United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
P. Jordan III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Catrina Hilliard seeks remand of this case. Defendant
Satellites Unlimited, LLC, f/k/a Satellites Unlimited, Inc.
(“SU”) removed the case, alleging that Stephen
Baptiste, the non-diverse defendant, was improperly joined to
defeat diversity jurisdiction. The Court's review of the
briefs suggests that jurisdiction may be lacking for
a reason neither party addresses. As discussed below,
SU's improper-joinder argument may rely on a defense that
is common to Baptiste's and its liability. See
Smallwood v. Ill. Cent. R. Co., 385 F.3d 568, 571 (5th
Cir. 2004) (en banc) (“Smallwood II”).
This issue should be addressed before the Court rules on
Hilliard's Motion to Remand  or her Motion to Amend
Facts and Procedural History
says that, in or around August 2016, Baptiste and another
employee of SU inspected her home and serviced her existing
DISH satellite equipment. According to her, “said
servicing and installation involved drilling holes in
[Hilliard's h]ome and running wires and/or cables
throughout the [h]ome.” Compl. [1-1] ¶ 12. She
says the work was “performed negligently, ”
leading to a September 10, 2016 fire that destroyed the home.
Id. ¶¶ 13-14.
filed her Complaint against SU, Baptiste, and John Doe
Defendants in Copiah County Circuit Court on June 12, 2017.
She asserts claims for negligence; gross negligence;
respondeat superior; negligent hiring, retention, and
supervision; and punitive damages. Asserting that Baptiste
was improperly joined to defeat diversity jurisdiction, SU
removed the case to this Court on July 10, 2017. In
particular, SU says:
The only facts alleged which purportedly support the
Plaintiff's claims against Mr. Baptiste state that he is
a technician of Satellites Unlimited, LLC, who inspected the
Plaintiff's residence and/or installed new satellite
equipment in or around the month of August, 2016. Mr.
Baptiste serviced the Plaintiff's residence prior to the
fire loss, but the last occasion he did so was on April 18,
2016, more than four months before the Plaintiff claims and
almost five months before the fire. As a result, Mr. Baptiste
was not present at the time the Plaintiff contends these
negligent acts occurred.
Not. of Removal  ¶ 6 (citations omitted). In response
to Hilliard's motion to remand, SU clarifies that neither
Baptiste nor any other SU personnel have “been
dispatched” to Hilliard's home since April 18,
2016. Peacock Aff. [16-2] ¶ 5.
part, Hilliard says she has pleaded plausible claims against
[T]he only fact that Defendants point to in support of
piercing the pleadings is the exact date of the alleged acts
by the defendants and, once again, Plaintiff submits that, at
worst, Plaintiff's alleged date of Defendants'
negligence is five (5) months off and, at best, discovery
will show that the date initially alleged is accurate. Even
assuming that the alleged date in the original complaint is
five months off, Defendant Baptiste would still be
potentially liab[le] for his negligence acts and omissions.
Pl.'s Reply  at 5. In light of the potential
inaccuracy of the initial Complaint, Hilliard now seeks leave
to amend to clarify that Baptiste's call to her home
during which he negligently serviced her DISH equipment
occurred “[d]uring 2016.” Proposed Am. Compl.
[15-1] ¶ 11.
Court concludes that neither the motion to remand nor the
motion to amend should be considered until the Smallwood
II issue is addressed.
premises federal jurisdiction on 28 U.S.C. § 1332, under
which the district court has jurisdiction over civil actions
between “citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a)(1). The statute requires complete diversity
between all named plaintiffs and all named defendants.
E.g., Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S.
81, 84 (2005).
improper-joinder rule “is a narrow exception to the
rule that diversity jurisdiction requires complete
diversity.” Smallwood v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co.,
352 F.3d 220, 222 (5th Cir. 2003) (“Smallwood
I”). Improper joinder can be established by
showing the “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, 646-47
(5th Cir. 2003) (citing Griggs v. State Farm Lloyds,
181 F.3d 694, 698 (5th Cir. 1999)). In evaluating a claim of
improper joinder, the “appropriate test is whether
there is any reasonable basis for predicting the plaintiffs
might be able to recover against . . . the ins-state
defendant.” Jones v. Gen. ...