Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Calvert v. Xtra Lease LLC

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

December 21, 2018

RALPH CALVERT, Plaintiff,
v.
XTRA LEASE, LLC and KRISTIE LAHUE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction and Procedural History

         On June 15, 2018, plaintiff Ralph Calvert filed this premises liability action against defendants XTRA Lease, LLC and Kristie Lahue in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. (Doc. 1-1, p. 3). Mr. Calvert sued Ms. Lahue in her capacity as the branch manager of XTRA's operations in Birmingham. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4, ¶ 5). The case concerns an accident that occurred on XTRA's property in May 2017.

         Mr. Calvert contends that on May 4, 2017, he visited XTRA's premises on behalf of his employer, Birmingham Mobile Fleet Service, to repair one of XTRA's tractor/trailer units. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4, ¶ 5). Mr. Calvert used a rolling staircase to access higher parts of the tractor. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4, ¶ 5). In his complaint, Mr. Calvert alleges that “XTRA provided” the rolling staircase. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4, ¶ 5). According to Mr. Calvert, while he was on the staircase, the staircase's wheels unexpectedly started to roll, and he fell and suffered “significant permanent injuries.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 4, ¶¶ 5-6). Mr. Calvert contends that the staircase was unsafe because it “was not equipped with proper safety devices to prevent it from rolling during use, ” and the “[d]efendants failed to inform” him “that the staircase was not safe for use.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 4, ¶ 5).

         On July 19, 2018, the defendants removed the case on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (Doc. 1). On August 17, 2018, Mr. Calvert moved to remand. (Doc. 10). For the reasons explained below, the Court denies Mr. Calvert's motion.

         II. Analysis

         For federal jurisdiction to exist under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), there must be complete diversity of citizenship, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Underwriters at Lloyd's, London v. Osting-Schwinn, 613 F.3d 1079, 1085 (11th Cir. 2012). “[D]iversity jurisdiction is determined at the time of filing the complaint or, if the case has been removed, at the time of removal.” PTA-FLA v. ZTE USA, Inc., 844 F.3d 1299, 1306 (11th Cir. 2016). Generally, when jurisdiction is lacking because, for example, a defendant is a citizen of the state in which the plaintiff filed suit, then a district court must remand the action to state court. “However, if a defendant shows that ‘there is no possibility the plaintiff can establish a cause of action against the resident defendant,' then the plaintiff is said to have fraudulently joined the non-diverse defendant. In that situation, the federal court must dismiss the non-diverse defendant and deny any motion to remand the matter back to state court.” Florence v. Crescent Resources, Inc., 484 F.3d 1293, 1297 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Henderson v. Washington Nat. Ins. Co., 454 F.3d 1278, 1281 (11th Cir. 2006)) (footnote omitted); Henderson, 454 F.3d at 1281 (“When a plaintiff names a non-diverse defendant solely in order to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction, the district court must ignore the presence of the non-diverse defendant and deny any motion to remand the matter back to state court.”).

         In his motion to remand, Mr. Calvert argues that the parties are not completely diverse because both he and Ms. Lahue, the individual defendant, are citizens of Alabama. (Doc. 10, p. 1).[1] XRTRA urges the Court to disregard Ms. Lahue's citizenship. XTRA argues that Mr. Calvert joined Ms. Lahue as a defendant for the sole purpose of defeating federal jurisdiction. (Doc. 1, p. 4).

         A federal court may disregard the citizenship of a defendant for purposes of diversity jurisdiction when “(1) there is no possibility the plaintiff can establish a cause of action against the resident defendant; or (2) the plaintiff has fraudulently pled jurisdictional facts to bring the resident defendant into state court.” Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d 1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). The removing party has the burden of proving fraudulent joinder. 113 F.3d at 1538. “The defendant must make such a showing by clear and convincing evidence.” Henderson, 454 F.3d at 1281. XTRA has established by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Calvert pleaded incomplete and misleading facts and that Mr. Calvert cannot establish a cause of action against the resident defendant under Alabama law.

         Mr. Calvert asserts three counts in his complaint: negligence, wantonness, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 4-6). “To prevail on his negligence and wantonness claims, [Mr. Calvert] must show, among other things, that [XTRA] owed him a duty. See Kendrick v. Alabama Power Co., 601 So.2d 912, 914 (Ala. 1992).Calloway v. PPG Industries, Inc., 155 Fed.Appx. 450, 452 (11th Cir. 2005). The scope of the duty that XTRA owed to Mr. Calvert hinges on the nature of the relationship between Mr. Calvert's employer, BMFS, and XTRA, the owner of the premises where Mr. Calvert was injured.

         The Alabama Supreme Court recently reiterated the contours of a premises owner's duty to an employee of an independent contractor under Alabama law, stating:

A premises owner's legal duty to a party injured by a condition of the premises depends upon the legal status of the injured party. Galaxy Cable, Inc. v. Davis, 58 So.3d 93, 98 (Ala. 2010). In this case, Benito Perez was on SAB's premises to confer a material or commercial benefit to SAB. Accordingly, the relationship between SAB, the premises owner, and Benito Perez, a roofer, is that of invitor/invitee. See Ex parte Mountain Top Indoor Flea Mkt., Inc., 699 So.2d 158, 161 (Ala. 1997) (“ ‘In order to be considered an invitee, the plaintiff must have been on the premises for some purpose that materially or commercially benefited the owner or occupier of the premises.' ” (quoting Sisk v. Heil Co., 639 So.2d 1363, 1365 (Ala. 1994))).
Alabama law is well-settled regarding the scope of the duty an invitor owes a business invitee. “The owner of premises owes a duty to business invitees to use reasonable care and diligence to keep the premises in a safe condition, or, if the premises are in a dangerous condition, to give sufficient warning so that, by the use of ordinary care, the danger can be avoided.Armstrong v. Georgia Marble Co., 575 So.2d 1051, 1053 (Ala. 1991) (emphasis added). We have said that a premises owner's duty to warn extends only to “hidden defects and dangers that are known to [the premises owner], but that are unknown or hidden to the invitee.” Raspilair v. Bruno's Food Stores, Inc., 514 So.2d 1022, 1024 (Ala. 1987). More specifically, we have explained that a plaintiff must establish “ ‘(1) that the defect or danger was “hidden”; (2) that it was “known to the owner”; and (3) that it was “neither known to the contractor, nor such as he ought to know.”' ” Roberts v. NASCO Equip. Co., 986 So.2d 379, 384 (Ala. 2007) (quoting Ex parte Meadowcraft Indus., Inc., 817 So.2d 702, 706 (Ala. 2001), quoting in turn Glenn v. United States Steel Corp., 423 So.2d 152, 154 (Ala. 1982)).
“In discussing a premises owner's liability towards an independent contractor, this Court has recognized that an ‘ “ ‘owner of premises is not responsible to an independent contractor for injury from defects or dangers which the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.