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Stephan Stewart v. Wal-Mart Distribution Center and Wal-Mart Stores

April 11, 2013

STEPHAN STEWART, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAL-MART DISTRIBUTION CENTER AND WAL-MART STORES, INC.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.

OPINION

I.INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is a Motion for Remand filed by Plaintiff Stephan Stewart. (Doc. No. 4.)

On August 1, 2012, Plaintiff filed the Complaint against Wal-Mart Distribution Center*fn1 and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (collectively "Wal-Mart" or "Defendants") in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. He claims that Wal-Mart employees were negligent and that, as a result, he sustained various personal injuries. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A.) Defendants removed the case to this Court under diversity of citizenship jurisdiction because Plaintiff is a Pennsylvania resident, Wal-Mart is a Delaware corporation with its principal business office in Arkansas, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. (Doc. No. 1.) In response, Plaintiff filed the Motion for Remand. (Doc. No. 4.)

Plaintiff now seeks to join two Wal-Mart managers as Defendants, both of whom are Pennsylvania residents. (Doc. No. 14 at 1-2.) Because Plaintiff is also a Pennsylvania resident, permitting joinder of the Wal-Mart managers as Defendants would destroy diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, thus divesting this Court of jurisdiction over the matter. The Motion for Remand is now ripe for adjudication.*fn2 For reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion.

II.FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Wal-Mart engaged the services of Rehrig Penn Logistics, Inc. to supply, sort, clean, and distribute wooden pallets at its distribution center in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A ¶ 9.) Plaintiff worked for Rehrig Penn Logistics at the distribution center as a pallet cleaner and sorter. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) On or about March 1, 2011, Plaintiff cut his knuckle while removing debris from inside a pallet at the distribution center. (Id. ¶ 13.) As a result, Plaintiff allegedly suffered various injuries. (Id. ¶ 31.)

On August 1, 2012, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County, alleging that negligence caused his personal injuries. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A.) Plaintiff claims that Wal-Mart knew or should have known about the unreasonably dangerous condition of the pallets at the distribution center. (Id. ¶ 15.) On August 29, 2012, Defendants removed the case to this Court under diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 1.) On September 6, 2012, Plaintiff filed the Motion for Remand. (Doc. No. 4.)

After filing the Motion for Remand, Plaintiff discovered that two Wal-Mart managers, Chris Cherry ("Cherry") and Ed Geisler ("Geisler"), may be responsible for his injuries. (Doc. No. 14 at 3.) On November 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed a supplemental brief in support of the Motion to Remand seeking to join these individuals as Defendants. (Id.) Plaintiff attached a proposed Amended Complaint to the supplemental brief. (Id., Ex. A.)

The Amended Complaint alleges that when Plaintiff was injured, Cherry was an operations manager and Geisler was an asset protection manager at the Wal-Mart distribution center. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Plaintiff submits that both individuals "bore direct and daily responsibility for overseeing the conditions of the pallets and distribution center." The Amended Complaint asserts Cherry and Geisler were negligent because they knew or should have known that the distribution center was, and remained, in an unreasonably unsafe and unsanitary condition. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 46.) The Amended Complaint also avers that Cherry and Geisler are both Pennsylvania residents. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5.)

III.STANDARD OF REVIEW

28 U.S.C. § 1447(e) sets forth the controlling law when a plaintiff seeks to join additional non-diverse defendants after a case is removed from state court. The statute provides: "[i]f 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." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). "Based on both the plain meaning and legislative history, cases from this District interpret Section 1447(e) as granting substantial discretion in whether to permit joinder to the courts." Doe No. 4 v. Soc'y for Creative Anachronism, Inc., Nos. 07-1439 & 07-1440, 2007 WL 2155553, at *3 (E.D. Pa. July 25, 2007) (citations omitted) (emphasis added).

While the Third Circuit has not designated factors a court must consider under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e), district courts in the Third Circuit have looked for guidance to the analysis of the Fifth Circuit in Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833 F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987).*fn3 "[T]he Fifth Circuit has endorsed a flexible and equitable approach, which 'balance[s] the defendant's interests in maintaining a federal forum with the competing interests of not having parallel lawsuits.'" Doe No. 4, 2007 WL 2155553, at *3 (quoting Hensgens, 833 F.2d at 1182).

Under Hensgens, when a court is faced with an amended pleading naming new non-diverse defendants in a removed case, it "should scrutinize that amendment more closely than an ordinary amendment." Hensgens, 833 F.2d at 1182. In doing so, the Court should consider a number of factors "to balance the Defendant's interest in maintaining the federal forum with the competing interests of not having parallel suits." Id. These factors are: 1) "the extent to which the purpose of the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction;" 2) "whether Plaintiff has been dilatory in asking for amendment;" 3) "whether Plaintiff will be significantly injured if amendment is not allowed;" and 4) "any other factors bearing on the equities." Id. If this Court permits ...


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