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Franklin v. GGNSC Southaven LLC

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

November 27, 2018

MICHELLE FRANKLIN, individually and on behalf of the estate and wrongful death beneficiaries of Agnes Franklin PLAINTIFF
v.
GGNSC SOUTHAVEN LLC, d/b/a GOLDEN LIVING CENTER SOUTHAVEN; GGNSC ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES LLC; GGNSC CLINICAL SERVICES LLC; GGNSC HOLDINGS LLC; GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL SENIOR CARE LLC; GGNSC EQUITY HOLDINGS LLC; GOLDEN GATE ANCILLARY LLC; SHIRLY CRUMP, Director of Nursing; JOGN DOES 1-10; and Unidentified Entities 1-10 as to Golden Living Center Southaven n/k/a Diversicare-Southaven DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NEAL B. BIGGERS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the court upon the plaintiff's motion to remand. Upon due consideration of the motion, response, [1] complaint and applicable authority, the court is ready to rule.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arises out of the alleged negligent care provided by Defendant Golden Living Center Southaven (“Golden Living”), a skilled nursing facility, to the now deceased Agnes Franklin. Franklin was admitted to Golden Living on November 5, 2014 and remained a resident until June 10, 2016. During her residency at Golden Living, Franklin allegedly suffered a myriad of medical problems which eventually led to her death.

         On August 6, 2018, Plaintiff Michelle Franklin, daughter and administratrix of Agnes Franklin's estate, commenced the instant litigation in the Circuit Court of DeSoto County, Mississippi. Plaintiff asserts various tort claims against Golden Living and its corporate counterparts (hereinafter “Corporate Defendants”) and Golden Living's Director of Nursing, Shirley Crump. Defendants promptly removed the action to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs now move to remand.

         Standard for Removal and Remand

         “[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A district court has “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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

         “[R]emoval statutes are to be construed strictly against removal and in favor of remand.” Eastus v. Blue Bell Creameries, L.P., 97 F.3d 100, 103 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941)). “The intent of Congress drastically to restrict federal jurisdiction in controversies between citizens of different states has always been rigorously enforced by the court.” Garcia v. Koch Oil Co. of Texas, Inc., 351 F.3d 636, 638 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938)).

         The removing party bears the burden of establishing the basis of federal jurisdiction. Id.¸see also De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir. 1995). Should the court have any doubts about is jurisdiction, “it should resolve those doubts by ordering a remand.” Dardeau v. West Orange-Grove Consolidated Independent School Dist., 43 F.Supp.2d 722, 730 (E.D. Tex. 1999) (citing Vasquez v. Alto Bonito Gravel Plant Corp., 56 F.3d 689, 694 (5th Cir. 1995)).

         Discussion

         For the court to have jurisdiction over this matter, it must be based on diversity of citizenship.[2] In moving to remand, Plaintiff argues that the court lacks diversity jurisdiction because the parties are not completely diverse. Complete diversity “requires that all persons on one side of the controversy be citizens of different states than all persons on the other side.” McLaughlin v. Mississippi Power Co., 376 F.3d 344, 353 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing Harrison v. Prather, 404 F.2d 267, 272 (5th Cir. 1968)). Plaintiff is a citizen of Mississippi. Corporate Defendants, as citizens of Delaware and California, are diverse from Plaintiff. Defendant Shirley Crump, however, is a citizen of Mississippi. Consequently, unless Defendants can show that an exception applies, the parties are not completely diverse and this court lacks jurisdiction.

         Defendants argue that this court may disregard the citizenship of Crump because she has been fraudulently, or improperly, joined by Plaintiff to defeat federal jurisdiction. When a court's jurisdiction is premised on diversity jurisdiction, “[t]he improper joinder doctrine constitutes a narrow exception to the rule of complete diversity.” McDonal v. Abbott Laboratories, 408 F.3d 177, 183 (5th Cir. 2005). It is well-settled that courts place a heavy burden of persuasion “upon those who cry ‘fraudulent joinder.'” B., Inc. v. Miller Brewing Co., 663 F.2d 545, 549 (5th Cir. 1981).

         To establish improper joinder, the party seeking removal must demonstrate either “(1) actual fraud in the pleading of jurisdiction 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, 699 (5th Cir. 1999)). Under the second prong, the removing party must demonstrate that there is no reasonable basis for the court to predict that the plaintiff might be able to recover against the non-diverse defendant. Smallwood v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., 358 F.3d 568, 573 (5th Cir. 2004).

         In determining whether improper joinder is applicable, the court “must [] take into account all unchallenged factual allegations, including those alleged in the complaint, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Ross v. Citifinancial, Inc., 344 F.3d 458, 462 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting Travis, 326 F.3d at 649). Moreover, the court “must resolve all ...


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