United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
THE ESTATE OF JAMES L. DECKER PLAINTIFF
NATIONAL CASUALTY COMPANY, DAVID HUFFMAN, AUTO-OWNERS INSURANCE, and DOUBLE D TRANSPORTATION, INC. DEFENDANTS
SHARION AYCOCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Estate of James L. Decker originally filed its Complaint 
in the Circuit Court of Tishomingo County, Mississippi
against National Casualty Company, Horner Insurance Services,
David Huffman, Double D Transportation, and Auto-Owners
Insurance. National Casualty removed the action to this Court
premising federal jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The parties in this case are not
diverse. The Plaintiff is a citizen of Tennessee, and
Defendants Huffman and Double D are also citizens of
Tennessee. Defendant National Casualty is a citizen of
Wisconsin and Arizona, and Defendant Auto-Owners is a citizen
Casualty now argues that Defendants Huffman and Double D were
fraudulently joined and filed a Motion to Sever 
requesting that the Court sever and remand the claims against
Huffman and Double D, perfecting federal diversity
jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs' claims against National
Casualty and Auto-Owners. The Plaintiff opposes severance and
request remand of the entire case .
Plaintiff's claims in this case arise from an automobile
accident in which James Decker was killed. At the time of the
accident, Decker was employed by Double D Transportation and
was driving a tractor-trailer owned by Huffman. Double D was
insured under a policy by National Casualty, and Decker was
insured under a policy by Auto-Owners.
the Plaintiff's claims against each Defendant are styled
as claims for “negligence, ” in substance the
Plaintiff seeks to recover insurance proceeds from National
Casualty, or in the alternative from Auto-Owners. The
Plaintiff's claim against Decker's employer, Double
D, also involves the recovery of insurance proceeds as well
as unspecified “employment benefits.” The
Plaintiff's final claim against the truck owner, Huffman,
involves recovery of “benefits from Mr. Decker's
employment at Double D” as well as damages “for
potential malfunction of the vehicle.”
statutes are to be construed against removal and for remand.
Shackelford v. Wooten, No. 3:16-CV-158-M-A, 2016 WL
5795986, at *2 (N.D. Miss. Oct. 4, 2016) (citing Eastus
v. Blue Bell Creameries L.P., 97 F.3d 100, 106 (5th Cir.
1996). Any doubts regarding whether removal is proper should
be resolved against federal jurisdiction. Manguno v.
Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723
(5th Cir. 2002) (citing Acuna v. Brown & Root,
Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000)).
this Court to have subject matter jurisdiction of this matter
based on § 1332, complete diversity must exist among the
parties. Harvey v. Grey Wolf Drilling Co., 542 F.3d
1077, 1079 (5th Cir. 2008). As the party invoking diversity
jurisdiction, National Casualty bears the burden of proving
it. Getty Oil Corp., a Div. of Texaco Inc. v. Ins. Co. of
N. Am., 841 F.2d 1254, 1259 (5th Cir. 1988). “For
this court to accept jurisdiction despite the misjoinder of a
non-diverse defendant, the misjoinder must be egregious or
grossly improper.” Cooper v. AIG Claim Servs.,
No. 1:08-CV-168-SA, 2009 WL 279101 at *2 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 5,
case removed to federal court, questions of fraudulent
misjoinder are determined by the state's joinder rules.
Cooper, 2009 WL 279101, at *2 (citing Palmero v.
Letourneau Tech., Inc., 542 F.Supp.2d 499, 516
(S.D.Miss. 2008) “To determine if a party has been
fraudulently misjoined, the court applies Rule 20 of the
Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.” Tri-Miss.
Servs., Inc. v. Fairley, No. 2:12-CV-152-KS, 2012 WL
5611058 (S.D.Miss. Nov. 15, 2012) (citing Palermo,
542 F.Supp.2d at 517).
order for the joinder of the defendants to be proper in this
case, the claims against them must 1) share common questions
of law or fact; and 2) arise out of the same transaction,
occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences. Miss.
R. Civ. P. 20(a); Cooper, 2009 WL 279101, at *3
(citing Mercer v. Moody, 918 So.2d 664, 666 (Miss.
Mississippi Supreme Court has held that before an alleged
transaction or occurrence will be sufficient to meet Rule
20(a)'s two factors, there must be a “distinct
litigable event linking the parties.” Hegwood v.
Williamson, 949 So.2d 728, 730 (Miss. 2007). To
determine whether a distinct litigable event exists, the
court should consider “whether a finding of liability
for one plaintiff essentially establishes a finding for all
plaintiffs, indicating that proof common to all plaintiffs is
at the pleadings in this case, including the notice of
removal, it appears that the Plaintiff is asserting a claim
against Double D and National Casualty jointly, severally, or
in the alternative. In essence, the Plaintiff is seeking
compensation and insurance proceeds from his employer and
from his employer's insurance company. Notably the
Plaintiff is not alleging that Double D had any involvement
in the accident itself, which distinguishes this case from
the situation in Hegwood, where the Mississippi
Supreme Court held that third party tort claims and first
party breach of contract and bad faith claims involve
distinct litigable events with different factual issues and
legal issues. Id. at 731. In other words, according
to the Plaintiff, its claims against Double D are for
insurance proceeds or other compensation derived from either
its coverage by National Casualty or a potential lack
thereof. These claims are exactly the type of joint, several,
or alternative claims contemplated by Rule 20, do not involve
distinct litigable events, and they likely share common
issues of both fact and law.
these reasons, the Court finds that “there is a
reasonable probability that the state court would find
[Double D's] joinder proper, ” and thus Double D
was not fraudulently joined. Palermo, 542 F.Supp.2d
at 524. Because the Court finds that Double D was not
fraudulently joined, complete diversity does not exist.
Finally, because the lack of diversity between Double D ...