United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
OPINION & ORDER
MICHAEL L. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
La'Ketra Washington moves to remand this action to state
court. (Dkt. 12.) Defendants Skechers USA, Inc. and Daniel
Siegel oppose her motion. (Dkt. 16.) Because the Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction, the Court grants Plaintiff's
managed a Skechers store in Atlanta, Georgia. (Dkt. 1-1
¶ 1.) Defendant Siegel was her supervisor. (Id.
¶ 2.) After an internal investigation, Defendant
Skechers fired her for alleged theft of sales commissions.
(Id. ¶ 24.) It also reported her to local
police, leading to her arrest and prosecution. (Id.
¶¶ 33-34.) Plaintiff claims that she was
“prosecuted based on the false accusations of Skechers
and Seigel.” (Id. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff also
alleges that Defendant Siegel (and others) told people
outside the company that Skechers fired her for theft and law
enforcement was prosecuting her. (Id. ¶ 32.)
Plaintiff claims that Siegel testified against her at trial
and a jury acquitted her of all charges. (Id. ¶
sued Skechers for libel and slander in the State Court of
DeKalb County, Georgia. See Complaint,
Washington v. Skechers USA, Inc., No. 18A68441
(State Court of DeKalb Cty. Ga. Mar. 12, 2018) (No. 1).
Skechers removed that action to federal court based on
diversity of citizenship. Notice of Removal with Complaint,
Washington v. Skechers USA, Inc., No. 1:18-cv-01561
(N.D.Ga. Apr. 11, 2018), ECF No. 1 (“Washington
I”). Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action
five days later. Washington I, ECF No. 5.
2018, Plaintiff filed this case, again in state court. (Dkt.
1-1.) This time, Plaintiff named both Skechers and Siegel as
defendants. She made no allegations about her or Defendant
Siegel's citizenship. Defendants, however, assert that
both Plaintiff and Defendant Siegel are citizens of Georgia.
(Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 4-5.) Skechers, however, is a Delaware
corporation with its principal place of business in
California. (Id. ¶ 6.) In August 2018,
Defendants removed the action to federal court, asserting
that Plaintiff fraudulently joined Defendant Siegel in this
action to destroy diversity of citizenship. (Id.
August 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's
complaint for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. 7.) Plaintiff
then moved to remand this action to state court and also
filed an amended complaint. (Dkts. 12, 13.) The Court stayed
Defendants' time for responding to the amended complaint
pending its ruling on Plaintiff's motion to remand. (Dkt.
11 at 1-2.)
from state to federal court is proper if the federal court
has original jurisdiction over the action. See 28
U.S.C. § 1441. Aside from cases arising out of the
Constitution or laws of the United States, district courts
have diversity jurisdiction over civil actions between
citizens of different states with an amount in controversy
exceeding $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity, meaning
“the citizenship of every plaintiff must be diverse
from the citizenship of every defendant.” Legg v.
Wyeth, 428 F.3d 1317, 1320 n.2 (11th Cir. 2005). When a
party removes a case on diversity jurisdiction, a federal
court must remand the action if there is not complete
diversity between the parties. See Stillwell v. Allstate
Ins. Co., 663 F.3d 1329, 1332 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing
Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267, 267
district court should look at the case at the time of removal
to determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction.
See Pintando v. Miami-Dade Hous. Agency, 501 F.3d
1241, 1244 n.2 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Leonard v.
Enter. Rent A Car, 279 F.3d 967, 972 (11th Cir. 2002).
As a result, this Court assesses jurisdiction at the time of
and based on the original complaint, not the amended
claims this Court lacks jurisdiction because both she and
Defendant Siegel reside in Georgia. (Dkt. 12 at 1.)
Defendants counter that Plaintiff fraudulently joined
Defendant Siegel purely to defeat diversity jurisdiction.
(Dkt. 16 at 1.)
Eleventh Circuit precedent, the removing defendant has the
“heavy” burden of establishing fraudulent joinder
by clear and convincing evidence. See Stillwell, 663
F.3d at 1332. Fraudulent joinder generally arises when
“there is no possibility that the plaintiff can prove a
cause of action against the resident (non-diverse)
defendant” or “there is outright fraud in the
plaintiff's pleading of jurisdictional facts.”
Triggs v. John Crump Toyota, Inc., 154 F.3d 1284,
1287 (11th Cir. 1998). Defendants do not argue the second
scenario but concentrate on the first - arguing
Plaintiff's allegation against Defendant Siegel cannot
state a claim, making his joinder fraudulent.
considering whether to remand a case, the district court
“must evaluate the factual allegations in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff and must resolve any
uncertainties about state substantive law in favor of the
plaintiff.” Stillwell, 663 F.3d at 1333.
“If there is even a possibility that a state court
would find that the complaint states a cause of action
against any one of the resident defendants, the federal court
must find that joinder was proper and remand the case to the
state court.” Taylor Newman Cabinetry,
Inc. v. Classic Soft Trim, Inc., 436 Fed.Appx. 888, 890
(11th Cir. 2011) (citing Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d
1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997)). Federal courts apply state
substantive law when considering cases that arise under their
diversity jurisdiction. See Royalty Network, Inc. v.
Harris, 756 F.3d 1351, 1357 (11th Cir. 2014). Georgia
law thus applies here.
making this assessment, the federal court “must
necessarily look to the pleading standards applicable in
state court, not the plausibility pleading standards
prevailing in federal court.” Ullah v. BAC Home
Loans Servicing LP, 538 Fed.Appx. 844, 846 (11th Cir.
2013) (quoting Stillwell, 663 F.3d at 1334).
“The pleading standard in Georgia is lower than the
standard applicable to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Id. (citing
Stillwell, 663 F.3d at 1334 n.3.). “Under
Georgia law, fair notice of the nature of the claim is all
that is required, and the elements of most claims can be pled
in general terms.” Id. (citing Bush v.
Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 720 S.E.2d 370, 374 (Ga.Ct.App.
2011)). Pleading conclusions, rather than facts, may be
enough to state a claim for relief. See Stillwell,
663 F.3d at 1334; see also Ledford v. Meyer, 290
S.E.2d 908, 909-10 (Ga. 1982) (holding that under the notice
theory of pleading adopted in Georgia “it is immaterial
whether a pleading states ‘conclusions' or
‘facts' as long as fair notice is given”).
courts find a plaintiff has failed to state a claim against a
party on which relief can be granted only when “(1) the
allegations of the complaint disclose with certainty that the
claimant would not be entitled to relief under any state of
provable facts asserted in support thereof; and (2) the
movant establishes that the claimant could not possibly
introduce evidence within the framework of the complaint
sufficient to warrant a grant of the relief sought.”
Sherman v. Fulton Cty. Bd. of Assessors, 701 S.E.2d
472, 474 (Ga. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Southstar Energy Serv. v. Ellison, 691
S.E.2d 203, 204 (Ga. 2010)). Whether Plaintiff fraudulently
joined Defendant Siegel thus depends on whether a state court
could possibly find that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a
claim against Defendant Siegel under Georgia's