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Member Select Insurance Co. v. Cub Cadet LLC

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

February 13, 2017

MEMBER SELECT INSURANCE COMPANY AAA a/s/o MICHAEL BOOMSMA and JUDY BOOMSMA, Plaintiff,
v.
CUB CADET, LLC, KOHLER, CO., and DON BALES, INC, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint at Law [DE 20], filed by Plaintiff Member Select Insurance Company on November 9, 2016. Defendant Cub Cadet, LLC filed a response on November 23, 2016. On the same date, both Defendant Don Bales, Inc. and Defendant Kohler Co. filed notices that they joined in their co-defendant's response. Plaintiff filed a reply on December 5, 2016.

         Plaintiff, through the proposed First Amended Complaint, seeks to add plaintiffs, defendants, and claims to this litigation and to name MTD Consumer Group, Inc., as the proper defendant in place of Defendant Cub Cadet, LLC.

         Defendants agree that the proper name of the party sued as “Cub Cadet LLC” is “MTD Consumer Group, Inc” and have no objection to amending the Complaint to properly name this party. Therefore, the request to amend the Complaint to properly name this party is granted. In the remainder of this opinion, the Court will refer to this party as MTD.

         Defendants argue that the remaining proposed amendments to the Complaint are futile and that Plaintiff's motive in seeking to add the proposed new plaintiffs, Michael Boomsma and Judy Boomsma, is to destroy this Court's subject matter jurisdiction. The Court construes this latter argument as an argument that the proposed amendments as to the Boomsmas are brought in bad faith. The Court will first address the bad faith argument and then address the futility argument.

         ANALYSIS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that a party “may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave” and that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The United States Supreme Court has explained that “freely give” means that a court should not deny leave to file an amended complaint in the absence of any apparent or declared reasons, “such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Bausch v. Stryker Corp., 630 F.3d 546, 562 (7th Cir. 2010). The decision whether to grant or deny a motion to amend lies within the sound discretion of the district court. See Campbell v. Ingersoll Milling Mach. Co., 893 F.2d 925, 927 (7th Cir. 1990).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 governs the permissive joinder of parties. Because Defendants do not argue that Rule 20's requirements are not met as to the proposed new parties and because, upon review of the proposed First Amended Complaint, the Court finds that the requirements of Rule 20 are satisfied as to the parties sought to be joined, the Court will restrict its analysis below to the issues of bad faith and futility under Rule 15.

         A. Bad Faith

         A motion to amend a complaint is properly denied if the amendment is sought in bad faith. Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. Defendants argue that the factors to be used when deciding whether to join a party outlined in Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752 (7th Cir. 2009), should guide the Court's analysis. The 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. at 759. Plaintiff counters that the Schur factors only apply when nondiverse defendants-not nondiverse plaintiffs-are sought to be added. Though the facts of Schur involved joinder of nondiverse defendants, the Schur factors were adopted “for determining whether post-removal joinder of a nondiverse party is appropriate” under 28 U.S.C. 1447(e). Id. (emphasis added). The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in adopting the Schur factors, did not restrict the factors' application only to instances where the nondiverse party sought to be joined is a defendant.

         There is one significant difference, however, between Schur and the instant litigation. In addition to adding parties, Plaintiff is also seeking leave to file claims under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act (“Magnuson-Moss Act”), and, for the reasons stated in the futility analysis below, Plaintiff (though not the Boomsmas) will be granted leave to bring those claims. Therefore, though the Boomsmas, if joined, would be nondiverse parties, it appears that the Court could still exercise subject matter jurisdiction over this litigation via federal question and supplemental jurisdiction. Consequently, the Court is not tasked with performing analysis under 28 U.S.C. 1447(e).

         The issue for the Court to resolve here is whether Plaintiff seeks joinder of the Boomsmas in bad faith. The Court's ability to exercise jurisdiction even if the parties are joined does not disallow a finding of bad faith due to attempted destruction of jurisdiction. See Sorosky v. Burroughs Corp., 826 F.2d 794, 805 (9th Cir. 1987) (holding, despite the plaintiff's argument that diversity jurisdiction was already destroyed and therefore denial of leave to amend the complaint for bad faith was inappropriate, “[t]he question . . . is not whether diversity jurisdiction existed, but instead whether the motion to amend was brought in bad faith.”).

         Thus, though the first Schur factor-Plaintiff's motive-is an issue for the Court here in determining whether the joinder of the Boomsmas is in bad faith, the Schur factors as a whole are not the appropriate framework for deciding the question at hand. See Schur, 759 F.3d at 759; Beil v. Ill. Mun. League Risk Mgmt. Ass'n, Case No. 16-cv-356, 2016 WL 3999895, at *2-3 (S.D. Ill. July 26, 2016) (applying the Schur factors where joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction).

         Proposed amendments that clearly try to avoid unfavorable consequences on the merits or gain a tactical advantage are brought in bad faith. See Vitrano v. United States, 721 F.3d 802, 807 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d 594, 599 (5th Cir. 1981). Relevant to the bad faith determination are whether it is likely Plaintiff knew the facts pertinent to the amendment before the original complaint was filed and whether Plaintiff is trying to forum shop. See Hernandez v. DMSI Staffing, LLC.,79 F.Supp.3d 1054, 1059 (N.D. Cal. 2015); see also Johnson v. Gen. Motors Corp., No. 03-865, ...


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