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Miller v. Panther II Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 25, 2018

JOHN MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
PANTHER II TRANSPORTATION, INC., EXPEDITER SERVICES, LLC, WILLIAM A. HALL, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff John Miller originally brought this lawsuit in state court after falling from the back of a box truck which unexpectedly moved away from the loading dock. Defendant Panther II Transportation, Inc. (“Panther”) removed on the basis of the Court's diversity jurisdiction. Mr. Miller's initial complaint named Panther as the sole defendant, alleging that Panther was vicariously liable for his injuries as the employer of the truck driver. Discovery later revealed that the driver was William Hall, and that Mr. Hall may actually (or additionally) be employed by Expediter Services, LLC (“Expediter”). So Mr. Miller sought, and the Court eventually granted, leave to amend his complaint to join Mr. Hall and Expediter as defendants. [Filing No. 34.] One problem remained, however: Mr. Miller did not know the citizenship of Expediter. Now, Mr. Miller contends that complete diversity does not exist and requests that the Court remand this matter to state court. Panther opposes Mr. Miller's Motion to Remand, attaching affidavits from individuals with various ownership interests in Expediter and its members, and moves for leave to file a surreply to address Mr. Miller's evidentiary objections. For the reasons described below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Leave to File Surreply and DENIES Mr. Miller's Motion to Remand.

         I.

         Background

         On October 11, 2017, Mr. Miller brought suit in state court against Panther, alleging that he was injured in a November 2015 work incident when the box truck he was unloading prematurely moved away from the loading dock. [Filing No. 1-1 at 3-4.] On November 8, 2017, Panther removed the matter, invoking this Court's diversity jurisdiction. [Filing No. 1.] On February 28, 2018, Mr. Miller moved to amend his complaint to join Mr. Hall and Expediter as defendants. [Filing No. 17.]

         On July 6, 2018, the Court granted Mr. Miller's motion for leave to amend. [Filing No. 34.] The Court noted, however, that this matter could not proceed as-is if Expediter's joinder would destroy diversity:

One issue remains, however. Mr. Miller's proposed amended complaint, [Filing No. 17-1], alleges that he does not know the citizenship of Expediter's members. The Court therefore ORDERS Mr. Miller to conduct whatever investigation may be necessary to properly allege Expediter's citizenship and to file an amended complaint reflecting the proper jurisdictional allegations on or before July 20, 2018. Should Expediter's joinder destroy diversity, Mr. Miller should allege such and contemporaneously file a motion to remand, whereupon the other defendants may renew their opposition to Mr. Miller's motion for leave to amend as to Expediter. See, e.g, Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 759 (7th Cir. 2009) (“When joinder of a nondiverse party would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e) applies and provides the district court two options: (1) deny joinder, or (2) permit joinder and remand to state court. These are the only options; the district court may not permit joinder of a nondiverse defendant and retain jurisdiction.” (internal footnote and citation omitted)); id. at 761 (“. . . [W]hen a district court is unaware that joinder will destroy diversity, it may reconsider its prior decision permitting leave to amend a complaint.”).

[Filing No. 34 at 13-14.] Thus, the Court ordered Mr. Miller to conduct an investigation as to Expediter's citizenship, directed that Mr. Miller file a motion to remand if appropriate, and advised Panther that it may renew its opposition to Expediter's joinder if Mr. Miller sought remand.

         On July 20, 2018, Mr. Miller filed his Amended Complaint, stating that the “identity of the members of [Expediter] and their states of citizenship are unknown to Plaintiff despite inquiry to Defendant Expediter.” [Filing No. 35.] As directed by the Court, Mr. Miller contemporaneously moved to remand this case to state court. [Filing No. 36.] Mr. Miller's Motion to Remand and Panther's Motion for Leave to File Surreply are fully briefed and ripe for decision.

         II.

         Discussion

         Mr. Miller argues that remand is required because Expediter has failed to establish that subject matter jurisdiction exists. [Filing No. 36.]

         As explained in the Court's Order permitting Mr. Miller to join Expediter, Panther had the option to reassert its objection to Expediter's joinder in response to Mr. Miller's Motion to Remand. [Filing No. 34 at 14.] It has not done so. Instead, Panther opposes Mr. Miller's Motion on its merits, detailing Expediter's corporate structure and attaching affidavits which, if credited, would establish that Expediter is a citizen of several states (specifically, Tennessee, Wyoming, Missouri, Arizona, and New Jersey), none of which is Indiana, the state of which Mr. Miller is a citizen. [Filing No. 48.] Panther argues that complete diversity exists and that remand would therefore be inappropriate.

         In reply, Mr. Miller lodges what are essentially evidentiary objections. First, Mr. Miller argues that several affiants purport to have personal knowledge of the domiciles of other persons without any facts to support the claim of personal knowledge. [Filing No. 50 at 4-5.] Second, Mr. Miller argues that the affidavits assert domicile in a conclusory fashion, with no facts or evidence to support ...


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