Baker v. Wilson et al
ORDER granting 9 Motion to Intervene. Signed by Judge John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr. on May 19, 2023. (Fowlkes, J.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
IN THE WESTERN DIVISION
JERRY BAKER, as next of kin,
Individually, and on behalf of all
Wrongful death beneficiaries of
RINGO J. BAKER, deceased,
DOUGLAS WILSON and YRC INC.
D/B/A YRC FREIGHT,
Case No. 2:23-cv-02213-JTF-cgc
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF-INTERVENOR FLORENCE SMITH’S,
ADMINISTRATOR OF RINGO BAKER’S ESTATE, MOTION TO INTERVENE
Before the Court is Plaintiff-Intervenor Florence Smith’s Motion to Intervene, filed on
April 26, 2023. (ECF No. 9.) An amended version of the motion was filed later that day. (ECF
No. 10.) Defendants do not oppose the motion, although the opposition of the named plaintiff is
uncertain. However, the deadline for an initial response has now passed. For the below reasons,
the Motion is GRANTED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff Jerry Baker filed the present case in Shelby County Circuit Court on March 22,
2023. (ECF No. 1, 2.) Defendants Douglas Wilson and YRC, Inc. d/b/a YRC Freight (“YRC”)
timely removed the case to this Court on April 13, 2023. (ECF No. 1.) In brief, Jerry Baker
brings wrongful death and personal injury claims on behalf of his brother, Ringo Baker, who he
alleges was killed when a YRC truck driven by Douglas Wilson violated traffic law and collided
with Ringo Baker.
The present motion is brought by Florence Smith, Jerry and Ringo Baker’s sister and the
appointed Administrator Ad Litem of Ringo Baker’s estate for purposes of prosecuting a tort
action on behalf of Ringo Baker, pursuant to an order from Shelby County Probate Court. (ECF
No. 10-3.) Smith moves on behalf of Ringo Baker’s other siblings, including herself, Sugar
Long, Thelma Brown, Tommy Baker, Jeraldine Hunter-Gaddes, Freda Caradine, and Cutislene
Baker Harris, to intervene in Jerry Baker’s suit against Wilson and YRC. She seeks to intervene
both as of right and, in the alternative, with permission, and alleges that she and her siblings
possess interests in the present case that may be affected and which are not adequately
represented by Jerry Baker. Smith filed the motion on April 26, 2023, which the Defendants did
not oppose. As such, no response was filed.
The Sixth Circuit has summarized the procedure for intervention as of right as follows:
Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs intervention. Rule 24(a)
grants the right to intervene, ‘[o]n timely motion,’ to any individual that ‘claims
an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action,
and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or
impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties
adequately represent that interest.’ This rule ‘require[s] an applicant to show that:
1) the application was timely filed; 2) the applicant possesses a substantial legal
interest in the case; 3) the applicant's ability to protect its interest will be impaired
without intervention; and 4) the existing parties will not adequately represent the
Clarke v. Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp., 641 F. App’x 520, 522-23 (6th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Blount-Hill v. Zelman, 636 F.3d 278, 283 (6th Cir. 2011)). Intervention as of permission
is dependent on court discretion, and the court must determine whether a potential intervenor
“has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact.”
NAACP v. New York, 413 U.S. 345, 365 (1973).
As noted above, intervention as of right requires the potential intervenor to show that
their motion was timely filed, they posses a substantial legal interest in the case, their interest
will be impaired if they cannot intervene, and the existing parties will not adequately represent
that interest. The Sixth Circuit “subscribes to a rather expansive notion of the interest sufficient
to invoke intervention of right.” Reliastar Life Ins. Co. v. MKP Investments, 565 F. App’x 369,
371 (6th Cir. 2014). Smith argues that she has met each of the four factors.
Smith’s motion is certainly timely. The motion was filed only thirteen days after the case
was removed to federal court and barely a month after it was originally filed in state court.
Discovery has not begun and a scheduling order has not been entered. Further, Smith and the
other siblings have a legal interest. Ringo Baker left no children or other heirs. Under Tennessee
intestate law, his interest in this suit passed to his siblings equally. Glanton v. Lord, 183 S.W.3d
391, 393 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005); see also Providence Baptist Church v. Hillandale Comm., Ltd.,
425 F.3d 309, 317 (6th Cir. 2005) (Interest must be such that the proposed intervenor is “a real
party in interest in the transaction which is the subject of the proceeding.”). The Sixth Circuit has
stated that even “close cases” should be resolved in favor of finding an interest, and this is not a
close case on this point. Mich. State AFL-CIO v. Miller, 103 F.3d 1240, 1247 (6th Cir. 1997). It
is also clear that intervention is necessary to protect this interest. Under Sixth Circuit law, “a
would-be intervenor must show only that impairment of its substantial legal interest is possible if
intervention is denied.” Id. (emphasis added). A potential stare decisis effect is enough to
demonstrate possible impairment. Id. Here, Jerry Baker’s suit could impair the rights of Smith
and the other siblings due to its potential stare decisis effect on any future suits against Wilson or
YRC over Ringo Baker’s death. Further, Shelby County Probate Court has already appointed
Smith as the Administrator Ad Litem over this claim; Baker’s suit could potentially affect the
exercise of that right as well.
Finally, Smith states that Jerry Baker cannot adequately protect her and the other
siblings’ interests. To demonstrate inadequacy, “the proposed intervenor need show only that
there is a potential for inadequate representation.” Davis v. Lifetime Capital, Inc., 560 F. App’x
477, 495 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Grutter v. Bollinger, 188 F.3d 394, 400 (6th Cir. 1999)). This
can be satisfied by showing “that the existing party who purports to seek the same outcome will
not make all of the prospective intervenor’s arguments,” or that the proposed intervenors’
interest is not represented at all. Id. at 496. Smith has met this burden here. Jerry Baker is not
guaranteed to make all of the arguments that the larger sibling group would, given his individual
interests, while Smith has been appointed Administrator Ad Litem of their interests by the Shelby
County Probate Court. Jerry Baker lacks this mandate, does not represent their interests
collectively, and possibly will neglect to make arguments on behalf of all siblings. Accordingly,
this last required step for intervention as of right is met.
As the Court believes that intervention as of right is warranted, it is unnecessary to
discuss Smith’s argument for permissive intervention. The Motion is hereby GRANTED. Smith
will be allowed to intervene in this lawsuit as a plaintiff as of right.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 19th day of May, 2023.
s/John T. Fowlkes, Jr., ________________
JOHN T. FOWLKES, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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