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Daniels v. Food Lion LLC

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division

November 2, 2018

Sue B. Daniels and Lamar Daniels, Plaintiffs,
v.
Food Lion, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' second motion to amend the amended complaint and Defendant's motion for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 43 & 46. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiffs' second motion to amend and grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         Background

          This premises liability case arises out of an alleged slip and fall suffered by Plaintiff Sue B. Daniels (“Daniels”) on or about March 2, 2015, while shopping at a retail store owned by Defendant, Food Lion, LLC (“Food Lion”), in Santee, South Carolina. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 5-6 [ECF No. 1-2]. While checking out, Daniels alleges she slipped on a substance on the floor as she reached to push her shopping cart through the checkout, falling to the floor and landing on her side. Am. Compl. at ¶ 6. Roger Elmore (“Elmore”) was a store manager on duty at the time of the alleged incident. Elmore Dep. at 7:3-5 [ECF No. 47-3].

         On January 26, 2016, Daniels and Plaintiff Lamar Daniels filed a complaint in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas for Orangeburg County, alleging negligence and gross negligence by Defendant. Compl. at ¶¶ 9-13 [ECF No. 1-1]. Lamar Daniels brings a loss of consortium claim. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 12-14, 18-19. On February 16, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint as a matter of course.[1] On March 23, 2016, Defendant timely removed the case to federal court under diversity jurisdiction and contemporaneously filed an answer to the amended complaint. [ECF Nos. 1 & 3].

         On April 20, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a motion to amend the amended complaint, ECF No. 8, and a motion to remand, ECF No. 9, which the Honorable J. Michelle Childs denied on October 24, 2016. [ECF No. 26]. Both motions were premised on the addition of Elmore as a defendant. The order denying Plaintiffs' motion to amend held that: (1) the proposed amendment to add Elmore-a nondiverse defendant with South Carolina citizenship-was primarily to destroy diversity jurisdiction because Plaintiffs sought the amendment almost immediately after removal but before any additional discovery had occurred; (2) Plaintiffs were dilatory in seeking the amendment because the suit had been pending for several months and the complaint had been previously amended for the specific purpose of clarifying the allegedly liable party; (3) the amendment was futile and unnecessary because Food Lion would still be vicariously liable for any negligence of its employees; and (4) the equities of the situation did not warrant granting leave to amend because Plaintiffs failed to explain why Elmore was a necessary party and, if so, why he was not previously named as a defendant. Oct. 24, 2016 Order at 2-4. Because the Court denied the motion to amend, the Court likewise denied the motion to remand. Id. at 3-4.

         On February 15, 2017, Judge Childs issued a second consent amended scheduling order with a May 1, 2017 deadline to join other parties and amend the pleadings. [ECF No. 32]. That deadline was not altered by subsequent scheduling orders. [See ECF Nos. 36, 41 & 42]. On April 20, 2017, the case was reassigned from Judge Childs to this Court. [ECF No. 33].

         On April 20, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the pending second motion to amend the amended complaint. On May 4, 2018, Defendant filed a response in opposition. [ECF No. 44]. Plaintiffs did not file a reply. On June 7, 2018, Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment. On June 21, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition, and on June 28, 2018, Defendant filed a reply thereto. [ECF Nos. 47 & 48]. The motions are now ripe for the Court's consideration.

         Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend

         I. Legal Standard

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs amendments before trial, providing in pertinent part that “[a] party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within: (A) 21 days of serving it, or (B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has “interpreted Rule 15(a) to provide that leave to amend a pleading should be denied only when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would have been futile.” Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted).

         Furthermore, “after deadlines provided for by a scheduling order have passed, the good cause standard [of Rule 16] must be satisfied to justify leave to amend the pleadings.” Nourison Rug Corp. v. Parvizian, 535 F.3d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). Rule 16 provides that a scheduling order “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). “[G]ood cause means that scheduling deadlines cannot be met despite a party's diligent efforts.” Dilmar Oil Co., Inc. v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 986 F.Supp. 959, 980 (D.S.C. 1997) (citation omitted).

         Additionally, “[w]hen a plaintiff seeks to join a nondiverse defendant after the case has been removed, the district court's analysis begins with 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e).” Mayes v. Rapoport, 198 F.3d 457, 461 (4th Cir. 1999). Section 1447(e) “provides the district court with two options: ‘[i]f after removal the plaintiff seeks to join additional defendants whose joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, the court may deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand the action to the State court.'” Id. at 461-62 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e)). “These are the only two options for a district court faced with a post-removal attempt to join a nondiverse defendant; the statute does not allow a district court to retain jurisdiction once it permits a nondiverse defendant to be joined in the case.” Id. at 462. “[T]he actual decision on whether or not to permit joinder of a defendant under these circumstances is committed to the sound discretion of the district court[, ] [and] this decision is not controlled by a Rule 19 analysis.” Id. This discretion allows the Court to examine “all relevant factors, including: the extent to which the purpose of the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction, whether the plaintiff has been dilatory in asking for amendment, whether the plaintiff will be significantly injured if the amendment is not allowed, and any other factors bearing on the equities.” Id. (citation omitted).

         II. ...


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