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Trujillo v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 26, 2017

Stephanie Trujillo, Plaintif,
Target Corporation et al., Defendant.



         On September 28, Plaintif Stephanie Trujillo (“Plaintif”) filed a Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint and Order Remanding to State Court (“Motion”). (Doc. No. 8.) On October 6, 2017, Defendant Target Corporation (“Defendant”) filed its opposition. (Doc. No. 9.) Plaintif filed her reply in support of the Motion on October 13, 2017. (Doc. No. 13.)[1]

         The Court determined Plaintif's Motion to be appropriate for resolution without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7-15 and vacated the hearing originally set for October 30, 2017. (Doc. No. 16.) Having considered all papers filed in support of and in opposition to the Motion, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 11, 2017, Plaintif filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles against Defendant and “Does 1-25.” (Doc. No. 1 at 8.) Plaintif alleged that on August 29, 2015, she sufered injuries when she slipped on the floor in a Target grocery store owned and operated by Defendant in San Pedro, California and sufered injuries. (Doc. No. 1 at 9, ¶6.) Plaintif asserted one claim for negligence based on her allegations that Defendant's failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent customers slipping and falling was the proximate cause of her injuries. (Id. at 9-10, ¶¶7-9.)

         On August 30, 2017, Defendant removed this action to this Court. (Doc. No. 1.) Defendant's removal was based upon diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1332 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). (Id. at 2, ¶¶3-7.)

         Plaintif's Motion seeks to identify “Doe 1” as Kevin Kay, the alleged manager of the Target store where Plaintif slipped who was purportedly “responsible for the maintenance of the store at the time of Plaintif's slip and fall, ” and a citizen of California. (Doc. No. 8 at 2.) Since the addition of this defendant would destroy diversity jurisdiction, Plaintif requests that the case be remanded to state court. (Doc. No. 8 at 3.) Plaintif also asserts that the action should be remanded even if Kevin Kay is not added as a defendant, claiming that Defendant is a citizen of California. (Id.)

         In opposition, Defendant argues that Plaintif seeks to amend the complaint simply to destroy diversity jurisdiction, and that Kevin Kay did not work at Defendant's store at the time of the incident. (Doc. No. 9 at 8-13.) While Defendant argues that it is a citizen of Minnesota, Defendant does not dispute that adding Kevin Kay, who along with Plaintif is alleged to be a citizen of California, would destroy diversity and require a remand to state court. (Doc. No. 9 at 14-17.) Defendant also requests sanctions against Plaintif's Counsel for filing a motion with fraudulent motive and without undertaking the necessary investigation to ensure Plaintif was naming a proper party. (Doc. No. 9 at 17-18.)


         “Generally, if a plaintif seeks to amend a removed complaint in a manner that would destroy diversity, a court has discretion whether to allow such amendment.” Clinco v. Roberts, 41 F.Supp.2d 1080, 1082 (C.D. Cal. 1999) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e)); see also Forward-Rossi v. Jaguar Land Rover N. Am., LLC, No. 2:16-CV-00949-CAS (KSx), 2016 WL 3396925, at *2 (C.D. Cal. June 13, 2016) (noting that “Rule 15 . . . does not apply when a plaintif amends her complaint after removal to add a diversity destroying defendant”).

         When deciding whether to permit joinder under § 1447(e), a court should consider the following factors: (1) whether the party sought to be joined is needed for just adjudication and would be joined under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a); (2) whether the statute of limitations would prevent the filing of a new action against the new defendant in state court; (3) whether there has been an unexplained delay in seeking to join the new defendant; (4) whether the plaintif seeks to join the new party solely to defeat federal jurisdiction; (5) whether denial of the joinder would prejudice the plaintif; and (6) the strength of the claims against the new defendant. Boon v. Allstate Ins. Co., 229 F.Supp.2d 1016, 1020 (C.D. Cal. 2002).


         A. Extent to Which Non-Diverse Parties are Needed for Just Adjudication

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 requires joinder of persons whose absence would preclude the grant of complete relief, or whose absence would impede their ability to protect their interests or would subject any of the parties to the danger of inconsistent obligations.” Clinco v. Roberts, 41 F.Supp.2d 1080, 1082 (C.D. Cal. 1999), quoted in Boon, 229 F.Supp.2d at 1022. The standard under Rule 19 is met “when failure to join will lead to separate and redundant actions.” IBC Aviation Serv., Inc. v. Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, S.A., 125 F.Supp.2d 1008, 1011 (N.D. Cal. 2000). Though courts consider whether Rule 19's standard would be met, “amendment under § 1447(e) is a less restrictive standard than for joinder under [Rule 19].” Id. at 1011-12, quoted in Boon, 229 F.Supp.2d at 1022. “Courts disallow joinder of non-diverse defendants where those defendants are only tangentially related to the cause of action or would not prevent complete relief.” Id. at 1022.

         Plaintif alleges that “Kevin Kay was the manager of the [Target] store at the time of Plaintif's slip and fall” and that he was responsible for maintenance of the store, training and education of store employees charged with maintaining the store, and verifying that the store was being “maintained according to industry standards” at the time of her fall. (Doc. No. 8 at 20, ¶3.) In other words, Plaintif has alleged that Kevin Kay had “a high degree of involvement . . . in the occurrences that gave rise to [Plaintif's] cause of action.” Boon ...

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