United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff April Jones'
motion to remand. See ECF No. 6. The Court grants
the motion for the reasons herein.
originally filed this action in state court, alleging she
stepped on a rusty nail in Wal-Mart and eventually lost part
of her right leg due to multiple surgical amputations.
See Complaint [ECF No. 1-1]. Plaintiff is a South
Carolina citizen, and she named Tim Ringer and Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc. as the two defendants (collectively,
“Defendants”). Id. Ringer is a South
Carolina citizen and a manager of the Wal-Mart store in
question, while Wal-Mart is a citizen of Delaware and
Arkansas.Id.; Notice of Removal [ECF No.
removed the action to this Court based on federal diversity
jurisdiction, asserting Plaintiff fraudulently joined Ringer
to defeat diversity. See ECF No. 1. Plaintiff filed
the instant motion to remand, and Defendants filed a response
in opposition. See ECF Nos. 6 & 9. Plaintiff did
not file a reply.
party seeking to remove a case to federal court has the
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Mulcahey v.
Columbia Organic Chemicals Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th
Cir. 1994). Thus, Defendants bear the burden to establish
federal jurisdiction is proper in this case. “Because
removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns,
” the Court “must strictly construe removal
jurisdiction. If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand
is necessary.” Id. (internal citation
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) grants district courts original
jurisdiction of any civil action for which the matter in
controversy exceeds $75, 000 and is between or among citizens
of different states. This statute requires complete
diversity of citizenship, meaning the plaintiff cannot be a
citizen of the same state as any defendant. Carden v.
Arkoma Associates, 494 U.S. 185, 187 (1990). Thus,
diversity jurisdiction exists “so long as any two
adverse parties are not co-citizens.” Caterpillar
Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 n.3 (1996). State court
defendants may remove a civil action to federal district
court if the district court has original subject matter
jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). If
the district court determines at any time before entering
final judgment that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
a removed action, it must remand the action to state court.
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
complete diversity is necessary for a federal court to
exercise diversity jurisdiction, the fraudulent joinder
doctrine prohibits a plaintiff from automatically defeating
diversity jurisdiction by naming non-diverse defendants.
Weidman v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 776 F.3d 214, 218 (4th
Cir. 2015). The fraudulent joinder doctrine enables a
district court to “‘disregard, for jurisdictional
purposes, the citizenship of certain nondiverse defendants,
assume jurisdiction over a case, dismiss the nondiverse
defendants, and thereby retain jurisdiction.'”
Johnson v. Am. Towers, LLC, 781 F.3d 693, 704 (4th
Cir. 2015) (quoting Mayes v. Rapoport, 198 F.3d 457,
461 (4th Cir. 1999)).
‘Fraudulent joinder' is a term of art, it does not
reflect on the integrity of [the] plaintiff or counsel, but
is merely the rubric applied when a court finds either that
no cause of action is stated against the nondiverse
defendant, or in fact no cause of action exists. In
other words, a joinder is fraudulent if there [is] no real
intention to get a joint judgment, and . . . there [is] no
colorable ground for so claiming.
AIDS Counseling & Testing Centers v. Grp. W
Television, Inc., 903 F.2d 1000, 1003 (4th Cir. 1990)
(alterations and omission in original) (internal quotation
party alleging fraudulent joinder bears a heavy burden-it
must show that the plaintiff cannot establish a claim even
after resolving all issues of law and fact in the
plaintiff's favor.” Hartley v. CSX
Transp., Inc., 187 F.3d 422, 424 (4th Cir. 1999).
“This standard is even more favorable to the plaintiff
than the standard for ruling on a motion to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Id. The Fourth Circuit
has recognized two methods by which a defendant may show
fraudulent joinder: (1) there is “outright fraud in the
plaintiff's pleading of jurisdictional facts”; or
(2) “there is no possibility that the
plaintiff would be able to establish a cause of action
against the in-state defendant in state court.”
Johnson, 781 F.3d at 704. “To defeat an
allegation of fraudulent joinder, the plaintiff need
establish ‘only a slight possibility of a right to
relief.'” Hughes v. Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A., 617 F. App'x 261, 264 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Mayes, 198 F.3d at 464). In evaluating whether an
attempted joinder is fraudulent, a court is not bound by the
allegations of the complaint but can “consider the
entire record, and determine the basis of joinder by any
means available.” Mayes, 198 F.3d at 464.
moves to remand this case to state court, arguing (1) there
is not complete diversity because she and Ringer are both
South Carolina citizens and (2) Ringer is a proper defendant
because South Carolina recognizes joint and several
liability. See ECF No. 6. Meanwhile, Defendants
argue Ringer-the store manager for Wal-Mart-has been
fraudulently joined as a sham defendant to defeat diversity
jurisdiction. See ECF ...