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Holsenbeck v. Bravo Carpenters, Inc.

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

February 15, 2019

Monte Holsenbeck, Plaintiff,
v.
Bravo Carpenters, Inc., D.R. Horton, Inc., Sabino Rico-Zuniga d/b/a Rico Construction, and Rico Construction, LLC, Defendants. Bravo Carpenters, Inc., Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
Sabino Rico-Zuniga d/b/a Rico Construction, and Rico Construction, LLC, Third-Party Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Donald C. Coggins, Jr., United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc.'s [4] Motion to Dismiss, [26] Defendants/Third-Party Defendants Sabino Rico-Zuniga d/b/a Rico Construction and Rico Construction, LLC's Motion to Dismiss, [37] Plaintiff's Amended Motion to Remand, [1] [40] Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc.'s Motion to Strike and, in the Alternative, to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, and [60] Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Bravo Carpenter, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim of Third-Party Defendants, or in the Alternative, Motion to Strike Counterclaim of Third-Party Defendants. The Motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for review.

         I. Procedural and Factual History

         On April 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants Bravo Carpenters, Inc. and D.R. Horton, Inc. in the Court of Common Pleas for the County of Greenville, South Carolina, alleging a non-jury cause of action for negligence arising out of a workplace injury. ECF No. 1-1. By way of summary, Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by Professional Cabinetry Installation, which was a subcontractor engaged by Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. for the purpose of installing cabinets in a new residential dwelling. Id. at 6. While working, Plaintiff fell from the second story of a home where Defendant Bravo Carpenters, Inc., also a subcontractor of Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc., "had constructed a set of steps and landing areas on the second floor without a hand railing, guard railing, or any type of fall protections." Id. at 7. As a result of his fall, Plaintiff was seriously injured, leading to his initial state law negligence claims against Defendants D.R. Horton, Inc. and Bravo Carpenters, Inc. Id. at 7-9. Plaintiff served the Complaint on Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. on May 9, 2018. ECF No. 1-1 at 2.

         On May 22, 2018, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. filed a Notice of Removal, contending this Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. ECF No. 1. The Notice of Removal states Plaintiff is a citizen of South Carolina, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. is a foreign corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware with its principal place of business in Texas, and Defendant Bravo Carpenters, Inc. is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of North Carolina with its principal place of business in North Carolina. Id. at 2. Additionally, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. contends the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Therefore, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, complete diversity existed and this Court had subject matter jurisdiction over the case when it was removed.

         Following removal, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. filed a Motion to Dismiss, which has been fully briefed. ECF Nos. 4, 10, 20. In its Motion, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. contends it is Plaintiff's statutory employer and, thus, is immune from liability in tort under the exclusivity provision of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. ECF No. 4. The parties then filed a Joint Motion to Stay Pending Resolution of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, which was granted on June 4, 2018, by the Honorable Bruce Howe Hendricks, United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina. ECF Nos. 13, 16.

         On June 19, 2018, Defendant Bravo Carpenters, Inc. filed an Answer, and, on June 28, 2018, filed a Third-Party Complaint against Third-Party Defendants Sabino Rico-Zuniga d/b/a Rico Construction and Rico Construction, LLC (collectively, "the Rico Defendants"). ECF Nos. 22, 23. The Third-Party Complaint alleges that the Rico Defendants, citizens of South Carolina, were subcontractors of Defendant Bravo Carpenters, Inc. and seeks equitable indemnification of any damages owed to Plaintiff. ECF No. 23. Thereafter, on August 18, 2018, the Rico Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Bravo Carpenters, Inc.'s Third-Party Complaint as well as an Answer and Counterclaim. ECF Nos. 26, 27. Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Bravo Carpenters, Inc. filed a Response, and the Rico Defendants filed a Reply. ECF Nos. 42, 49.

         On August 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint maintaining its cause of action against Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. and Bravo Carpenters, Inc. and adding a negligence cause of action against the Rico Defendants. ECF No. 28. A short time later, on August 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand, ECF No. 35, and, on August 28, 2018, an Amended Motion to Remand. ECF No. 37. The essence of Plaintiff's Motions is that the joinder of the Rico Defendants as parties to the action destroyed complete diversity, warranting an order of remand under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). ECF Nos. 35, 37.

         Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. filed a Response, and Plaintiff filed a Reply. ECF Nos. 41, 44.

         In addition to opposing Plaintiff's Amended Motion to Remand, on August 30, 2018, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. filed a Motion to Strike and, in the Alternative, to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. ECF No. 40. In its Motion, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. contends Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was untimely and improperly filed. To that end, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. argues Plaintiff failed to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 in filing his Amended Complaint because the Amended Complaint was filed without the consent of Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. and without leave of court. Id. at 3. In its own words, Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. contends:

As demonstrated by the almost contemporaneous filing of a Motion to Remand (ECF No. 35), Plaintiff's unauthorized amendment is an attempt to destroy diversity in order to wrest jurisdiction from this Court while this Court considers [Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc.'s] dispositive motion. Plaintiff is improperly attempting to circumvent the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. R. 15 (sic) in an effort to forum shop, and evade the Court's ruling on [Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc.'s] Motion to Dismiss. Each of these actions fly in the face of the spirit of the Rules.

Id. Plaintiff filed a Response, and Defendant D.R. Horton, Inc. filed a Reply. ECF No. 45, 55.

         Finally, on October 5, 2018, Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Bravo Carpenters, Inc. filed a Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim of Third-Party Defendants, or in the Alternative, Motion to Strike Counterclaim of Third-Party Defendants. ECF No. 60. The Rico Defendants filed a Response, and Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Bravo Carpenters, Inc. filed a Reply. ECF Nos. 62-63.

         As the above demonstrates, the Court has a large number of pending motions before it in this case. After reviewing the parties' filings and the relevant law, the Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction in light of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Accordingly, as detailed below, the Court GRANTS ...


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