United States District Court, C.D. California
Stephanie Patton, et al.
Allergan PLC, et al.
Present: Honorable MICHAEL W. FITZGERALD, U.S. District Judge
(In Chambers): ORDER RE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND 
Court offers its condolences to Ms. Patton and Mr. Knighten.
the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand this matter to
the Riverside County Superior Court, filed on May 30, 2017.
(the “Motion” (Docket No. 7)). Defendant Forest
Laboratories, LLC filed an Opposition on July 3, 2017.
(Docket No. 17).
Court held a hearing on July 24, 2017. For the reasons stated
below, the Motion is DENIED. The Motion is denied both on the
basis of claims-splitting and the impossibility that RCRMC is
a valid defendant to defeat diversity. At the hearing,
Plaintiff submitted on the tentative ruling that came to this
case arises out of the suicide of the daughter of Plaintiffs
Knighten and Patton, who is referred to as “K.K.”
in the briefing. (Complaint, Docket No. 1-2, ¶¶
1-2). K.K. had been a medical patient of several of the
Defendants, and Plaintiffs allege she committed suicide as a
result of negligent treatment and her taking the prescription
drug Lexapro. (Id. ¶ 3).
have filed two separate suits arising out of K.K.'s
suicide. The first was filed in Superior Court on January 30,
2017. (Complaint (Docket No. 17-2)). As to Defendant
Riverside County Regional Medical Center
(“RCRMC”), this suit alleged negligence and
wrongful death in that RCRMC and its doctor-Doctor Bipin
Patel-failed to reasonably advise Plaintiffs of the risks of
Lexapro, and that RCRMC failed to conduct its own research
into Lexapro's efficacy. This first suit named only RCRMC
and Dr. Patel as Defendants.
15, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an amended pleading in the first
suit, adding as Defendants various pharmacies and
corporations. (First Amended Complaint (Docket No. 17-2)).
second suit was filed on April 4, 2017, also in Superior
Court. (Docket No. 1-2). This suit named RCRMC as a Defendant
in addition to a host of various pharmacies and drug
manufacturers. In addition to negligence and wrongful death
claims, the suit alleges product liability, fraud, breach of
warranty, and violations of California consumer protection
laws. While the first suit claimed that RCRMC had failed to
investigate the side effects of Lexapro, the second suit
claims that Lexapro's manufacturer-Defendant Forest
Labs-failed to disclose the dangers of the drug to healthcare
providers. (Id. ¶ 52). The second suit also
argues that RCRMC acted as a “distributor” of the
drug in its role as a pharmacy.
11, 2017, Forest Labs removed the second suit to this Court
on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal
(Docket No. 1)). Forest Labs argues that RCRMC has been
fraudulently joined in this suit, and that its citizenship
should be ignored for diversity purposes.
LEGAL STANDARD FOR REMAND
parties recognize, the threshold requirement for removal
under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 is a “finding that the
complaint . . . is within the original jurisdiction of the
district court.” Ansley v. Ameriquest Mortgage
Co., 340 F.3d 858, 861 (9th Cir. 2003). In most
circumstances, “federal district courts have
jurisdiction over suits for more than $75, 000 where the
citizenship of each plaintiff is different from that of each
defendant.” Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582
F.3d 1039, 1043 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)). A well-established exception to the
complete-diversity rule is “‘where a non-diverse
defendant has been ‘fraudulently joined.'”
Id. (quoting Morris v. Princess Cruises,
Inc., 236 F.3d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 2001)). The joinder
is considered fraudulent “[i]f the plaintiff fails to
state a cause of action against the [non-diverse] defendant,
and the failure is obvious according to the settled rules of
the state . . . .” Hamilton Materials, Inc. v. Dow
Chemical Co., 494 F.3d 1203, 1206 (9th Cir. 2007).
Defendant must “prove that individuals joined in the
action cannot be liable on any theory.” Ritchey v.
Upjohn Drug Co., 139 F.3d 1313, 1318 (9th Cir. 1998)
all doubts weigh against removal, a court determining whether
joinder is fraudulent “must resolve all material
ambiguities in state law in plaintiff's favor.”
Macey v. Allstate Property and Cas. Ins. Co., 220
F.Supp.2d 1116, 1117 (N.D. Cal. 2002) (citing Good v.
Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 5 F.Supp.2d 804, 807
(N.D. Cal. 1998)). “If there is a non-fanciful
possibility that plaintiff can state a claim under [state]
law against the non-diverse defendant[, ] the court must
remand.” Id.; see also Good, 5
F.Supp.2d at 807 (“[T]he defendant must demonstrate
that there is no possibility that the plaintiff will be able
to establish a cause of action in State court against the
alleged sham defendant.”). Given this standard,
“[t]here is a presumption against finding ...