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McClenton v. Chevrolet

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

September 28, 2017




         Plaintiff originally filed this action in the Coahoma County Circuit Court. Defendant FCA U.S. LLC removed this action in September of 2016 on the grounds that the only non-diverse defendant, Cannon Chevrolet, Cadillac, Nissan, Inc. ("Cannon Chevrolet") was improperly joined and should be disregarded for purposes of diversity analysis. See Notice of Removal [1]. Plaintiff has now moved for a Motion to Remand [13]. Because FCA has sufficiently shown that the threshold for diversity jurisdiction exists, the Motion to Remand is DENIED.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Georgia McClenton alleges that that she purchased a 2016 Dodge Journey from Cannon Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram ("Cannon CDJR") in Greenwood, Mississippi. Shortly thereafter, McClenton claims that a fire originating from the vehicle spread to her property, destroying the vehicle, her home, and all its contents and personal property within. She filed a complaint alleging a breach of warranties, both express and implied, and defective design and defective manufacture, all causes of action under the Mississippi Products Liability Act.

         Defendant FCA U.S. LLC removed the action to this Court alleging that the in-state dealership was improperly joined and diversity jurisdiction existed. Plaintiff seeks to remand the case back to the Coahoma County Circuit Court alleging that FCA U.S. LLC failed to establish jurisdiction in this Court.

         Standard for Removal and Remand

         This case was removed based on 28 U.S.C. Section 1332, diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. Diversity of citizenship jurisdiction requires satisfaction of the following two factors: (1) amount in controversy; and (2) diversity of citizenship. These requirements are set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), which states in relevant part that "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States. . . . .''

         "The removing party bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction." Laughlin v. Prudential Ins. Co., 882 F.2d 187, 190 (5th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). Whether a case is removable must be determined by reference to the allegations made in the original pleadings. Wheeler v. Frito-Lay, Inc., 743 F.Supp. 483, 485 (S.D.Miss. 1990). The removing party alleging diversity of citizenship jurisdiction on the basis of improper joinder has the burden of proving either: "(1) actual fraud in the pleading of jurisdictional facts, or (2) inability of the plaintiff to establish a cause of action against the non-diverse party in state court." Travis v. Irby, 326 F.3d 644, 647 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Griggs v. State Farm Lloyds, 181 F.3d 694, 698 (5th Cir. 1999)); Laughlin, 882 F.2d at 190.

         In Travis, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reiterated the standard by which a plaintiffs claims must be analyzed to determine the improper joinder question. The Travis court held:

[T]he court determines whether that party has any possibility of recovery against the party whose joinder is questioned. If there is arguably a reasonable basis for predicting that the state law might impose liability on the facts involved, then there is no fraudulent joinder. This possibility, however, must be reasonable, not merely theoretical.

Travis, 326 F.3d at 648 (citing Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2002)). Further, conclusory or generic allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the non-diverse defendant are not sufficient to show that the defendant was not improperly joined. Badon v. RJR Nabisco, Inc., 224 F.3d 382, 392-93 (5th Cir. 2000). Therefore, removal is not precluded merely because the state court complaint, on its face, sets forth a state law claim against a non-diverse defendant. Badon, 224 F.3d at 390. Removal is proper "if the plaintiffs pleading is pierced and it is shown that as a matter of law there is no reasonable basis for predicting that the plaintiff might establish liability on that claim against the instate defendant." Id.

         When conducting an improper joinder analysis, a court must resolve all disputed questions of fact and ambiguities of law in favor of the non-removing party, Dodson v. Spiliada Maritime Corp., 951 F.2d 40, 42 (5th Cir. 1992), but "only when there exists an actual controversy, i.e. when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Badon, 224 F.3d at 394 (emphasis in original). A court should not, "in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts" to support his claims against the non-diverse defendant. Id. (citing Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).

         Discussion and Analysis

         Plaintiffs Complaint does not specify a dollar amount of damages sought. However, in the Notice of Removal, the Defendant notes that Plaintiff seeks as damages the value of the property, which adds up to over $75, 000.[1] Therefore, the Court finds that ...

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