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Morgan v. Publix Super Markets, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

December 3, 2018

BRANDON MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
PUBLIX SUPER MARKETS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a diversity jurisdiction case. Before the Court are Plaintiff Brandon Morgan's Renewed Motion To Remand (doc. 9) filed on September 4, 2018, and his Amended Renewed Motion To Remand (doc. 11) filed on September 7, 2018 (collectively, the “Renewed Remand Motions”). The Renewed Remand Motions have been briefed (see docs. 12, 16, 18) and, accordingly, are ripe for review.

         In Plaintiff's Renewed Motion To Remand, Plaintiff's sole basis for remand is that his First Amended Complaint (doc. 8) adds a non-diverse defendant, Faye Jones, who destroys complete diversity of the parties and causes the Court to lose subject matter jurisdiction. (See doc. 9 at 2, ¶ 4). Similarly, in Plaintiff's Amended Renewed Motion To Remand, Plaintiff's sole basis for remand is that both his First Amended Complaint and his Second Amended Complaint[1] (doc. 10) (collectively, with the First Amended Complaint, the “Amended Complaints”) add a non-diverse defendant, Faye Jones, who destroys complete diversity of the parties and causes the Court to lose subject matter jurisdiction. (See doc. 11 at 2, ¶ 6).

         The Renewed Remand Motions are due to be DENIED for two alternative reasons. First, they are based on Amended Complaints that have been stricken. (See doc. 19). Alternatively, Plaintiff cannot add Faye Jones as a non-diverse defendant because the statute of limitations on Plaintiff's claims against Faye Jones has run, and Plaintiff's amendments to his Complaint (doc. 1-1) do not relate back.

         I. Procedural History

         On May 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, Alabama. In the caption of his Complaint, Plaintiff named the following entities as defendants: “Publix Super Markets, Inc. and Corporate Creations Network, Inc., et al.” (Id. at 2) (capitalization omitted). Plaintiff alleges that, “[o]n or about May 6, 2016, ” while he “was a business invitee/licensee on the premises of Defendant's store, ” “[Defendant's] negligence and/or wantonness[] . . . caused [him] to slip and fall” and he consequently sustained injuries and damages. (Id. at 2, ¶¶ 2-6).

         On May 6, 2018, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff's claims ran. See Ala. Code § 6-2-38(1) (“All actions for any injury to the person or rights of another not arising from contract and not specifically enumerated in this section must be brought within two years.”).

         On June 14, 2018, Defendant Publix Super Markets, Inc., (“Publix”) filed and served a Notice of Removal (doc. 1), which removed the case to this Court. Publix also filed an Answer (doc. 5) on June 25, 2018.

         On July 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion To Remand. (Doc. 6). In his Motion To Remand, Plaintiff's sole basis for remand was that his amended complaint added a non-diverse defendant, Faye Jones, who destroyed complete diversity of the parties and caused the Court to lose subject matter jurisdiction. (See Id. at 2, 4-5). However, at that time, Plaintiff had not yet filed his amended complaint into the record. (See Docket Sheet). Accordingly, because the Motion To Remand was based on an amended complaint that had not yet been filed into the record, the Court denied without prejudice the Motion To Remand on August 27, 2018. (Doc. 7).

         On September 4, 2018, Plaintiff then filed his First Amended Complaint and his Renewed Motion To Remand. However, in the caption of his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff incorrectly listed the newly added defendant as Faith Jones instead of Faye Jones. (See doc. 8 at 1). Accordingly, on September 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint and his Amended Renewed Motion To Remand. In the caption of his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff correctly listed the newly added defendant as Faye Jones. (See doc. 10 at 1).

         On September 20, 2018, Publix filed its opposition (doc. 12) to the Renewed Remand Motions. The Court then held a hearing on the Renewed Remand Motions on October 3, 2018. Plaintiff filed his reply brief (doc. 16) in support of the Renewed Remand Motions on October 4, 2018. Publix filed its sur-reply (doc. 18) in opposition to the Renewed Remand Motions on October 11, 2018.[2]

         Finally, on December 3, 2018, the Court entered an Order (doc. 19) striking Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint and his Second Amended Complaint because they were not filed, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, within the deadline to file them as a matter of course, with the opposing party's written consent, or with the Court's leave. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15.

         II. Standard: Relation Back Doctrine

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) addresses the relation back of amendments to an initial pleading:

(c) Relation Back of Amendments.
(1) When an Amendment Relates Back.
An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when:
(A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back;
(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading; or
(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment:
(i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits; and
(ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) (emphasis added).

         Here, Alabama law provides the applicable statute of limitations for Plaintiff's claims. See Ala. Code § 6-2-38(1) (“All actions for any injury to the person or rights of another not arising from contract and not specifically enumerated in this section must be brought within two years.”). Accordingly, Federal “Rule 15(c)(1) directs us to Alabama law governing relation back of amendments.” See Saxton v. ACF Indus., Inc., 254 F.3d 959, 964 (11th Cir 2001). Alabama Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) provides as follows:

(c) Relation Back of Amendments.
An amendment of a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when
(1) relation back is permitted by the law that provides the statute of limitations ...

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