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Munoz v. Walmart Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 8, 2020

LAURA MUNOZ, Plaintiff,
WALMART INC. et al., Defendants.




         Before the Court is Plaintiff Laura Munoz's (“Munoz”) Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint and Remand to State Court. (Mot. to Amend Compl. (“Mot.”), ECF No. 9.) Munoz seeks to amend her Complaint to add a new party, Lorraine Herrera (“Herrera”), and remand the matter back to state court. (Mot. 2.) However, because Munoz does not satisfy the IBC Aviation test, the Court DENIES Munoz's Motion.[1] (ECF No. 9.)


         On or about June 18, 2017, Munoz slipped-and-fell while shopping at Wal-Mart. (Mot. 2.) On February 25, 2019, Munoz brought this action against Wal-Mart in state court, and alleged negligence and premises liability. (Mot. 2.) On grounds of diversity jurisdiction, Wal-Mart removed this matter from state court on September 26, 2019. (Mot. 2.) Munoz asserts that Herrera was the manager of the store at the time of her slip and fall. (Mot. 2.) Munoz also asserts that ultimately Herrera was responsible for (1) the maintenance of the store at the time of her slip and fall; (2) verifying that there was in place a policy that provided for the maintenance of the store; (3) the training and education of the store employees who were tasked with conducting the maintenance of the store; and (4) verifying that the store be maintained according to industry standards. (Mot. 2.) Almost eight months after bringing this action and after Wal-Mart removed this action, does Munoz only now moves to amend her Complaint and add Herrera as a defendant. (Mot. 2.)


         When a plaintiff tries to join more defendants after removal, and that joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, a court may deny joinder, or allow it and remand the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). Under the statute, the decision is up to “the sound discretion of the court, ” and is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. See Newcombe v. Adolf Coors Co., 157 F.3d 686, 691 (9th Cir. 1998).

         Courts often consider six factors in deciding whether to allow plaintiff to amend to add a non-diverse defendant: (1) whether party to be joined is needed for just adjudication and would have to be joined under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a); (2) whether the statute of limitations would preclude an original action against the new defendants in state court; (3) whether there has been unexplained delay in requesting joinder; (4) whether joinder is intended solely to defeat federal jurisdiction; (5) whether the claims against the new defendant appear valid; and (6) whether denial of joinder will prejudice the plaintiff. IBC Aviation Servs., Inc. v. Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, S.A. de C.V., 125 F.Supp.2d 1008, 1011 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (collecting cases identifying the factors). A court need not consider all the issues, as any factor can be decisive, and no one of them is a necessary condition for joinder. Negrete v. Meadowbrook Meat Co., ED CV 11-1861 DOC, 2012 WL 254039 at *3 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 25, 2012); Yang v. Swissport USA, Inc., C 09-03823 SI, 2010 WL 2680800 (N.D. Cal. July 6, 2010). Granting leave to amend is only appropriate if the factors for joinder outweigh those against joinder. IBC Aviation, 125 F.Supp.2d at 1011.


         The Court now determines whether the IBC Aviation test favors joinder and granting Munoz leave to amend her Complaint.

         A. Adjudication

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 requires joinder of a person (a) whose absence would preclude complete relief among existing parties, or (b) who claims an interest in the action and, if the case is disposed without that person, the result either may impair or impede the absent person's ability to protect their interest, or it may leave an existing party subject to inconsistent obligations. Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a). “The standard is met when failure to join will lead to separate and redundant actions, ” but it is not met when “defendants are only tangentially related to the cause of action or would not prevent complete relief.” IBC Aviation, 125 F.Supp.2d at 1012.

         Here, no such circumstances exist. Munoz alleges that Herrera was the manager of the Wal-Mart and ultimately responsible for Munoz's injuries. (Mot. 5.) However, Munoz provides no argument as to why Herrera's absence would preclude complete relief, or impair or impede Munoz's ability to protect her interest. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a). All Munoz has claimed is that Herrera was the manager in charge on the day that she fell. Colonna v. Lowe's Hiw Inc., No. SA-CV-130556-DOC (RNBx), 2013 WL 12130012, at *2 (C.D. Cal. June 21, 2013) (finding similar allegations do not support allowing plaintiff to amend.) However, Munoz seeks money damages, accordingly, Wal-Mart may be held liable for damages caused by their employees, even if Herrera is not joined in this action. See King v. Soexo, Inc., No. 2:16-CV-03076-ODW (RAOx), 2016 WL 4161095, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 5, 2016) (individual employees of an employer defendant are not necessary under Rule 19(a) because liability for the Individual Defendants' actions as an employee are imputed to his employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior); Fonseca v. Wal Mart Assocs., Inc., No. ED-CV-19821-JGB (KKx), 2019 WL 2903960, at *2 (C.D. Cal. July 5, 2019). Thus, Munoz is able to obtain complete relief in Herrera's absence. King v. Soexo, Inc., 2016 WL 4161095, at *3. Thus, Walmart is “correct that under Rule 19(a), Herrera is a not necessary party.” Id. Accordingly, this factor does not support allowing Munoz to amend.

         B. ...

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