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Smith v. M Services, LLC

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

August 29, 2013

DAVID SMITH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
M SERVICES, LLC, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [Regarding ECF No. 4; 5]

BENITA Y. PEARSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (ECF No. 4) and Motion for Leave to File Fourth Amended Complaint (ECF No. 5). Defendants filed a response (ECF No. 8). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motions and remands the case to state court.

I.

Plaintiffs, Ohio residents, commenced this personal injury action in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas against Defendant M Services, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. ECF No. 4 at 3. Plaintiffs allege they were injured as a result of an explosion that took place at a steel plant operated by their employer, Warren Steel Holdings. ECF No. 4 at 2. Plaintiffs allege the explosion occurred when workers employed by M Services negligently overfilled an industrial bucket with scrap m on the premises of Warren Steel Holdings. ECF No. 4 at 2. The scrap was dumped into a massive steel melting furnace, and excess scrap m from the overfilled bucket spilled over the sides of the furnace thereby damaging a water line. ECF No. 4 at 2. Water from the damaged line poured into the furnace where it mixed with molten metal. ECF No. 4 at 2. As the heated water converted to steam, the pressurized steam exploded, thereby showering molten m throughout the furnace room where Plaintiffs were working. ECF No. 4 at 2. As a result of the explosion, Plaintiffs sustained burns and other physical and emotional trauma. ECF No. 4 at 2.

Plaintiffs assert that because they could not properly identify any Defendant pre-suit, they named "John Doe" Defendants and served a subpoena duces tecum on Warren Steel Holdings in an effort to determine the identity of the Defendants. ECF No. 4 at 3. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint, adding the individual David Hoover, a M Services employee. ECF No. 1-4 at 2. Mr. Hoover was listed as an Ohio resident. ECF No. 1-4 at 1. Defendants removed the case to the instant Court based on diversity of citizenship because Mr. Hoover is a Pennsylvania resident. See Smith et al. v. M Services, LLC et al., Case No. 4:13-cv-669, ECF No. 1 at 2-3.

Thereafter, Plaintiffs sought leave of Court to file a Third Amended Complaint. They stated that responses received from their First Set of Interrogatories identified two employees who were "working at the jobsite, " Frank Cook and James Vandesteeg. ECF No. 4-1 at 4. Defendants' responses also listed eight other employees, all Ohio residents, who were on the Warren Steel Holdings premises that day. ECF No. 4-1 at 1. As a result of Defendants' responses, Plaintiffs moved the Court to allow them to amend the complaint so as to dismiss Mr. Hoover as a Defendant and add employees James Vandesteeg and Frank Cook. ECF No. 4 at 3; see also Smith et al. v. M Services, LLC et al., Case No. 4:13-cv-669, ECF No. 8 at 4. Frank Cook was identified in Defendants' responses as an Ohio resident. ECF No. 4 at 3.

The Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file the Third Amended Complaint. ECF No. 4 at 3-4. Because the addition of Mr. Cook destroyed diversity, the Court remanded the case to state court. ECF No. 4 at 4.

Thereafter, Defendants again removed the case to the instant Court. In its Notice of Removal, Defendants state that Frank Cook is not a resident of Ohio, but Pennsylvania, and that diversity of citizenship exits because all three named Defendants are Pennsylvania residents or citizens. ECF No. 1 at 3-4. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand and a Motion for Leave to File a Fourth Amended Complaint in order to add all employees identified by Defendants, which will again destroy diversity and necessitate remand. ECF No. 4 at 4-5. In support of its motion for leave, Plaintiffs' counsel filed an affidavit wherein he avers that Defendants' counsel "acknowledged that another employee listed in his Answer to Interrogatory No. 1 was involved in loading the bucket in question, but he could not identify the exact person due to lack of access to payroll records." ECF No. 5-3 at 1. Plaintiffs further state that they have "diligently pursued discovery, " but that Defendants have deprived them of the ability to identify the precise employees who were involved in the activities surrounding the explosion. ECF No. 5 at 4-5. As a result, Plaintiffs' proposed Fourth Amended Complaint names all individuals listed in the Answer to Interrogatory No. 1, all of which are Ohio residents. See ECF Nos. 4-1 at 2-3; 5-1.

II.

Diversity jurisdiction exists where the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, and is between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The complete diversity rule requires that every plaintiff be of diverse citizenship from every defendant. Strawbridge v. Curtiss , 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267 (1806).

Special circumstances ensue where amendment of the complaint occurs after removal and has the effect of destroying complete diversity of citizenship for purposes of federal jurisdiction. 14C WRIGHT, MILLER & COOPER, Federal Practice and Procedure: Jurisdiction § 3739 (4th ed.). If the amendment will destroy complete diversity, the Court must apply 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e), which provides:

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 the State court.

In applying the relevant factors set forth in Hensgens v. Deere & Co. , 833 F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 851 (1989) and J. Lewis Cooper Co. v. Diageo N. Am., Inc. , 370 F.Supp.2d 613, 618 (E.D. Mich. 2005), the Court will permit the joinder of all individual Defendants.

Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Fourth Amended Complaint (ECF No. 5) is granted. Furthermore, the Court finds that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the Fourth Amended Complaint (ECF No. 5-1). Therefore, the Court grants Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (ECF No. 4) and remands the case to the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) upon the grounds that the inclusion of the individual Defendants is a violation of the complete diversity rule. See Curry v. U.S. Bulk Transport, Inc ., 462 F.3d 536, 541 (6th Cir. 2006) (finding that "[u]pon the order granting [plaintiff's] motion to amend his ...


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