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Swimline v. Arcelormilltal Indiana Harbor, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

April 2, 2015

ROBERT SWIMLINE and ELIZABETH SWIMLINE, Plaintiffs,
v.
ARCELORMILLTAL INDIANA HARBOR, LLC, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

RUDY LOZANO, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint [DE 18], filed on March 19, 2015. Defendant filed an expedited response brief on March 27, 2015, and Plaintiffs filed an expedited reply brief on April 1, 2015.

On August 1, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor LLC in the Lake County, Indiana, Circuit Court. On September 19, 2014, Defendant removed the action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Defendant filed an Answer on October 15, 2014, and a scheduling order was issued on December 11, 2014.

RELEVANT BACKGROUND FACTS

On the day of the explosion that is the basis of this lawsuit, April 3, 2013, Plaintiff Robert Swimline was in a facility operated by ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, LLC, and owned by ArcelorMittal USA, LLC. An explosion occurred while Mr. Swimline was working on a pipeline contained within a newly installed gas bleeder pilot burner cabinet. The explosion occurred when gas escaped from the pipe connected to the cabinet and caused a flash explosion. The owner of the cabinet was ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, LLC, and the company responsible for installing the new pipe in the cabinet was Amex Nooter, LLC. Mr. Swimline was an employee of Amex Nooter, LLC.

The purchase order for the burner cabinet notes that the cabinet itself was to be delivered to Frank Peters, the Senior Maintenance Planner at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, LLC. Plaintiffs states in the motion that, on information and belief, Frank Peters is a resident of Crown Point, Indiana. Plaintiffs represents that the installation and construction of a new burner cabinet requires that the Senior Maintenance Planner provide guidance and direction on the appropriate manner of locking out, tagging, and bleeding all active gas lines leading to the new cabinet installation. Plaintiffs argue that, had that been done, no explosion would have occurred.

On December 29, 2014, through initial discovery, Defendant identified Frank Peters as someone who may have "discoverable information about the Plaintiffs' claim." However, it was not until March 13, 2015, when Defendant served its answer to Interrogatory No. 12, that Defendant stated that Frank Peters completed the work authorization forms and was responsible for reviewing the energy control procedure that provided guidance on locking out and tagging out the relevant equipment and piping.

ANALYSIS

In the instant motion, Plaintiffs seek leave to add three new defendants: ArcelorMittal USA, LLC; Frank Peters; and Amex Nooter, LLC. Defendant ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, LLC agrees that Defendant ArcelorMittal USA, LLC is a proper defendant and takes no position on the motion to add Amex Nooter, LLC as a defendant. However, Defendant opposes the addition of Frank Peters, arguing that Plaintiffs are attempting to join Frank Peters, who is a citizen of Indiana like Plaintiffs, post-removal in order to destroy diversity, which would result in the case being remanded to state court. Plaintiffs notes that the statute of limitations expires on April 3, 2015, and, thus, request a ruling prior to that date.

As an initial matter, the Court cannot determine whether there is complete diversity of citizenship between the Plaintiffs, Robert and Elizabeth Swimline, and ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, LLC, ArcelorMittal USA, LLC, and Amex Nooter, LLC. Plaintiffs are citizens of Indiana. The business entity defendants are all limited liability companies. A limited liability company is analogous to a partnership and takes the citizenship of its members. Belleville Catering Co. v. Champaign Mkt. Place, LLC, 350 F.3d 691, 692 (7th Cir. 2003). As established by the Affidavits of Mark Jeske, none of the members of ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, LLC or ArcelorMittal USA, LLC is a citizen of Indiana. However, the Affidavits do not clarify whether any of the members of ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, LLC or ArcelorMittal USA, LLC themselves are limited liability companies that have members who may be citizens of Indiana. As for Amex Nooter, LLC, Plaintiffs' proposed Amended Complaint does not identify the members of Amex Nooter, LLC but rather incorrectly treats Amex Nooter, LLC as a corporation and provides the company's place of incorporation and principal place of business, both of which are irrelevant. Regardless, any concern regarding the citizenship of the limited liability company defendants is moot. As set forth below, the Court finds that Frank Peters is a proper party defendant and that the motion to amend should be granted under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). Because diversity of citizenship is destroyed by the joinder of Frank Peters and the case will remand upon amendment, further inquiry into the membership of the limited liability company defendants is unnecessary.

The Court turns to the question of whether Plaintiffs should be permitted to join Frank Peters as a party defendant. Frank Peters is a citizen of Indiana whose joinder would destroy diversity of citizenship for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e), "[i]f after removal the plaintiff seeks to join additional defendants whose joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, the court may deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand the action to the State court." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has identified a four-factor test to determine whether post-removal joinder of a non-diverse party is appropriate. Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Cntrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 759 (7th Cir. 2009). The four factors are: "(1) the plaintiff's motive for seeking joinder, particularly whether the purpose is to defeat federal jurisdiction; (2) the timeliness of the request to amend; (3) whether the plaintiff will be significantly injured if joinder is not allowed; and (4) any other relevant equitable considerations." Id. It is within the Court's discretion to grant or deny joinder and the court should balance certain equities to make this determination. Id. The Court considers each of the factors in turn.

1. Plaintiffs' Motive

The Court must consider Plaintiffs' motive for seeking joinder, particularly whether the purpose is to defeat federal jurisdiction. In its response brief, Defendant does not focus on Plaintiffs' motive but rather attempts to show under the different standard of fraudulent joinder that Frank Peters is not a proper party defendant.

All of the allegations of negligence in Count II of the proposed Amended Complaint are brought against both ArcelorMittal Indiana ...


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