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Crail v. Elsmere Health Facilities, LP

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

July 10, 2017

ROBERT W. CRAIL, SR. and DOROTHY P. CRAIL, CO-ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT W. CRAIL, JR., et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
ELSMERE HEALTH FACILITIES, LP d/b/a WOODCREST NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David L. Bunning United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         These cases, which involve the same parties and arise from the same factual circumstances, are before the Court on several pending motions. Specifically, in case no. 17-cv-2, Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint to join Barbara Beckley, Jessica Stines, Rhea Dwyer, Monica Parks Daniels, Hannah Ralston, and Franklin Nathan as defendants (Doc. # 8); and a Motion to Remand this matter to the Kenton County, Kentucky Circuit Court from which it was removed (Doc. # 9). And in case no. 17-cv-50, Plaintiffs have also filed a Motion to Remand.[1] (Doc. # 14). Each of these motions has been fully briefed by counsel. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' Motions will be granted. Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint tendered in case no. 17-cv-2 (Doc. # 8-2) will be ordered filed of record in that case. Thereafter, case no. 17-cv-2 and case no. 17-cv-50 will be remanded to the Kenton Circuit Court from which they were removed.[2]

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Case No. 17-cv-2

         On December 12, 2016, Plaintiffs Robert W. Crail, Sr. and Dorothy P. Crail, as co-administrators of the Estate of Robert W. Crail, Jr., and Megan Crail and Robert W. Crail, III[3] filed a civil action in the Kenton Circuit Court against Elsmere Health Facilities, LP d/b/a Woodcrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (“Woodcrest”), John Doe, and Jane Doe. (Doc. # 1-2). Plaintiffs allege Woodcrest is a nursing home facility that undertook to render personal care to Robert W. Crail, Jr. and provide him room and board. (Id. at 5). Plaintiffs state that John Doe and Jane Doe are registered nurses and/or certified nurse aides employed by Woodcrest. (Id.). Plaintiffs state that Robert W. Crail, Jr. had impaired mobility and muscular dystrophy. (Id. at 6). According to Plaintiffs, on March 20, 2016, Robert W. Crail, Jr. was found deceased on the landing of a flight of stairs at the facility. (Id.). Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges five counts against Defendants, claiming negligence, wrongful death, personal injuries and pain and suffering, punitive damages, and loss of consortium. (Id. at 7-12).

         On January 5, 2017, Defendant Woodcrest removed the case to this Court based upon diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. # 1). Woodcrest alleges Co-Administrator Plaintiffs Robert W. Crail, Sr. and Dorothy P. Crail and Robert W. Crail, III are all residents of Kenton County, Kentucky.[4] (Doc. # 1-2, at 4; Doc. # 1, at 3). Woodcrest further alleges Megan Crail is a resident of Davidson County, Tennessee. (Doc. # 1-2, at 5; Doc. # 1, at 3). As for Woodcrest, it is a limited partnership with two members, Thomas D. Scott and Elsmere Health Facilities GP, LLC. Woodcrest states Thomas D. Scott is a resident of Texas and Elsmere Health Facilities GP, LLC, is a citizen of Texas. (Doc. # 1, at 3 ¶ 6.c.). Woodcrest's principal place of business is also located in Texas, and therefore it concludes it is a citizen of Texas. (Id.). The parties do not dispute that the amount in controversy exceeds the requirement under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (Doc. # 1, at 4; Doc. # 9, at 2). This case was assigned number 17-cv-2 upon removal.

         On January 27, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint with Jury Demand (Doc. # 8) seeking to join six defendants allegedly employed at Woodcrest at the time of Robert W. Crail, Jr.'s death, including: Registered Nurse Barbara Beckley; Certified Nurse Assistants Jessica Stines, Rhea Dwyer, Monica Parks Daniels, and Hannah Ralston; and former Woodcrest Administrator Franklin Nathan (see Doc. # 8-2). In support of the Motion, Plaintiffs allege that since the date of removal, they have discovered the identity of these employees and now seek to add them to the cause of action in place of the John Doe and Jane Doe defendants. (Doc. # 8, at 2). The proposed Amended Complaint includes factual allegations against these newly-named individual Defendants and replaces the wrongful death count with a respondeat superior claim. (Doc. # 8-2, at 5-8). This new count alleges that the individual Defendants were agents and/or employees of Woodcrest and, thus, Woodcrest is responsible for their negligence pursuant to respondeat superior. (Id. at 10). Plaintiffs argue that leave to amend should be granted under Federal Civil Rule 15 and attach a copy of the proposed Amended Complaint for filing. (Doc. # 8, at 2-3; Doc. # 8-2).

         On February 2, 2017, Plaintiffs also filed a Motion to Remand this matter back to the Kenton Circuit Court where it was originally filed. (Doc. # 9). As grounds for this Motion, Plaintiffs argue this case never should have been removed from state court because a “Doe” case should not be removed prior to establishing the citizenship of all defendants. (Id. at 2-4). Plaintiffs further note that some of the Woodcrest employees named in its proposed Amended Complaint are citizens of Kentucky, and thus this Court will no longer have diversity jurisdiction over this matter after the Amended Complaint is filed of record. (Id. at 4-6).

         Defendant Woodcrest filed Responses opposing Plaintiffs' two Motions (Doc. # 11; Doc. # 13), to which Plaintiffs filed Replies (Doc. # 12; Doc. #15). These Motions are thus ripe for the Court's consideration.

         B. Case No. 17-cv-50

         On March 20, 2017, while the Motion to Amend and Motion to Remand were pending in case no. 17-cv-2, Plaintiffs filed a second civil action in the Kenton Circuit Court against Elsmere Health Facilities, LP d/b/a Woodcrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Barbara Beckley, Jessica Stines, Rhea Dwyer, Monica Parks Daniels, Hannah Ralston, Franklin Nathan, and John and Jane Doe defendants. (Doc. # 1-7). The claims alleged in this Complaint are the same as the claims alleged in Plaintiffs' proposed Amended Complaint tendered with their Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint in case no. 17-cv-2. (Compare Doc. # 8-2 in 17-cv-2 with Doc. # 1-7 in 17-cv-50).

         On March 29, 2017, Defendant Woodcrest removed the second state action to this Court, arguing diversity jurisdiction exists pursuant to the doctrine of fraudulent joinder. (Doc. # 1). Specifically, Defendant argues Plaintiffs do not present any colorable claims against the individually-named defendants under Kentucky law and, therefore, these Defendants were fraudulently joined for the purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at 4-8). Consequently, argues Defendant, the doctrine of fraudulent joinder requires the citizenship of these individual defendants be ignored in determining the presence of diversity jurisdiction. (Id.).

         On April 14, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand this case to the Kenton Circuit Court. (Doc. # 14). In the Motion to Remand, Plaintiffs claim that the individual Defendants were not fraudulently joined for the purpose of destroying diversity jurisdiction. In particular, Plaintiffs contend they pleaded causes of action against each of the these Defendants in their individual capacity as Mr. Crail's caretakers and/or as administrators of Woodcrest. (Id.).

         On May 3, 2017, Woodcrest filed a Response in opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. (Doc. # 18). On May 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Reply. (Doc. # 21). As a result, this Motion is also ripe for the Court's review and is considered immediately below.

         III. Analysis

         A. Motion to Remand in ...


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