rendered.” Newman–Green, Inc. v.
Alfonzo–Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 832 (1989); see also Bailey, 563 F.3d at 308
(district court had authority to reconsider order allowing amended complaint that
added diversity destroying defendants); Smith v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 229 F.
Supp. 2d 1275, 1278 (N.D. Ala. 2002) (same). For reasons stated below, Owens is
a dispensable party.
In determining whether to permit joinder and remand the action, or to deny
joinder under § 1447(e), the court is required to consider “(1) the extent to which
the joinder of the nondiverse party is sought to defeat federal jurisdiction, (2)
whether [the] plaintiff has been dilatory in asking for amendment, and (3) whether
[the] plaintiff will be significantly injured if amendment is not allowed.” Bayer, 563
F.3d at 309 (citations omitted) (alterations in original).
With respect to the first factor, Chase Park asserts that plaintiff named
Owens as a defendant solely for the purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction. On
April 2, 2015, plaintiff’s counsel told defense counsel Matthew Hill that he intended
to amend the complaint to add Owens so that the case could be returned to state
court. Decl. Matthew D. Hill ¶4 [Doc. #19-1]. And, on May 12, 2015, plaintiff’s
counsel left a voice message for defense counsel Mark Feldhaus in which he stated
in relevant part, “Essentially what I want to do is . . . get out of federal court.” Def.
Ex. A (disc) [Doc. #21]. This evidence, which plaintiff does not refute, supports a
finding that plaintiff’s joinder of Owens was for the purpose of defeating federal
The second factor to consider is whether the plaintiff was dilatory in seeking
to amend her complaint. On February 5, 2015, plaintiff initiated this action in the
state court, naming Chase Park as the sole defendant. In its notice of removal filed
on March 11, 2015, Chase Park stated that it was not plaintiff’s employer. Notice
¶18 n.1 [Doc. #1].
It repeated that assertion in its answer on March 18, 2015. On
April 9, 2015, plaintiff informed the court that she did not contest the assertion and
that she intended to file an amended complaint naming additional defendants and
dismissing Chase Park from the case. Joint Prop. Sched. Plan ¶G [Doc.#11].
Nonetheless, plaintiff did not seek leave to amend until May 15, 2015. She offers no
explanation for her failure to name the correct defendants until two months after
she was notified that she had not properly identified her employer. See Sandoval
v. Am. Bldg. Maint. Indus., Inc., 578 F.3d 787, 792 (8th Cir. 2009) (plaintiffs
unreasonably delayed amending complaint to name proper employer after receiving
notice and opportunity to amend). This factor weighs against permitting joinder.
The third factor is whether the plaintiff will be significantly injured if joinder is
Chase Park argues that plaintiff’s claims against Owens are time-
barred and do not relate back to the original, timely-filed complaint. Owens seeks
dismissal of the claims against her on the same basis.
The MHRA provides that an aggrieved person must file a court action within
ninety days of the date on which the Missouri Commission on Human Rights issues
a right-to-sue notice. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 213.111.1. In this case, the ninety-day period
expired on February 18, 2015, well before plaintiff amended her complaint to name
Owens. See First Am. Comp. ¶12 (notice issued on November 20, 2014). For
equitable tolling to extend a limitations period, a plaintiff must show that the delay
in filing was not caused by “bad faith” or less than “reasonable diligence.” Koss v.
Young Men’s Christian Ass’n of Metro. Minneapolis, 504 F. Supp. 2d 658, 661 (D.
Minn. 2007); see also Hill v. John Chezik Imports, 869 F.2d 1122, 1124 (8th Cir.
1989) (“Courts have generally reserved the remedy of equitable tolling for
circumstances which were truly beyond the control of the plaintiff.”). Here, the
court has already determined that plaintiff did not exercise reasonable diligence in
amending her pleadings and thus she is not entitled to equitable tolling.
The claims against Owens will be deemed timely only if they “relate back” to
the initial complaint. An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the
original pleading when:
the amendment changes the party . . . against whom a claim is
asserted, . . . if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for
serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in
(i) received such notice of the action that it will not be
prejudiced in defending on the merits; and
(ii) knew or should have known that the action would
have been brought against it, but for a mistake
concerning the proper party’s identity.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(C). In order to obtain the benefit of the relation-back
doctrine, plaintiff must show that the failure to name Owens in the first place was
the result of a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party. Sandoval, 578
F.3d at 792; see also Nelson v. Adams USA, Inc., 529 U.S. 460, 467 n.1 (2000)
(Rule 15(c)(1)(C) applies only in cases involving a mistake concerning the identity
of the proper party). Plaintiff cannot meet this requirement with respect to Owens,
because she identified Owens as the decisionmaker in her initial complaint. See
Maurer v. Chico’s FAS Inc., No. 4:13CV519 TIA, 2013 WL 6388451, at *5 (E.D. Mo.
Dec. 6, 2013) (plaintiff aware of direct supervisors when she instituted the action
and thus amended complaint joining them as defendants does not relate back).
Plaintiff’s claims against Owens are untimely and subject to dismissal.
plaintiff will not be prejudiced if she is not allowed to join Owens as a defendant.
All three § 1447(e) factors weigh against permitting plaintiff to join a
nondiverse defendant, and her motion to remand will be denied.
court’s inquiry into subject-matter jurisdiction does not end here. Plaintiff identifies
defendant ARL as a limited liability company, but she has not alleged the citizenship
of its members. GMAC Commercial Credit, LLC v. Dillard Dep’t Stores, Inc., 357
F.3d 827, 829 (8th Cir. 2004) (for purposes of diversity jurisdiction, citizenship of a
limited liability company is determined by citizenship of all of its members). With
respect to her own citizenship, plaintiff pleads only that she is a “resident” of
Missouri and is silent with respect to where she is a citizen. See Sanders v. Clemco
Industries, 823 F.2d 214, 216 (8th Cir. 1987) (complaint stating party’s place of
residence did not establish diversity of citizenship). Plaintiff’s first amended
complaint thus does not satisfy Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1) (pleading for relief must
contain “short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction). The
court will give her an opportunity to amend her complaint to include facts necessary
to establish jurisdiction.
For the reasons stated above,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion to remand [Doc. #22] is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion of defendant Angie Owens to
dismiss [Doc. #30] is granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion of defendant Chase Park Plaza
Hotel, LLC, to strike first amended complaint [Doc. #24] is denied as moot.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall have until August 17, 2015,
to file an amended complaint alleging facts sufficient to establish jurisdiction.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 3rd day of August, 2015.
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