United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
For MICHAEL DAVIS, Plaintiff: LOUIS T. SILVERMAN, LEAD ATTORNEY, MICHAEL P. LALLI, SILVERMAN TROTMAN & SCHNEIDER LLC, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For SUPERVALU, INC., doing business as SAVE-A-LOT, Defendant: DANIEL DAVID KREBBS, LEAD ATTORNEY, MARSHALL DENNEHEY WARNER COLEMAN & GOGGIN, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For ELBRIDGE PARTNERSHIP, Defendant: DANIEL DAVID KREBBS, SANG WOO LEE, MARSHALL DENNEHEY WARNER COLEMAN & GOGGIN, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.
Presently before the Court is Defendant Elbridge Partnership's (" Elbridge's") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 12) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Elbridge, a nondiverse defendant, asks the Court to dismiss with prejudice all claims against Elbridge so that complete diversity of citizenship is reestablished and the case can remain in federal court. For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied and the case remanded to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
Factual and Procedural Background
On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff Michael Davis (" Davis") filed a complaint in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. ( See Notice of Removal, Doc. No. 1, ¶ 1). The complaint contained a single count alleging negligence against a single defendant, Moran Foods, LLC d/b/a Save-A-Lot, Ltd., incorrectly identified as " Supervalu, Inc. d/b/a Save-A-Lot" (" Save-A-Lot"). See id. Davis contended that he was injured when he slipped and fell on an icy parking lot at a Save-A-Lot grocery store. See id. at ¶ 4. Save-A-Lot filed a Notice of Removal in this Court on November 12, 2014. Id. The Notice of Removal asserted diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id. at ¶ 16. It alleged that Davis was a citizen of Pennsylvania, Save-A-Lot was a citizen of Missouri and Minnesota, and the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs. Id. at ¶ ¶ 5, 6, 15. On November 21, 2014, Davis filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint. (Doc. No. 4). Davis requested leave to add Elbridge, the alleged owner of the Save-A-Lot parking lot, as an additional defendant. Id. at ¶ 7. The motion for leave to amend alleged that Elbridge is a Pennsylvania partnership with a principal place of business in Pennsylvania. See id. at ¶ 6. Elbridge's joinder, therefore, would destroy complete diversity of citizenship. On December 2, 2014, the Court granted Davis' motion to amend, and on December 10, 2014, Davis filed his amended complaint adding Elbridge as a defendant. (Doc. Nos. 5, 6).
Elbridge filed the motion currently before the Court on January 6, 2015. (Doc. No. 12). Elbridge argues that Davis' amended complaint should be dismissed (i) under the fraudulent joinder doctrine or (ii) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). Given the case's procedural posture, however, neither the fraudulent joinder doctrine nor analysis under § 1447(e) applies. The Court accordingly lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
" Because a party who urges jurisdiction on a federal court bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction exists, a removing party who charges that a plaintiff has fraudulently joined a party to destroy diversity jurisdiction has a 'heavy burden of persuasion.'" Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Steel Valley Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal Div., Am. Standard, Inc., 809 F.2d at 1012 n.6 (3d Cir. 1987). Joinder is fraudulent only " where there is no reasonable basis in fact or colorable ground supporting the claim against the joined defendant, or no real intention in good faith to prosecute the action against the defendants or seek a joint judgment." Id.
Additionally, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e) confers substantial discretion on the courts in deciding whether to permit joinder of a nondiverse defendant. See Powers v. Southland Corp., 4 F.3d 223, 226 (3d Cir. 1993) (Section 1447(e) " gives the court discretion to join a party even though joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction."); see also Morze v. Southland Corp., 816 F.Supp. 369, 370 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (Section 1447(e) " compels courts to exercise discretion when deciding whether to remand a case to state court by balancing the equities involved and weighing the interests and prejudices to each party involved.").
The fraudulent joinder doctrine allows an action to " be removed despite the existence of forum-state or non-diverse defendants if those parties were 'fraudulently' named as defendants with the sole purpose of defeating federal jurisdiction." Moore v. Johnson & Johnson, 907 F.Supp.2d 646, 662 (E.D. Pa. 2012) (emphasis added); see also In re Briscoe, 448 F.3d 201, 215-6 (3d Cir. 2006) (" The doctrine of fraudulent joinder represents an exception to the requirement that removal be predicated solely upon complete diversity."). Here, there was complete diversity of citizenship at the time of removal. The fraudulent joinder doctrine does not apply to the addition of Elbridge subsequent to removal. See, e.g., Gilberg v. Stepan Co., 24 F.Supp.2d 355, 356-7 (D.N.J. 1998) (determining that post-removal request for joinder should be analyzed under § 1447(e) rather than the fraudulent joinder doctrine).
28 U.S.C. § 1447(e) applies when a plaintiff moves to add a nondiverse defendant after a case has been removed. See id. While an analysis under § 1447(e) is not necessary because the Court has already granted Davis' motion to amend the complaint to add Elbridge as a defendant, (Doc. No. 5), § 1447(e) ...