Thursday, July 7, 2022

Federal Court Keeps Case in Federal Court After Plaintiff Joins Defendants In Apparent Attempt to Destroy Diversity

In the case of Testa v. Broomall Operating Company, L.P., No. 2:21-CV-05148-KSM (E.D. Pa. May 26, 2022 Marston, J.), the court addressed a Defendant’s Motion to Strike a Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint and a Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand the Case to State Court in a matter arising out of a rehabilitation and nursing home negligence case.

According to the Opinion, it was alleged that the Plaintiff’s decedent passed away after contracting COVID-19 at the facility.

After the suit was filed, the Defendants removed the action to federal court on the grounds of diversity and federal question jurisdiction.

Thereafter, the Plaintiff amended her Complaint as of right and clarified that she was not bringing claims under a Federal act and the Plaintiff additionally added the claims of negligence and wrongful death against individual Defendants. The individual Defendants were residents of Pennsylvania and thereby defeated complete diversity.

In response, the Defendants moved to strike the Amended Complaint. The Plaintiff opposed the motion and moved to remand the case back to state court.

The Defendants argued that the joinder of the individual Defendants was impermissible. 

The court exercised its power to review the joinder under F.R.C.P. 21. The court additionally applied federal law and found that, based upon the timing of the filings and Plaintiff’s counsel’s concessions at oral argument, it appeared to the court that the Plaintiff was aware of the identity of the added individual Defendants at the time the case was initiated. 

The court additionally stated that the lack of any “John Doe” Defendants in the original Complaint made it more likely that the individual Defendants were added for the purpose of destroying diversity. 

It was additionally noted that an email Plaintiff’s counsel sent to defense counsel shortly before amending the Complaint supported that theory.

The court additionally restated that the Plaintiff waited over three (3) months from the time she allegedly learned of the individual Defendants’ identities to name them as parties to the action. It was also noted that the Plaintiff did not offer up any legitimate justification for the delay in the joinder.

The court was also influenced by the fact that the Plaintiff would not be prejudice by the absence of the individual Defendants from the lawsuit.

As such, the court found that the applicable factors to be considered weighed in favor of striking the joinder. Accordingly, the court struck the claims brought against the individual Defendants, which restored the complete diversity in the case.

Given that there was complete diversity in the case, the court denied the Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand the case to state court.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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