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Cook v. Onebeacon America Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

November 14, 2014

GLENN COOK, Plaintiff,
v.
ONEBEACON AMERICA INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO JOIN ADDITIONAL PARTIES AND REMANDING CASE TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CLARKE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI

HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is a Motion to Join Additional Parties if the Court Deems Necessary [34] filed by Plaintiff Glenn Cook. Defendant OneBeacon America Insurance Company has filed a Response [60] in Opposition. Having considered the Motion, the Response, the record, and relevant legal authorities, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion to Join Additional Parties [34] should be granted as to Doris Brown but denied as to Christopher Brown, and that this case should be remanded to the Circuit Court of Clarke County, Mississippi.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

This case involves the question of whether Plaintiff Glenn Cook ("Plaintiff") qualifies as an insured and beneficiary of an uninsured motorists coverage endorsement contained within an insurance policy issued by Defendant OneBeacon America Insurance Company ("Defendant") to the Clarke County, Mississippi, Board of Supervisors. Plaintiff works as a deputy sheriff for the Clarke County Sheriff's Department. Pl.'s Am. Compl. [15] at p. 2. On November 17, 2012, while working in his official capacity, Plaintiff was involved in a vehicular collision on Mississippi Highway 513 with another driver, Doris Brown. Accident Report [34-2] at pp. 1-6. At the time of the accident, Doris Brown was driving a 1990 Geo Prizum owned by Christopher Brown. According the responding officer's accident report, Doris Brown was unable to provide proof of insurance for either herself or the vehicle she was driving. Id. at p. 7. Plaintiff sustained severe injuries to his hip, pelvis, right leg, and right ankle as a result of the collision. Pl.'s Am. Compl. [15] at p. 2.

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors had contracted with Defendant to provide insurance coverage for the County, which included an "Uninsured Motorists Coverage Bodily Injury and Property Damage" endorsement. Insurance Endorsement [34-1]. The endorsement provided that Defendant "will pay all sums the insured' is legally entitled to recover as compensatory damages from the owner or driver of an uninsured motor vehicle'." Id. at p. 3.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his Complaint against Defendant in the Circuit Court of Clarke County, Mississippi, on September 27, 2013. The Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that Plaintiff is both an insured and beneficiary of the uninsured motorists coverage endorsement contained in the Clarke County Board of Supervisors' insurance policy, as well as damages for negligence. Plaintiff states that he did not file suit against the driver of the other vehicle, Doris Brown, based on the good-faith belief that she had no insurance coverage for the collision. Pl.'s Mot. for Joinder [34] at p. 2.

On October 23, 2013, Defendant removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) based on diversity of citizenship.[1] Notice of Removal [1]. On February 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. Defendant filed its Answer, raising various defenses, including that the driver, Doris Brown, or the car she was driving was insured at the time of the accident. Answer to Am. Compl. [18].

On May 28, 2014, the parties deposed Doris Brown. During her deposition, Doris Brown apparently testified that she was an insured driver on November 17, 2012, and never informed her insurance company of the collision. Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Req. for Admis. [34-7] at pp. 1-2.[2] However, Doris Brown's insurance company, State Farm, sent a letter on November 4, 2013, denying coverage for a collision that occurred on Highway 513 on November 15, 2012. State Farm Letter [34-3]. On August 5, 2014, State Farm admitted in a letter to Plaintiff's attorney that it had made a clerical mistake in its previous letter denying coverage, and the actual date of loss was November 17, 2012. State Farm Letter [34-4].

On August 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed the current Motion to Join Additional Parties if the Court Deems Necessary. In the Motion, Plaintiff requests that "if the Court deems necessary, he be allowed to add additional Defendants Doris Brown and/or Christopher Brown to the pleadings as Defendants." Pl.'s Mot. for Joinder [34] at p. 6. Plaintiff states that although he still believes that neither Doris Brown nor the car she was driving had insurance coverage for the collision, Defendant's pleadings and discovery responses have made apparent that Defendant's position is that Doris Brown or the car she was driving were in fact insured. Therefore, Plaintiff filed the Motion to Join Additional Parties out of "an abundance of caution." Pl.'s Mot. for Joinder [34] at p. 6. Defendant does not dispute that it has taken the position that Doris Brown or the car she was driving had insurance coverage for the collision. Instead, Defendant argues that the addition of Doris Brown or Christopher Brown would be prejudicial to Defendant and Plaintiff's Motion should be denied.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The Court currently has subject matter jurisdiction over this action because the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00 and there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Where a non-diverse defendant is joined to an action, diversity of citizenship is destroyed and a federal court is divested of subject matter jurisdiction. Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). Because it is undisputed that Doris Brown and Christopher Brown are citizens of ...


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