United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
WILLIAM RICHARDSON, individually and on behalf of SEANESSE RICHARDSON, as his legal guardian and parent, and SEANESSE RICHARDSON, Plaintiffs,
FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES FCA US, LLC, DAIMLERCHRYSLER AG, CHRYSLER, LLC, CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC, KIMBERLY RICHARDSON, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE
case is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.
(Doc. 9). After considering the parties' briefs and with
the benefit of oral argument on May 1, 2019, the Court
DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.
case arises out of an incident that occurred on December 12,
2016, in which sixteen-year-old Plaintiff Seanesse Richardson
was injured while attempting to change a tire on his
parents' Dodge Grand Caravan. While changing the tire,
Plaintiff reached under the vehicle as it was sitting on car
jacks to grab the spare tire when the vehicle moved off of
the jack and fell on top of him. As a result, Plaintiff was
prevented from breathing for an extended period of time and
suffered a severe anoxic brain injury that has left him
permanently disabled with extremely limited motor and verbal
functions. (Doc. 1-1, ¶¶ 11-12).
Seanesse Richardson and William Richardson, individually and
on behalf of Seanesse Richardson as his legal guardian and
parent, initially filed this action against Defendants in the
Superior Court of Lanier County on December 11, 2018.
Plaintiffs' complaint includes allegations of strict
product liability, failure to warn, and negligence against
Defendant Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US, LLC (“FCA US,
LLC” or “FCA US”). Daimler Chrysler AG,
Chrysler, LLC, and Chrysler Group, LLC, and claims of
negligence against Plaintiff's mother, Kimberly
Richardson for her role in alleged negligent supervision of
FCA U.S. removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1441 and 1446 on January 22, 2018, asserting
that this Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). (Doc. 1). Defendant
FCA U.S. contends that Plaintiffs fraudulently joined
co-Defendant Kimberly Richardson, Plaintiff's Seanesse
Richardson's mother, as a defendant in this action.
Plaintiffs now move the Court to remand the case to the
Superior Court of Lanier County, contending Defendant's
Notice of Removal is improper.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a party may remove “any
civil action brought in a State court of which the district
courts of the United States have original jurisdiction . . .
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). The
“place” is “the site of the state court in
which the action is pending at the time the notice of removal
is filed.” Cogdell v. Wyeth, 366 F.3d 1245,
1248 n.7 (11th Cir. 2004).
FCA U.S. removed this case on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Defendant argues that
co-Defendant Kimberly Richardson was fraudulently joined in
this matter to defeat complete diversity of the parties.
First, Defendant FCA U.S. contends that Plaintiffs'
negligence claim against Kimberly Richardson is barred by the
doctrine of parental immunity. Second, the crux of
Plaintiffs' claim against Defendant Kimberly Richardson
is that she was negligent in supervising, or
“provid[ing] instruction and oversight” to
Plaintiff as he attempted to change the tire on the vehicle.
Defendant FCA U.S. contends that there is no statute or
common law principle imposing a legal duty upon a parent to
avoid negligence in overseeing or providing instruction to
his or her own minor child. (Doc. 1, p. 8).
do not challenge Defendant's assertion that the amount in
controversy in this case exceeds $75, 000. Rather, Plaintiffs
argue that the claims brought against Defendant Kimberly
Richardson are proper as Plaintiff Seanessee Richardson was
at the age of majority at the time the action was filed, and
that Georgia courts permit a child to sue his parent under a
theory of general negligence. (Doc. 9, pp. 8-9).
judicially created doctrine of fraudulent joinder provides an
exception to the general rule requiring complete diversity of
citizenship between the plaintiffs and the defendants in a
diversity case. Triggs v. John Crump Toyota, Inc.,
154 F.3d 1284, 1287 (11th Cir. 1998). When a plaintiff
fraudulently joins a non-diverse defendant solely to defeat
diversity jurisdiction, the district court must ignore the
presence of the non-diverse defendant and deny any motion to
remand. Henderson v. Wash. Nat'l Ins. Co., 454
F.3d 1278, 1281 (11th Cir. 2006).
burden on a removing defendant to prove fraudulent joinder is
a “heavy one.” Crowe v. Coleman, 113
F.3d 1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting B, Inc. v.
Miller Brewing Co., 663 F.2d 545, 549 (5th Cir. Unit A
1981)). In assessing a claim of fraudulent joinder,
“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.” Id. (citation
omitted). Fraudulent joinder must be established by clear and
convincing evidence. Henderson, 454 F.3d at 1281
(citation omitted). Joinder is deemed fraudulent “when
there is no possibility that the plaintiff can prove a cause
of action against the resident (non-diverse)
defendant.” Triggs, 154 F.3d at 1287
(citations omitted). Thus, “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 the joinder was
proper and remand the case to the state court.”
Id. (quoting Coker v. Amoco Oil Co., 709
F.2d 1433, 1440-41 (11th Cir. 1983) (emphasis in original)).
determining whether Defendant Kimberly Richardson was
fraudulently joined, the Court must look to “the
plaintiff's pleadings at the time of removal,
supplemented by any affidavits and deposition transcripts
submitted by the parties.” Shannon v. Albertelli
Firm, P.C., 610 Fed.Appx. 866, 871 (11th Cir. 2015) (per
curiam) (quoting Legg v. Wyeth, 428 F.3d 1317, 1322
(11th Cir. 2005)) (emphasis omitted). “In broad terms,
the proceeding appropriate for resolving a claim of
fraudulent joinder is similar to that used for summary
judgment.” Id. “All questions of fact
are resolved in the plaintiff's favor.”