United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
WILLIE MAY THOMAS as daughter and next friend of Lula Cayson, Plaintiff,
ABCO MONTGOMERY SOUTH HAVEN OPERATING COMPANY LLC, doing business as South Haven Health and Rehabilitation Center, SSC MONTGOMERY SOUTH HAVEN OPERATING COMPANY, LLC, and LARRY HUFFMAN, Defendants.
KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court are the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation (Doc.
# 16) and Defendants' untimely objection (Doc. # 17). As
explained below, the Recommendation is due to be adopted;
Defendants' objection is due to be overruled; and this
case is due to be remanded to the Circuit Court of Montgomery
21, 2018, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal in this court
alleging diversity subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff Willie May Thomas is a citizen
of Alabama. Although Defendant Larry Huffman is a citizen of
Alabama and complete diversity of citizenship is lacking,
Defendants argue that Plaintiff only included Huffman in this
suit for the sake of defeating subject-matter jurisdiction.
Because Plaintiff cannot state a claim against Huffman,
Defendants argue, he was fraudulently joined, the action is
due to be dismissed as it relates to Huffman, and this court
has subject-matter jurisdiction.
considering a motion for remand, federal courts are not to
weigh the merits of a plaintiff's claim beyond
determining whether it is an arguable one under state
law.” Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d 1536, 1538
(11th Cir. 1997). With this in mind, the Magistrate Judge
found that Defendants “failed to meet the heavy burden
of showing that there is no possibility that [Plaintiff]
can succeed on her AMLA claims against Huffman.”
(Doc. # 16, at 9.) Because Defendants did not establish that
Huffman was fraudulently joined, the Magistrate Judge found,
complete diversity of citizenship is lacking, and the case
must be remanded to state court.
objecting to the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation,
Defendants argue that Larry Huffman - the administrator of
South Haven Health and Rehabilitation Center - is not a
“health care provider” within the meaning of
section 6-5-481 of the Alabama Code, so he cannot be liable
to Plaintiff for any alleged damages, and his presence in
this case is the result of fraudulent joinder. Under Alabama
law, Huffman would be a health care provider if he is
“directly involved in the delivery of health care
services.” Ala. Code § 6-5-481(8).
support of their argument, Defendants cite Moore v.
Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc., No. CIV.A.
14-381-KD-N, 2014 WL 5456548 (S.D. Ala. Oct. 27, 2014), as an
example of a court applying Alabama law to find that someone
like Huffman was not a “health care provider” in
this context. There, the defendant in question swore that she
had neither “provided direct patient care” nor
“oversee[n] hemodialysis treatment.” Id.
at *4 (alteration in original). In contrast, here, Huffman
has sworn only that he has never been licensed to provide
medical care and that he “never provided medical care
to Lula Cayson.” (Doc. # 1-2, at 2.) Even taken as
true,  this statement would not dictate that
Huffman was not “directly involved in the delivery of
health care services.” Ala. Code § 6-5-481(8);
cf. Id. § (1) (defining medical
practitioner as one “licensed to practice
medicine”). Plaintiff's complaint alleges that
Huffman “is charged with the responsibility for the
management of the nursing home, and ensuring that the
residents at the facility receive good quality care in order
to maintain their health status.” (Doc. # 1-1, at 5-
6.) Defendants do not clearly dispute this description, and
the court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's conclusion
that it may -“arguabl[y]”- fall within the
meaning of health care provider under Alabama law. See
Crowe, 113 F.3d at 1538.
these reasons, Defendants' objection is without merit;
the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation is due to be
adopted; and this case is due to be remanded to the Circuit
Court of Montgomery County, Alabama. Accordingly, it is
Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (Doc. # 16) is
Plaintiff's motion to remand (Doc. # 6) is GRANTED and
this action is REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Montgomery
County, Alabama; and
Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to take the necessary steps to
 Although the objection is untimely and
leave to file out of time has not been sought, the objection