United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
N.E. Bridge Contractors, Inc., Plaintiff,
Aspen Aerials, Inc., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NATHANIEL M. GORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
jurisdictional dispute arises out of an underlying tort suit
where a truck equipped for bridge-inspecting malfunctioned.
The plaintiff initially filed its suit in state court and
defendant removed to federal court. Shortly thereafter,
plaintiff amended its complaint to add a non-diverse
defendant and moved to remand.
2016, N.E. Bridge Contractors, Inc. (“Bridge
Contractors” or “plaintiff”) purchased a
new truck from Tri State Truck Center, Inc. (“Tri
State”). In January, 2017, the truck was shipped from
Tri State to Minnesota, where Aspen Aerials, Inc.
(“Aspen” or “defendant”) affixed
bridge inspection equipment (“the A-62”) onto the
truck. Plaintiff took delivery of the truck with the A-62
equipment in July, 2017. One year later, the truck
malfunctioned while it was rented out to a third party.
August 6, 2018, Bridge Contractors, a Massachusetts company,
filed suit against Aspen, a Minnesota company, in Bristol
County Superior Court. Shortly after filing its initial
complaint, plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction to
prevent Aspen from selling its assets to a third party. The
Bristol County Superior Court declined to hear argument on
that motion but did hear argument on another motion for a
preliminary injunction that plaintiff sought against Aspen
with respect to a different suit that arose in Rhode Island.
As part of the two requests for injunctive relief, plaintiff
sought to attach Aspen's assets located in Minnesota. On
August 10, 2018, plaintiff filed a separate suit in
Minnesota, where Aspen was named as the only defendant.
week later, Aspen removed the initial Bristol County Superior
Court action to this Court and had until September 11, 2018,
to respond to the removed complaint. Before it did so,
plaintiff filed an amended complaint on August 23 pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(A), which added Western Star Truck
Sales Inc., an Oregon corporation and the manufacturer of the
truck (“Western Star”) and Tri State, a
Massachusetts corporation, as defendants (“the
additional defendants”). Plaintiff filed its motion to
remand the day after filing its amended complaint.
alleges that plaintiff deliberately added a non-diverse
defendant to destroy diversity through improper amendment
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). It further contends that under
28 U.S.C. § 1447, 1) Tri State is a dispensable party
that should be dismissed from this action and 2) the Court
should exercise its equitable power to reject plaintiff's
responds that the claims against Aspen and the additional
defendants arise from the same nexus of operative facts and
that the district court has discretion under § 1447(e)
to remand and not to apply Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(b) mechanically.
It submits that 1) it intended all along to amend the initial
complaint, 2) it was distracted by the pending preliminary
injunction motions in state court and 3) even under a
Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(b) analysis, Tri State is an indispensable
party to this suit.
Fraudulent Joinder Doctrine
doctrine of “fraudulent joinder”, in which a
district court can disregard, for jurisdictional purposes,
the citizenship of non-diverse defendants at the time of
removal, does not apply after a case has been removed.
Universal Truck & Equip. Co. v.
Southworth-Milton, Inc., 765 F.3d 103, 108 (1st Cir.
2014); Kauders v. Uber Techs., Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 65912, at *5 (D. Mass. May 1, 2017) (citing Mayes
v. Rapoport, 198 F.3d 457, 461 (4th Cir. 1999)
(fraudulent joinder has no effect once the district court
actually possesses jurisdiction, including after the case has
been properly removed)).
issue here is whether Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1) permits a
plaintiff to add a non-diverse party as a matter of course
after removal. Although the First Circuit has not addressed
that precise issue, most courts have concluded that
plaintiffs cannot destroy diversity through amendment as a
matter of right and have, instead, analyzed whether joinder
of the non-diverse defendant is appropriate under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(e) in the first instance. Kauders, 2017
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65912, at *7; see also Casas Office
Machines, Inc. v. Mita Copystar Am., Inc., 42 F.3d 668
(1st Cir. 1994) (annulling a district court's diversity
jurisdiction when the district court allowed the plaintiff to
substitute an unidentified defendant with a newly
identified, non-diverse defendant after removal).
§ 1447(e) Analysis
the First Circuit has not addressed the precise issue of Rule
15 amendments post-removal, both the Fourth and Fifth
Circuits found that such joinder is to be determined by the
“sound discretion” of the district court and does
not require a strict Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(b) analysis for
dispensability. Mayes v. Rapoport, 198 F.3d 457, 462
(4th Cir. 1999); Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833
F.2d 1179 (5th Cir. 1987). In ...