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Thurmand v. Dean Dairy Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

April 29, 2017

JENNIFER THURMOND PLAINTIFF
v.
DEAN DAIRY HOLDINGS, LLC d/b/a DEAN MILK COMPANY, LLC and KYLE WANCKET DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Charles R. Simpson III, Senior Judge United States District Court

         I. Introduction

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff Jennifer Thurmond to remand the case to the Jefferson County, Kentucky Circuit Court, ECF No. 9. Defendants Dean Dairy Holdings, LLC d/b/a Dean Milk Company, LLC (“Dean Milk”) and Kyle Wancket responded, ECF No. 14. Thurmond replied, ECF No. 17. Thurmond also moved to strike settlement discussions in Dean Milk and Wancket's notice of removal, ECF No. 8. Dean Dairy and Wancket responded, ECF No. 13. Thurmond replied, ECF No. 18.

         Because these motions involve similar issues and the same facts, the Court will address them in a single memorandum opinion and order. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Thurmond's motion to remand the case to the Jefferson County Circuit Court. The Court will deny Thurmond's motion to strike references to settlement discussions as moot.

         II. Background

         A. Allegations in the Original Complaint

         Thurmond filed the original complaint in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. Compl. 1, ECF No. 1-1. In the original complaint, Thurmond asserts that she and Wancket are residents of Kentucky and that Dean Milk is a foreign limited liability company licensed to do business in Kentucky. Id. ¶¶ 1, 3, 5. She alleges that during part of her employment with Dean Milk, Wancket was her supervisor. Id. ¶ 6. Thurmond apparently got into a dispute with Wancket. Id. ¶ 10. Afterwards, she threw a small metal trash can in frustration. Id. ¶ 11. Dean Milk suspended her with pay and eventually terminated her for violence in the workplace. Id. ¶ 12. Thurmond contends that Dean Milk disciplined its male employees less harshly for similar violent behavior. Id. ¶¶ 13-16. Thurmond also claims that Wancket harassed and intimated her in a “severe and pervasive manner.” Id. ¶ 17. She maintains that he did not harass or intimidate male employees in the same way. Id. ¶ 18.

         In her original complaint, Thurmond asserts two claims against Dean Milk and Wancket. First, she claims that Dean Milk and Wancket discriminated against her based on her gender in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA), Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 344.010, et seq. (Count I). Id. ¶¶ 18-25. Second, she states that Dean Milk and Wancket wrongfully discharged her (Count II). Id. ¶¶ 26-29. She seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs. Id. at 10.

         B. Dean Milk and Wancket's Notice of Removal

         In February 2017, Dean Milk and Wancket removed the case from the Jefferson County Circuit Court to this Court under diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446. Not. Removal 1, ECF No. 1. In their notice of removal, Dean Milk and Wancket explain that the amount in controversy is met because the remedies that Thurmond seeks in the original complaint clearly exceed $75, 000.00. Id. at 6-7. They also assert that complete diversity is met because Thurmond is a citizen of Kentucky and that Dean Milk is a citizen of Texas and Wisconsin. Id. at 2. And even if Wancket is a citizen of Kentucky, they maintain that his citizenship should be disregarded because he is fraudulently joined in the action. Id.

         B. Additional Claims Alleged in Thurmond's Amended Complaint

         In April 2017, this Court permitted Thurmond to file an amended complaint. Order 4/24/2017 1, ECF No. 21. In relevant part, the amended complaint adds two claims against Dean Milk and Wancket. Thurmond asserts that Wancket was generally negligent and/or negligent and/or is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count III). Id. ¶¶ 35-42. She also claims that Dean Milk is vicariously liable for the harm that she suffered because of other employees and was negligent in its hiring, training, and supervision of its employees (Count IV). Id. ¶¶ 43-49.

         III. Standard of Review

         Thurmond now moves to remand her case to the Jefferson County Circuit Court. Mot. Remand 1, ECF No. 9. Removal to federal court is proper for “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). As a court of limited jurisdiction, a district court is ...


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