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Sides v. Sodexo, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

June 22, 2017

BRENDA SIDES, Plaintiff,
v.
SODEXO, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

GRAY M. ORDENUNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Brenda Sides filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama on August 3, 2016, naming Sodexo, Inc. (“Sodexo”) as the defendant. On August 16, 2016, Sodexo removed the case to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Doc. 1. Now before the court is Sides' motion for leave to amend, which seeks leave to add a non-diverse defendant to the lawsuit. Doc. 23. After reviewing the motion, and for the reasons that follow, the court finds that Sides' motion is due to be DENIED.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit was filed after Sides allegedly slipped and fell while returning to her husband's hospital room at Baptist Medical Center South. Doc. 1-1. At the time of the accident, Sodexo was responsible for the cleaning operations at the hospital. Doc. 1-1. Sides' complaint alleges that certain agents, servants, or employees of Sodexo failed to clean the hospital properly, that this failure created a hazardous and dangerous condition, and that Sodexo failed to warn Sides about this hazardous and dangerous condition. Doc. 1-1. Sodexo is the only named defendant, and Sides asserts purely state-law claims against it for negligence; wantonness; failure to properly train, maintain, inspect or warn of a hazardous or dangerous condition; and respondeat superior. Doc. 1-1.

         Sodexo removed the case from the Montgomery County Circuit Court to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Doc. 1. Sodexo alleges that Sides is a citizen of Alabama, that Sodexo is a citizen of Delaware, and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. Doc. 1. Sides did not move to remand, and the court entered a uniform scheduling order, setting January 9, 2017 as the deadline to amend pleadings. Doc. 15.

         On May 16, 2017, more than four months after the deadline to amend passed, Sides moved to amend the complaint to add Cherylnthia Johnson, a non-diverse party, [2] as a defendant. Doc. 23. On May 26, 2017, Sodexo objected to Sides' motion and urged the court to disallow the requested amendment because (1) its sole purpose is to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction; (2) Sides was dilatory in requesting the amendment; (3) Sides will not be significantly injured if the amendment is not allowed; and (4) factors bearing on the equities weigh in favor of disallowing the requested amendment. Doc. 25. In response, Sides argues that the requested amendment should be allowed because she will be significantly prejudiced if she cannot join Johnson as a defendant. Doc. 27.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 requires that the amount in controversy exceed $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and that the dispute be between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Of course, “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Thus, “[t]hey possess only that power authorized by [the] Constitution and statute.” Id. A case may be removed to this court from a state court only if it originally could have been filed in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction with adequate proof. See Friedman v. New York Life Ins. Co., 410 F.3d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 2005). In light of the federal courts' limited jurisdiction, “removal statutes are construed narrowly” and “uncertainties are resolved in favor of remand.” Burns, 31 F.3d at 1095 (citations omitted).

         “The existence of federal jurisdiction is tested as of the time of removal.” Ehlen Floor Covering, Inc. v. Lamb, 660 F.3d 1283, 1287 (11th Cir. 2011). “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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). The granting of leave for a post-removal amendment that would destroy diversity jurisdiction is determined by:

(1) the extent to which the purpose of the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction,
(2) whether the plaintiff has been dilatory in asking for the amendment,
(3) whether the plaintiff will be significantly injured if the amendment is not allowed, and
(4) any other factors bearing on the equities.

Jones v. Rent-A-Ctr. E., Inc., 356 F.Supp.2d 1273, 1275 (M.D. Ala. 2005) (citing Hensgens v. Deere and Co., 833 F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987)). “In making this determination, a district court must balance competing interests-the danger of parallel federal and state proceedings and the defendant's interest in retaining the federal forum.” Ibis Villas at Miami Gardens Condo ...


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